At first, when considering going to a comics workshop or class I was a little suspicious. Every art-form has it’s cast of outsiders willing, for a price, to show you how to be the next Pulitzer prize winner or tell you how you’ll be dancing at Carnegie Hall. I’ve always been of the mindset that comics is just something that can only be learned through hard-work and dedication. That part I think is still true. No matter who’s teaching you, you ultimately will only get out what you put in.
The SAW, however, is not a proverbial snake-oil dealer. It’s a blossoming community of bright, bursting at the seams with creativity artists, bound by warm kindness and a love for drawing in boxes that I’m proud to have witnessed and been a part of.
I took a train from Richmond, Virginia to Florida where a short shuttle ride dropped me off in Gainesville, Florida, luckily about 4 blocks from SAW. I got there early the first day of workshop and found a coffeeshop to draw and read over the itinerary for the week that Tom had sent me and the other people involved.
The first day was more of an introduction and ice-breaker for us to meet each-other and talk about our current projects and where we wanted to go with the week. I was immediately awe-struck by the breadth of Graphic novels that are on the shelves around SAW. I took to them like a kid in a candy store, and I must have skimmed/read 40 different books between the illustration reference guides and graphic novels.
I finally got to read all the “greats” I had heard about and had my mind cracked open by french cartoonists, tons of artists I had never read before and tons of other artists recommended to me by the year-long students who were all welcoming and pleasant.
The second and third day we really dug in. I was really looking forward to the second day because it was focused mainly on drawing and that’s more of my wheel-house and strength. I was really surprised at the in-depth knowledge of not just illustration fundamentals that were covered but also illustration history. The third and fourth day we focused on our projects and also exercises in writing which were and are hugely helpful. The studio hours were so open I was able to really dig-in and focus and work/read constantly. The teachers Tom Hart, Justine Anderson and Leela Corman went above and beyond at all hours of the day and evening to give direction, support and positive energy to fuel our projects forward as well as give us community activity options that let us see other creative things at work and build relationships together.
I’d say I left SAW feeling like I got so much more than I expected or understood I would get. I got a deep, personally catered fine art education in the fundamentals that can push my own work and style forward. I got to read and see loads of different books, Graphic Novels and comics. I was inspired by other artists further in my field willing to pull people forward rather than shrug them off. I also was able to spend a week focused 110% on my own craft and projects without the distraction of work, bills and social media. I have a head full of ideas of exercises and direction to take my art where I want to go. I got to meet a cast of awesome people I’m proud and happy to consider pillars of my “comics family.”
Thank you: Tom, Justine, Leela, Adrian, Eric, Sally, Deanna, Elvis, Kat-I, Ian & the friendly people of Gainesville.
They have many other programs including a week-long low-residency like I did coming up next year. For more information you can check out their website. They also have more pictures from the week I was there.