Rain
49°
Rain
Hi 54° | Lo 45°

Audio Slideshow: Drawn From All Over; The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction Attracts Eclectic Students

  • Teaching assistant Isabella Rotman, right, tests out a replacement nib for student Kevin Foreman of Atlanta, Ga., left, during a summer workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage

    Teaching assistant Isabella Rotman, right, tests out a replacement nib for student Kevin Foreman of Atlanta, Ga., left, during a summer workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »

  • Instructor Laurel Lynn Leake, left, and teaching assistant Luke Healy, right, listen to a speaker during a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage

    Instructor Laurel Lynn Leake, left, and teaching assistant Luke Healy, right, listen to a speaker during a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »

  • Kevin Foreman of Atlanta, Ga., front, works on a cartoon strip during a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage

    Kevin Foreman of Atlanta, Ga., front, works on a cartoon strip during a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »

  • Colin Brooke, 17, of Arlington, Va., peruses an omnibus of The Flash comics in the Schulz Library during a break between activities at a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Colin attended the workshop with his identical twin brother Simon. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage

    Colin Brooke, 17, of Arlington, Va., peruses an omnibus of The Flash comics in the Schulz Library during a break between activities at a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Colin attended the workshop with his identical twin brother Simon. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »

  • Instructor Jon Chad, center, speaks to students Sandi Getbamrungrat, left, and Amy Alshaikh, right, during a break between activities at a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage

    Instructor Jon Chad, center, speaks to students Sandi Getbamrungrat, left, and Amy Alshaikh, right, during a break between activities at a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »

  • Instructor Jon Chad, right, assists student Sandi Getbamrungrat, center, during a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. as At left is student Ka Yan Cheung. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage

    Instructor Jon Chad, right, assists student Sandi Getbamrungrat, center, during a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. as At left is student Ka Yan Cheung. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »

  • Purchase photo reprints »

  • Teaching assistant Isabella Rotman, right, tests out a replacement nib for student Kevin Foreman of Atlanta, Ga., left, during a summer workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage
  • Instructor Laurel Lynn Leake, left, and teaching assistant Luke Healy, right, listen to a speaker during a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage
  • Kevin Foreman of Atlanta, Ga., front, works on a cartoon strip during a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage
  • Colin Brooke, 17, of Arlington, Va., peruses an omnibus of The Flash comics in the Schulz Library during a break between activities at a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Colin attended the workshop with his identical twin brother Simon. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage
  • Instructor Jon Chad, center, speaks to students Sandi Getbamrungrat, left, and Amy Alshaikh, right, during a break between activities at a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage
  • Instructor Jon Chad, right, assists student Sandi Getbamrungrat, center, during a summer cartooning workshop at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vt. on July 31, 2013. as At left is student Ka Yan Cheung. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage

— In the old post office building that houses The Center for Cartoon Studies, Amal Alshaikh sat in front of a sketchpad, laughing at her own comic strip. Her protagonist is a housefly with a human head — Manfly — who is killed by his archenemy, Flyman — a man with a fly head.

Alshaikh is new to cartooning, and officially hooked. She traveled halfway around the world, from her home country of Bahrain, to be here.

“I’m in the period when I’m exploring stuff,” she said. “In cartooning there’s no limit.”

This summer, some 20 students from across the country and around the world brought their cartooning projects to the school for a weeklong workshop. In the high-ceilinged lecture hall, faculty wandered among the students, pointing out confusing plot points and misplaced word balloons. On the syllabus were classes in lettering, cartoon “world-building” and the Comics Code — a set of ethical standards for cartoonists.

Folks here take comics seriously.

“In France, it’s called the ninth art,” said faculty member Alec Longstreth. “They hold it in the same regard as film and writing and dance and theater and all those other great art forms. We like to think of it that way too.”

Founded in 2005, the Center for Cartoon Studies offers a master of fine arts program and a series of summer workshops for aspiring cartoonists. The workshops draw an eclectic crowd. Some, like Alshaikh, are just getting started, while others have published children’s books and graphic novels. Some are college art students with plans to pursue cartooning professionally. Others are in the middle of more conventional careers, but are exploring a beloved hobby they hope could turn into something more.

As a child, Kevin Foreman, of Atlanta, Ga., was an avid reader and collector of comics. Now, well into his law career, he hopes it’s not too late to draw and publish some of his own cartoons.

“I took a more traditional career path,” he said. “But you know, even though you get older, you never really lose the interest or passion for it.”

Workshop attendee Kristilyn Waite, of Beverly, Mass., recently finished graduate school in literature. Inspired by the “episode of the madeleine” in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, she created a comic about a snooty madeleine cookie who thinks she’s better than the other cookies in the bakery. “There’s so much character in pastry,” she said.

But not all the comics were comical.

“People do confuse it and say, ‘Oh, it’s like the Sunday funnies in the paper, so it has to be funny,’ ” said Longstreth. “It’s a medium. It’s not a genre.”

Tamara Robitille, of Lowell, Vt., dug into dark themes with her science fiction cartoon.

“I want to get across that everybody has a backstory, and not all of them are pleasant,” she said. The main character in her futuristic story is an outcast who lives in a moldy basement and does grueling janitorial work.

“I think it’s a bit pointless to try and ignore the darker side of things,” Robitille said. “So I try to bring them up.”

When people tell Robitille that cartooning doesn’t qualify as a valid art form, she will have none of it.

“I’m like, did your eyeballs enjoy it? Then it’s art.”

Cartoonist Tyler Fieldhouse, of St. Augustine, Fla., agrees.

“It’s like any artist,” he said. “You’re trying to convey an experience. This is how I feel, and I’m better drawing a picture for you than sitting down and having a conversation. This is how I communicate with the world.”