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Something tells me that sunny Gainesville, Florida, is about to see an influx of aspiring comics creators: Cartoonists Tom Hart (Hutch Owen), Leela Corman (Subway Series), and John Porcellino (King-Cat) have announced the opening of The Sequential Artists Workshop [UPDATED: link added], a new non-profit educational institution “dedicated to the prosperity and promotion of comic art and artists.” The school will offer a two-year program with its inaugural class to begin in 2012, while a “Spring Break Intensive” will be offered from March 6-12, 2011. The SAW will also feature a residency program for practicing cartoonists, online classes, gallery and performance spaces, a house anthology called The Seen in which cartoonists will do “cover versions” of pages from other artists’ creator-owned works, and the proverbial “much more.”
If you’re thinking the SAW sounds a bit like James Sturm’s Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, you’re not alone. According to the new school’s FAQ:
Isn’t this just like CCS?
Yes, a little, and maybe no. James Sturm, who founded Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) has done a great thing in White River Junction, VT and we are in constant awe of his gumption and smarts. James has been friendly with us and he has helped us enormously by offering advice in the forming of this school. We too offer a two-year program in comic art, and will require students to publish their own work at the end of the program. Our school is new and we don’t know how it will evolve. Right now, our goals may be similar, but the places and personalities are different enough that soon the differences between the schools will become evident.
The more the merrier if you ask me.
In addition to the announced faculty of Corman, Porcellino, and founder/executive director Hart — himself a longtime School of the Visual Arts instructor — SAW’s boards of directors and advisors feature an all-star line-up that includes Lauren Weinstein, Brendan Burford, Vanessa Davis, Shaenon Garrity, Bill Kartalopoulos, Donald Ault, Matt Madden, Joey Manley, Chris Staros, Phil Yeh, and William Ayers. School’s in!
It’s probably too early to say what the best books of 2010 will be, but I feel safe in saying that James Sturm’s Market Day will easily make it on the short list of works to be considered. The graphic novel, published by Drawn and Quarterly, is about a Jewish rug maker, who heads off to the local market full of hope and elan, only to experience a devastating setback to his career. It’s a smart, moving work that I think will turn a lot of heads when it comes out in March.
In the meantime though, I took the opportunity to talk with Sturm about the book and it’s development — as well as life at the Center for Cartoon Studies, a school he co-founded — over at the main CBR site:
You say that this was originally intended to be a children’s book. Where did the inspiration for “Market Day” come from?
Drawn and Quarterly, my publisher, actually played an important role in the book itself. There was a point when they hooked up with a national distributor – they were distributed by Chronicle Books at one point.
I don’t think that worked out as well as their current partner [Farrar, Straus & Giroux], but when they first hooked up, they felt this would open up a lot more markets, and after the deal happened [publisher] Chris [Oliveros] sent an email to his stable of artists at D&Q saying “One of the things I’m considering is doing a children’s book line. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.”
So, in my sketchbook, I conceived a story about a rug weaver. In that version of the story, the focus wasn’t so much on the main character but more about how important one individual’s commitment and support can be for somebody. In “Market Day,” when the Finkler character disappears, it sets off this bad chain of events for Mendleman. In my mind I thought of Chris as the Finkler character and how important my own relationship with D&Q was for my own artistic development. The actual book plays out differently – but I did want to get that across and a sense of camraderie between artists who share a an aesthetic and committment to a certain type of work.
Shelf porn-hound that I am, I can’t stop looking at this tour of the Center for Cartoon Studies’ library. Dig those Punch volumes! (via Spurgeon)
One of the highlights of any tour of the Center for Cartoon Studies (or so I’ve been told) is the Schulz Library. Now they’ve gone and gotten themselves a blog, where the school’s co-founder James Sturm, as well as other students, teachers and school associates, are posting items on some of their favorite cartoonists and artists.
Adventures in Cartooning
by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick Frost
First Second, $12.95.
Adventures in Cartooning is First Second’s attempt to offer a kids’ version last year’s big how-to book, Drawing Words, Writing Pictures. Produced by Center for Cartoon Studies’ co-founder James Sturm and two of his former students, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick Frost, it’s an engaging and informative book that nevertheless feels like it sacrifices learning for fun.
The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont, is offering a series of cartooning workshops for ages 16 and up:
Summer is a great time for cartooning adventures! Brush up on some skills, learn new ones, or discover the world of cartooning for the first time ever. This summer we’re offering a new line up of options for ages 16+, including a college level workshop, Cartooning Studio, the short version of a keystone course in CCS’s curriculum, taught by CCS faculty, and special Extended Studio options for those with projects that need a little extra time.
A couple of years ago the guys who do the Indie Spinner Rack podcast worked with several of their past guests to create an anthology simply called Awesome. This Spring brings the sequel, Awesome 2: Awesomer, which features a nice cover by Jeff Smith and contributions by Alex Robinson, Fred Van Lente, Dave Roman, Jim Rugg, Kevin Colden, Fred Chao, Jeff Lemire, Salgood Sam, Julia Wertz and many more. Check out the full list here.
And while the list of folks involved is impressive enough, there are two elements to the project that I thought really put the “er” in “Awesomer.” First, half the proceeds for the book will go toward scholarships at the Center for Cartoon Studies. Second, the book includes a mini-comic that collects stories by some of the students at the school … so not only does the main book include comics by some of the current greats in independent comics, but the mini-comic features creators we’ll likely be talking about in the future.
And just to put the icing on the cake … Jason Lutes is doing the cover for the mini-comic, while Jon Adams of Truth Serum fame is designing the book.
The book is due to hit stores in May and will be published by Top Shelf Productions.