This Summer in P-town: Josh & Sari Week-long Memoir Comics Workshop

SariFAWX Summer Workshops 2016 and I are proud to announce that this summer we’ll be co-teaching a week-long comics-making memoir workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA.

This marks the third time we’ll be doing a comics workshop with FAWC and it’s always been a really rewarding experience—for us and for our students. We learned that nothing makes a better combination than writing and art… or summer and beautiful P-town… or Sari and Josh! (*wink*) So that’s why we’ll be teaching the class again this summer, during the week of July 31–August 5.

Here’s the course description for our Memoir Comics Workshop:

Comics use words and pictures together to form powerful narratives. In this workshop, you will use material from your own life to create an original minicomic. It can be about last night’s dinner, or a moment that changed you forever—as long as it fits into a booklet of 8-12 pages. At the end of the week, we’ll reproduce and swap our minis, and set up an open studio to share our work.

We’ll examine some basic principles of visual storytelling. We’ll also do writing, brainstorming, and collaborative exercises we’ve found useful in producing strong comics work. There will be group feedback to hone our stories, find the narrative “beats,” and help each other discover our “true” story. We’ll generate ideas for solving storytelling problems—and look at how other cartoonists have grappled with them.

You’ll have time to work on your projects in class each day, but you will also probably do some drawing on your own. One of the key features of comics is that they are printed and reproduced. You’ll also design and produce a small edition of your minicomic to share with the other workshop members and for open studio. You’ll come out of this workshop with a tool set for taking your work to another level.

Please email a short description of the autobiographical story you’re going to work on and two character sketches (yourself and another character) to workshops@fawc.org by July 10. This prior work will help you—and us—jump into this intensive project.

Click this link to find out more about the program and how to register. And please spread the word about the week-long workshop, and encourage people to sign up soon. Classes fill up quickly.

ACA Narrative Corpse Comix Yearbook!

01-cover-webI’ve been back home from the ACA for about a week now, and am just starting to re-adapt to life away from the perfect temperatures, palmettos, and wooden walkways of the Atlantic Center for the Arts. One of the projects my Associates and I worked on was the ACA Narrative Corpse Comix Yearbook, a fun and unusual comics jam. We wanted to share the results with you, so starting today, I’ll post one page from the comic, to give you the feel of how it was produced. “Which was how?” Let me explain:

We were nine cartoonists fated to spend three weeks together in the beautiful environs of the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Everyone had their individal nonfiction projects to work on, but we were all eager to collaborate as well. And so it was suggested we do a project inspired by the Surrealist game “Exquisite Corpse,” a method by which a collection of words or images is collectively assembled—without prior planning or discussion.

Nine numbers were put in a hat (a San Francisco Giants cap, to be exact—Go Giants!) and everyone drew a number. Joe Luby had drawn first lots and he had the responsibility of starting the narrative. Dave Kiersh was next, and it was his job to continue the story—with nothing to go on but the final panel of Joe’s page. Dave guessed what he could from that clue and continued the narrative in his own unique way. And so it went, over the course of the residency, as each cartoonist’s turn came and went.

And what the heck is the result? We don’t know! Something definitely surreal—and, dare I say, quite beautiful. Just your normal semi-autobio fairytale with dragons and jellyfish and random references to Star Trek and Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain.

So, without further ado, head over to ACT-I-VATE to check out Joe’s page 1, and keep coming back daily until the 9-page comic is concluded. After all, as Team Bogotas member Cliodhna Lyons (and #3 contributor) expressed so perfectly: “We made comics. Comics pretty. Read comics.”

Here’s the URL one more time: http://activatecomix.com/181.comic

The ACA’s Closets of Legacy

I’m in Master Artist Cabin #3 (aka Andersen Cottage) here at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, nestled amidst the palms and Spanish moss, accessible by wooden walkway. The cabin itself is a nice size, sort of a semi-duplex with the bedroom up the stairs. I very much think I can deal with these accommodations for the next three weeks!

IMG_5562 IMG_5566

My first introduction to a long-standing ACA tradition came when I opened my closet door to unpack. Scrawled all over the closet walls were signatures—lots of them—from previous Master Artists who’d stayed there. Cabin #3 is traditionally the writer’s cabin (which isn’t entirely inappropriate for me, as comics are, after all, an amalgam of writing and art), and the names on the closet walls are like a who’s who of literary stars: Rick Moody, Ishmael Reed, Richard McCannSamuel R. Delany, the late writer/monologist Spalding Gray, Douglas Coupland… even my old buddy Nick Flynn! Some artists’ names popped out at me too, including the late great sculptor Duane Hanson and MacArthur “Genius” Award-winner Carrie Mae Weems.

It’s pretty inspiring to be (metaphorically) sharing this space with such a roster of creative minds—to think they cooked their meals in the same kitchen, slept in the same bed, woke up to the Florida sunlight pouring through the same skylight…

Flynn & Moody Reed
Flynn & Moody Reed
Samuel R. Delaney Spalding Gray
Delany Spalding Gray (and his son Forrest)
Hanson and Weems Amy Bloom
Hanson and Weems Amy Bloom
Coupland, Dyer, Waldman Doty
Douglas Coupland, Geoff Dyer, and Anne Waldman poet Mark Doty
Mat Johnson Patricia Smith
Mat Johnson (of Inconegro fame) poet Patricia Smith
Richard McCann Quincy Troupe
Richard McCann poet Quincy Troupe

My Atlantic Center for the Arts Residency Starts Monday; Presenting My Associate Artists!

I leave Sunday for New Smyrna Beach, Florida, to start on Monday my three-week “Master Artist” comics residency with the Atlantic Center for the Arts. It’s been three years since I was first tapped for the ACA residency (giving up my spot in 2012 in deference to the Knight-Wallace Fellowship), and I’m psyched for it to finally be happening. (I’m also going to miss Sari & Phoebe! Happily, however, I won’t be without them for the whole time—they’re coming down the very first weekend after the residency starts for a three-day visit, occurring over Sari’s birthday! Do I hear a beach birthday?!)

My residency is focused around nonfiction comics, and I’m really excited about the Associate Artists with whom I’ll be working, who hail from all over the States and beyond, including South Korea, Australia, and Ireland. (It was quite a task whittling down the initial group of talented and deserving applicants for the residency, and I went through quite a bit of heartache selecting these eight exceptional cartoonists.)

My plan for the residency is fairly open-ended and in many ways will depend on the needs and desires of the group. I plan to spend good chunks of each day with them in a studio environment, and we’ll do the occasional group exercise and critique. Maybe some form of collaborative project will emerge? The main thing  I want for each Associate—and myself—is to come out of the residency with a clearer idea of their personal project, and renewed enthusiasm for finishing it.

So without further ado, here are the Associate Artists of ACA Residency 155:

Robin Ha—born in Seoul, Korea, and moved to the United States when she was 14. Since graduating from RISD with BFA in Illustration, she has been working in New York. Her work has been published in independent comics anthologies, as well as Marvel comics and Heavy Metal Magazine. Her plan is to continue working on a graphic memoir about her immigrant experience as a teenager in Alabama.

Sarah Howell—an Australian cartoonist who has worked extensively in festival and youth arts. Sarah’s project is a graphic novel (with support from the Australian Prime Ministers’ Centre) about the final days of the three P.M.s who died in office, all as witnessed by Dame Enid Lyons, the first female federal Member of Parliament.

James Kettner—“Kett” grew up in Westchester and studied Illustration at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. After a decade of misadventures he made it to the West Coast (now Oakland, CA) where he received his MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts. Kett’s comix have appeared in print and on the web in publications like SF Weekly, and he’s a regular contributor to the punk comix anthology As You Were. Kett’s project is Full Moon, a graphic memoir about his time working at an adult escort agency.

David Kiersh—an associate artist in residence at ACA in 2010, when he worked on his self-published book After School Special. He also received a 2008 Xeric Grant for his book Dirtbags, Mallchicks, and Motorbikes. Dave’s project will be his new book, Love is Strange.

Joseph Luby—a Savannah College of Art and Design honors alumni, where he majored in Sequential Art and Illustration. Joe says he “only ever wanted to do three things in life: be a teacher, be a good father, and draw comics.” Joe’s project is an illustrated history of earth-space science and the scientific method as taught and understood at the middle grade level.

Cliodhna Lyons—Irish illustrator and animator. She studied animation at Ballyfermot College in Dublin and comics at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She has contributed to several comic book anthologies and has self-published a number of minicomics and hand-bound books. In 2013 she became a comic book tourist and spent seven months traveling around the world meeting other comic book artists and creativites in over 30 locations. She currently lives and works in London. Cliodhna’s project is the tale of the ocean-going royal mail ship RMS St Helena, her  crew, and the tiny island of St. Helena which she faithfully serves.

Neil O’Driscoll—Irish illustrator and filmmaker who was born in the southeast of Ireland and is currently based on a cliff just outside of Dublin. Having trained in animation, design, and crafts before completing a degree in film at Edinburgh College of Art, he now works freelance while illustrating the independent comic Big Bastard. Neil’s project is a graphic novel about human rights pioneer Roger Casement.

Sara Woolley—illustrator and graphic novelist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. Sara’s project is a fictionalized graphic memoir written with her mother and art partner Leila Gómez Woolley about a young girl’s upbringing in, and exile from, 1950s Colombia.

Atlantic Center for the Arts “Master Cartoonist”: Take Two

Back in 2012 I was forced to give up my ACA Master Artist gig due to my receiving the Knight-Wallace Fellowship and moving temporarily to Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Well, ACA program director Nick Conroy was nice enough to invite me again, so this fall (October 13–November 2, to be precise) I will be leading a three-week residency focusing on the nonfiction graphic novel.

I still find it a bit intimidating to be called a “Master Artist,” but at least since 2012 I’ve also done a lot more teaching—including two consecutive years conducting week-long courses with the Fine Arts Works Center Summer Program, and more Speaker/Specialist programs (like the one I did last fall in Mexico). So I’m probably more “prepared” for the experience this time around.

The Atlantic Center for the Arts, located in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is a nonprofit, interdisciplinary artists’ community and arts education facility. Their mission is to “promote artistic excellence by providing talented artists an opportunity to work and collaborate with some of the world’s most distinguished contemporary artists in the fields of music composition, and the visual, literary, and performing arts.”

During the three-week residency I will be working with eight “associate artists” on their long-form nonfiction comics projects. As part of the residency, we will be spending (at least) two hours a day together, conducting workshops, talking about the challenges we face, and working in a studio setting. I look forward to helping my associate cartoonists explore the best ways to make their ideas come to life.

By the way, my buddy Dean Haspiel took over my residency back in 2012—making it very much is own—and his group had a great time. They dubbed themselves Studio Yolo (“You only live once”), engaged in various team-building activities, and even produced an anthology. Read more about the experience here…

If you’re interested in applying to be an associate artist in my residency, or know someone who would, please check out the ACA website for further details. There are descriptions of the residency requirements, a FAQ, and lots more information. The application deadline is May 18, 2014.

2012-2013 Knight-Wallace Fellow, that’s me

After working in the field of comics-format journalism for the last six years, I’ve been “officially” anointed as a member of the fourth estate—I’ve been offered a 2012–2013 Knight-Wallace Fellowship in journalism!

The Knight-Wallace Fellowship gives mid-career journalists a chance to pursue customized sabbatical studies at the University of Michigan for a full academic year. The program also includes twice-weekly seminars, as well as training in narrative writing, multi-platform journalism, and entrepreneurial enterprise. Fellows also make two extended international tours to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, and Istanbul.

I’m the first comics journalist to be offered a Knight-Wallace Fellowship, and I believe only the second comics journalist to receive an American journalism fellowship of any kind (the first being Dan Archer, who was a 2010–2011 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford). I’m proud to be part of a growing recognition that this field—exemplified by the incredible Joe Sacco—is legitimate and lasting (as evidenced by the work of folks like Archer, Sarah Glidden, Matt Bors, Susie Cagle, Josh Kramer, Ted Rall, and the folks behind Symbolia and the Illustrated Press, just to name a few).

I was inspired to apply for the fellowship after learning that Archer had done the Stanford version, and realizing how beneficial such a program could be for my craft (particularly the journalism side of things). All during the early part of this year, I worked on my application, essays, and supporting materials, as well as rounding up letters of recommendation. (Thank you again, recommenders!) In mid-March I was notified that I was a KWF finalist, and in mid-April I went out to Ann Arbor for the big interview with the board. During that weekend, I got to tour the Wallace House (named after program benefactor Mike Wallace), and meet the current Fellows. Awkwardly, I also mingled with the “competition,” 30+ other finalists for the final roster of 12 American 2012–2013 Fellows. I came away from the interview weekend with a good feeling, but obviously it wasn’t until that April 30 early-morning call from program director Charles Eisendrath that I knew I had it. (I was asked to hold off on spreading the word until the program put out a press release, which they now have done.)

My study plan is to extensively research Bahrain’s Pearl Revolution (which I did a short piece about for Cartoon Movement, the Eisner Award-nominated “Bahrain: Lines in Ink, Lines in the Sand“). I plan on taking courses in the history of the Persian Gulf, Islam (specifically the Sunni-Shia divide), and the language and culture of the region. The ultimate goal is to produce a long-form comics-format book on the topic.

(My one tiny regret about the fellowship is that I have to back out of my October “Master Artist” residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Fortunately, however, ACA director Nick Conroy was gracious and understanding about my dilemma, and when I suggested that my long-time collaborator and pal Dean Haspiel take over for me, he was thrilled. And maybe I’ll get another chance to do the ACA residency in 2014…)

I really look forward to this amazing opportunity. I especially look forward to immersing myself in the practice of journalism, a field I’ve long been associated with (going back to my early days at The Nation magazine) but am now a designated member! I can’t wait to pick the brains of my fellow Fellows—both American and international—all of whom have more traditional backgrounds and training. The whole experience promises to be incredibly enriching.

So come September, Sari, Phoebe, and I will be temporarily relocating to Ann Arbor, Michigan. We’re all excited to embark on this new adventure. (Spouses and partners are invited to all seminars, and are Fellows in all but name. And the program is notoriously family-friendly.) Everyone I’ve talked to who’s had this fellowship just can’t stop raving about it.

Atlantic Center for the Arts “Master Artist”

The Atlantic Center for the Arts, located in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is a nonprofit, interdisciplinary artists’ community and arts education facility. Their mission is to “promote artistic excellence by providing talented artists an opportunity to work and collaborate with some of the world’s most distinguished contemporary artists in the fields of music composition, and the visual, literary, and performing arts.”

Last summer I was approached by the ACA to be a “master artist” for their 2012 graphic novel residency, taking place this October 8–28. I was honored to be asked, and excited to accept!

During the three-week residency I will be working with eight associate artists on their long-form nonfiction comics projects. As part of the residency, we’ll be spending two hours a day together, conducting workshops, talking about the challenges we face, and working in a studio setting. I haven’t done a lot of teaching up ’til now (though Sari and I will be co-teaching a comics writing class this summer at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown), but I’m very comfortable in workshop environments. I look forward to working with my associate artists as we explore the best ways to make their ideas come to life.

My residency will be in conjunction with those of two other “master artists,” Megan Kelso and Ellen Forney. I’m particularly excited to be sharing the experience with Megan and Ellen, both of whom I admire tremendously. I look forward to communing with them both, and hope there will be opportunities to merge our three groups for various activities.

A happy coincidence about this opportunity is that, unbeknownst to the ACA, my mother, Martha Rosler, was a Master Artist there back in 2002! It’s a kick for me to be linked with my mom in such a way.

If you’re interested in applying to be an associate artist, or know someone who would, please check out the ACA website for further details. There are descriptions of Megan, Ellen, and my residencies, an FAQ, and lots more information. The application deadline is May 18, 2012.