Yesterday, someone asked me why I had gotten into comics, and I found myself spinning the long tale of my somewhat winding journey. Today, while inviting everyone on my Facebook personal contact list to check out (and like) the event page for our comics festival (previous posts about that here and here), I felt moved to explain why I was involved, and why I cared about the event, and so ended up recounting pretty much what I had said the day before. I also figured it would make a pretty good blog post, so here it is!
“I’ve just invited pretty much everyone I know on FB to like the Camosun Comic Arts Festival (CCAF) page. I’m very involved this year in the organizing and social media promotion of the festival, and I figure, if you’re my friends, you want to know what I’m doing, right? And you never know if someone is a secret comics fan, or might become one! So I’m going to tell a little story about my history with comics. Gather round, children:
“I’ve been an artist just about forever (subjectively speaking), and my work has mainly been illustrative; even when I’ve been making pictures to stand on their own, they always told a story. People always asked if I did children’s books, and until the last few years, I had to say no, though the thought had crossed my mind to do my own (and I have since done a couple, one of which is even now being revised as two books, with additional illustrations).
“Sometime back around 2011, I happened on a book called Making Comics, by a guy named Scott McCloud, in the art section at Bolen’s Books. I was really attracted by it, and the fact that it told about a lot of the stuff I was already aiming at in my illustrations in the form of a comic. I justified the purchase to myself by saying it was to help with my illustration work, and went home and read it. This. Book. Changed. My. Life.
“… But I didn’t know it then. More accurately I should say it ignited a spark of an interest I didn’t know I had. I gleaned all I could from it to apply to what I was doing (and there was a considerable amount), but as I hadn’t really read any comics since the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers of my youth, and some indie comics by folks I met at Sci-Fi conventions (Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini, and Donna Barr’s wonderful Stinz and Desert Peach series), I didn’t feel qualified to just start making comics out of the blue. Then…
“In December of that year, my friend Joan Steacy came to my studio during the annual Open House at Xchanges Gallery and Studios, and told me about a continuing ed course in comics that her husband, Ken Steacy, was teaching, and a full-time program for comics and graphic novels that they were both setting up at Camosun College. I thought, well, I could do a night course (I miraculously had those evenings free), but thought that the full-time program was too much of a commitment of both money and time (“and at MY age!”).
“I took the night course. Suddenly, the spark was a flame, and I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up.
“I scrambled to get my portfolio and the funds together as soon as the program was open for applicants, afraid I’d be too late to be one of the 16 chosen ones. I had never, in all my artistic life, wanted to do anything so much. I got in, and over the eight-month course of 2012/2013, I worked harder than I have ever worked in my life, learning stuff about my craft, and finding out that I was actually pretty good at writing (and enjoyed it as much as drawing), and learning stuff I’d never thought I’d ever grasp, like Photoshop. And I made 15 new, young friends, who took me into their tribe, regardless of the fact that I was old enough to be the grandmother (or at least great-auntie) of some of them!
“The following school year, 2013/2014, I spent honing my skills during a private mentorship with Ken and Joan, out of which came Spam and the Sasquatch (written by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough) and Mermaid Music, the long-form webcomic I am currently working on and posting. I have self-published three comics, been a guest at a couple of conventions, have taught a class of my own in comics, blog about making comics and other art, and am about to start knocking on publishers’ digital doors. The two years I spent studying with Ken and Joan have given me the confidence to do all that.
“Best money and time I’ve ever spent.
“For the wrap-up to the year at Camosun, we put on a festival, at that time called the Camosun College Comics Conference, which we did again last year. This year we’ve changed the name, to reflect a growing movement of creator-based comics conventions (as opposed to the ones with the towers of superhero t-shirts and the expensive, stand-in-line-for-hours-to-get-your-photo-taken-with-famous-people events). CCAF is kind of a graduation thing for the students, so they can experience what it’s like to be behind the table at a comics convention. It’s also growing into quite a nice, family-oriented event for the community as well.
“Because of all the funding cuts to education, the college no longer funds the event, so this year we decided to run a crowdfunding campaign. If you’d like to help out, even just a couple of bucks (you can’t even get a cup of coffee for that nowadays!), all the connections are on our Facebook page. If you’re able to attend, we’ll be keeping everyone up-to-date with announcements about the schedule, guests, and special features of the festival. If you don’t know anything about comics and graphic novels, come on over anyway and find out what all the fuss is about!
“So if you haven’t liked our page, why not head over there now?”