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Graphic StorytellinG Graduation 2019 Welcome to this issue of Blazing Squids where we celebrate the graduating class of graphic storytellers 2019. Within these pages you’ll find examples of their work as well as interviews with most of them. For full length graduation projects, visit graphic-storytelling.com! Being a graphic storyteller is answering the Call to Adventure. And not just any call, but a specific call to create characters and worlds with art and writing. The Graphic Storytellers have spent these past four years training for this day. They’ve built up their skills, gained experience from a whole range of side quests and prepared for the day where they – in groups or individually – will head into the big outside world, seeking to slay the dragon. Or maybe to ride the beast instead and see where that will lead them. No matter what, they will now each formulate goals. They’ll decide where they will each put the “X” that marks the spot where new opportunities and level-ups lie. The road there will probably not be linear. They’ll most likely have to adjust their goals and the paths there on the fly, but they’ll each make good use of their backpack filled with skills, knowledge, utensils and Bravery. Safe journeys, adventurers!
Peter Dyring-Olsen, Head of Studies for Graphic Storytelling
Blazing Squids was created by: Erik Barkman, Peter Dyring-Olsen, and Maria Skov - with thanks to Morten Thorning, Henning Fryd and Specialtrykkeriet and everyone who contributed text and artwork! Cover image by Erika Grace Strada. 1
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Cecil Castellucci - author photo
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ng Learner AN INTERVIEW WITH CECIL CASTELLUCCI CONDUCTED BY ERIK BARKMAN
In her twenties, Cecil Castellucci toured North America fronting indie rock bands. In her thirties, she wrote her first novel. Now, she writes comics and teaches at Graphic Storytelling. We got in touch with her to discuss GS graduation projects, career paths and finding your way as a storyteller.
You came in to do script feedback fairly early in the bachelor project process - what was that like? - It’s always fun to come in to a setting where people are at the beginning of a project. It’s where you see the creative threads come together and you see how a project is born. It’s a fragile time, but it’s also a vital time, where everything is possible. Sometimes, our short pitch of an idea has so much possibility, but when we start to have to make choices, is where the hard decisions come in. That’s where I saw some struggle, in the part where you actually have to make a choice. One choice eliminates a lot of other ones. It is difficult to go from a general idea to a specific one, but that is our job as storytellers. There is no right or wrong way to tell a story, only your way. And I keep reminding everyone that you can always use an idea that you had to throw away in another project down the line. The other place where I saw some struggle was with raising the stakes. We care so much about our characters that sometimes we don’t want to hurt them. But we have to raise the stakes to make them (and us) grow. What has your experience teaching here been generally? - What I love about the Graphic Storytelling program is that it is such an incubator of creativity. All the students that I’ve met are so incredibly talented and have such unique voices and the program really seems to nurture that in everyone. For me, it’s a thrill to be around. It’s inspiring as well. I feel as though while I am teaching because I have some real world
experience, I am also learning and I think that makes for the best kind of educational environment. I’m also so impressed with the calibre of teachers (many of them friends and colleagues!) that the program gets and the range of workshops that the students get. Can you tell us a bit about your own art school experience and early career? - I actually went to college for film. I thought I was going to be a filmmaker and had my sights set on that. But while I was in college I joined a punk band and kind of got off of the film path. I realized that what I really liked doing was telling stories, and that writing lyrics for a song was like writing little stories. So I spent my twenties touring the US and Canada, sleeping in vans, putting out CDs and singing my heart out. Eventually, though, the music industry and my path kind of faltered. The introduction of MP3s and the demise of labels quickened that. I knew that I loved stories and so I started writing novels in my thirties. But I always loved comics, way back from the day when I lived in Montreal and started going to some live comic jams thrown by the newly formed publisher Drawn and Quarterly. One of my novels got the attention of an editor at DC Comics and that was how my career in comics began. I have to honestly say that where I started and what I studied and what I ended up doing were connected, but I never thought that I would be here doing this. I guess what I really learned was that you might think that you are going for one thing, but your heart pulls 3
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you in the right art direction. I think a lot of students love a lot of the different aspects of comics and they may find that down the line they move away from comics and focus on a specific aspect. But everything that you learn will always inform you and that’s the beauty of a life in art. Can you give some examples of how that’s been the case for you? - Well, I think making comics and collaborating with an artist is a lot like being in a band. You have to listen and respect and work with someone else who cares about the project as much as you do. And everything that I learned about writing comics springs from what I learned from writing novels. I really find that a creative life and a long career is building skill on top of skill and learning to use what you’ve learned before to grow in new exciting directions. I also like to think of myself as a life learner. I want to tell stories in many different ways and I want to challenge the way in which I tell stories. What do you wish you knew when you were starting out about writing and storytelling as a career - and what advice would you give others based on that? - Well, like I said, you don’t know where in the spectrum of the art of storytelling you might end up! I assumed I’d be writing screenplays or television and though I live in Hollywood that is not something that I do at all. What I wish I knew most back at the beginning of my career is to just trust that
your path is going to show up in front of you as long as you put in the time and you do the work. And most importantly that you finish projects. My experience tells me that doing work makes other work happen. And that it is important to be ready for an opportunity when it comes up. You have to make your own luck and getting the work done and putting it out there is what helps that luck along.
Everything you learn will always inform you, and that’s the beauty of a life in art. If you were to split your work life into categories - comics, books, admin, teaching, promotion, etc. and put a percentage to how much time you spend on each across a year, how would that look? - As I sit here thinking on this question, I am pretty happy with how it looks! I mean the one thing that is always hard is the freelance life. Never knowing how you’re going to make it all work and pay your bills and do your art. That’s not for the faint of heart. I think the one part that I don’t like is the administration and promotion part. Or like all the emails! But overall, especially in the last two years I’m really happy with the projects I’m doing. The things I’m learning from teaching! (Thank you, Viborg!) and the travel to conventions to grow awareness of the books that I have.
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To what extent have you been able to pursue the things you’re passionate about - and to what extent have you had to compromise to make things work? - This is a really hard question to answer because I think that everyone approaches having a long career in a different way. And careers look different for everyone. I really wanted to avoid having a day job. So I took a lot of temporary jobs so I’d work for two weeks and then write for two weeks. That worked for me (for a while) but I was very poor. Other people I know had day jobs or still have day jobs. It just depends on how you want to make your life work. And there is no right way or wrong way. Just your way. I think as an artist you are always paying your dues. I don’t think that ever ends. You start out and then you grow your skills, and you’re a radar blip to the public and then you get to the next level and wham! You have to pay your dues again. And I think that you are always having to compromise in some way or another, it just is up to you to figure out how to do that so that you feel ok. Right now I’ve been doing a bit more licensed work then I have in the past and that comes with its own set of restrictions. For me I’ve decided how to navigate it so that I remain creatively fulfilled and also career smart. I try to figure out ways where even when I have to compromise, there is something in the project that makes my heart skip for joy. It my heart doesn’t skip a beat, then I just don’t do it.
What do you think are the most significant reasons you’ve succeeded as a writer? - I think the biggest reason is that I have learned to finish a project even though I know that it will never be perfect and that in ten years I will look at it and be like, Ahhhhhhh I could have done better. I think the thing that holds a lot of people back is that they want things to be perfect and so they never finish. I have learned to let go and think of a project as a document of where I was at that moment in time. But also, Ha! I don’t know that I will ever feel as though I’ve fully succeeded because I think that it’s a life long process. Tell us a little bit about your recent and future projects! - I am currently writing Female Furies for DC Comics. That wraps up in July and then I’ll be taking over Batgirl! I also have a three issue Snow White miniseries in July. Then in November, I have a memoir graphic novel about growing up in New York City and wanting to be an artist conversations with my neuroscientist dad about how we remember and how we forget. In January of 2020 I have a graphic novel The Plain Janes coming out with your fellow teacher and one of my all time favorite people, Jim Rugg! After that I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m sure something will show up. I’ve got a few novels I want to write and a bunch more comics to cook up.
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6Graphic Storytelling diploma by illustrator and cartoonist (and GS teacher) MĂĽrdĂ¸n Smet
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a Dreaming AN INTERVIEW WITH JULIE HAUGE ANDERSEN CONDUCTED BY CHRISTYAN LUNDBLAD
Julie Hauge Andersen graduated from Graphic Storytelling in 2017 - ten years after she had finished a Character Animator bachelor. She wanted to learn more about visual storytelling, and she did. These days she is applying for a visa so she can live and work in the USA, a dream she has had for all long as she can remember. But it takes a lot of will power. Hi Julie. How are you? - I’m really good thank you!! Busy as usual. What are you working on these days? - Right now I’m working on a Danish TV series for Copenhagen Bombay as a lead character designer, that’s going to air on DR Ramasjang! Cool. And you just came back from the US. What did you do there? - I’ve been in Los Angeles to broaden my network and keep in touch with my exciting colleagues there. I got to talk to a lot of different and great people at Dreamworks Animation. It was a really amazing and inspiring experience! I’m working on getting ready to take the big leap to move and work there. I’ve been working on the show for Copenhagen Bombay meanwhile. Ok. So you didn’t have a job there yet, you just went to get connected? - I’m working as a freelancer, so I’ve had jobs there already and people that I’m working with continuously, but at the moment I was just there to visit my better half and network, working on my visa to be able to work there full time in the near future. What does it take to get a visa? - Getting a visa for the US is not an easy endeavor. There’s a lot of things that you have to be able to provide, to be eligible and maybe get the visa. I’m applying for what’s called an O-1 visa, in which you
have to prove that you have extraordinary abilities within your field of work. In this case the animation industry. To prove that, you have to provide a range of different things: First of all, you need a sponsor, or what you would call an employer, that wants to work with you on the basis of your extraordinary abilities. They will follow you along the process and help provide paperwork and express their need to have you there in their company, to solve assignments that only you can do. You need 1015 letters of recommendation from people with proven experiences within the industry. Besides that you have to provide evidence of earlier work and experiences and of course all your personal paperwork, including a biography of your life and a portfolio. All this and a lot more! I have an American lawyer who’s helping me fill all the papers and making sure that everything is in order. I would definitely recommend this to anyone interested in starting an application for a visa. It’s a jungle, so make sure you get a good one, use your network and ask other people who also went through the process already. There is a few steps along the way, before you start filling in everything. 9000$ later and with all the paperwork sent to the US government, you’ll have to wait for them to process everything. This can take time and they can ask you to provide additional documentation if needed. In this process you won’t know how long you might be waiting. Then you’ll be invited to an interview with the American embassy, where you of course have to prove that everything that’s in your application is 9
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true. If you then get approved, they’ll create a visa page in your passport and you’ll be able to work in the US for 3 years. I still haven’t filled my application in yet, but I’m getting ready to send everything very soon. Fingers crossed here! Wooh, that was a long answer, but trust me, it’s the condensed version! Wow, so this is really not something you just do for fun. It must be a very big dream of yours. - Haha definitely not just for fun, it’s a lot of hard work, persistence and you really have to want it. There’s the money of course, but also it takes time to do all the “leg work” of creating a network that’s willing to back you up on this journey! It’s definitely a big dream of mine and has always been. But now I feel I’m ready and I dare take the big jump, go the extra mile. It takes a lot of courage too! Yes, I can imagine. You said you went to see your better half. I assume you mean your husband? Is he already living there? - Yes, he’s my boyfriend, but not my husband. Yet haha!! We’re engaged. Luca has been living and working there for 5 years now and is currently a visual development artist at Dreamworks Animation. He’s Italian and has already gone through the whole process with the visa. It’s invaluable to have him backing me up and following me in this too, learning from his process in all this. Not only the practical things, but also the personal challenges that comes
with making such a big change in your life. Can I ask how you met? - Yes of course. We actually met on one of my networking trips to Los Angeles, at a big expo called CTN Expo! I can warmly recommend people to go to big events like these, it’s a great way to meet people, show your work and create a network there. Ok. Interesting. Maybe I am wrong but you also have a daughter with an ex-boyfriend? How will that go? - Yes that’s right. I have an 8-year-old daughter and she’s of course coming with me to the US. It’s definitely a challenge, not just for me but of course also for her. It’s a big change. In my perspective, I’m not only doing this for me, but also for her. She’s been with me on a trip there and is very excited about the move. Her dad is sailing with Maersk, which means that he’s away for 6 out of 12 months of the year, so she’s always been living with me and I have full courtesy. We’ll of course go to Denmark as often as we can, so she can see her dad when he’s home and we can spend time with our family and friends too. Her dad will also visit her on occasion in LA. Ok, so that should work out fine. Of all the contacts you have over there is it people you have met here at the Animation Workshop? - Yes I’ve met with some of my former teachers and they’ve been super supportive and helpful. Amongst
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them are Steve Seagle and Ezra Claytan Daniels. I’ve also met with old students, from what was called KIKA back then, Hans Ranum and Rikke Asbjørn. They made a great life for themselves there and it’s very inspiring to see. Are you using any of the things you learned from your Graphic Storytelling years here in Viborg? - Most definitely!! I use it every day in my work. I started the graphic storytelling program to learn more about storytelling and to get a lot of time to draw, with the goal of going into visual development and character design. In my work I’m not only focused on the design, but also the storytelling aspect of building up a character or world. I also love to come up with my own concepts and stories that I develop in my free time. In the future I hope to be able to be a bigger part of creating new IP. The same goes for the character animation program, where I learned so much, that I’m still using in my work every day, even if I’m not an animator. My time at the animation workshop has definitely been one of the most rewarding and important experiences of my life and development, to where I am today! Ok. Dreamworks, is that in Burbank, California? How is it to live there? What do you do in your free time
and where do you live? How do you get around? - Dreamworks is located in Glendale, close to Burbank. When I’m there I live in an area called Los Feliz, also very close to both Glendale and Burbank. We plan to find a new place together in Burbank, when it’s time to move from Denmark. It’s an amazing place to live, I feel at home there. In our free time we hike in Griffith park, walk at the beach, hangout with friends or go out to eat at some of our favorite places. I get around using Uber, it’s very convenient for me, as I don’t have a license and I’m not planning on having the expense of owning a car just yet. Los Angeles is a big city, so it’s definitely necessary to get around by car. Do you see some celebrities occasionally? - Haha nope no celebrities yet, only the ones within the animation industry, but I guess that they’re not celebrities in that sense you’re thinking. Is there anything you wanna say to students who would like to go the same way as you are going right now? - Hmmm, I don’t know... maybe just to people out there having a dream about doing the same things: Go for it and feel free to get in touch and ask if you have any questions!
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: TULIP WEBSITE: ANDYKVIST.COM @ANDYSOFFICE ON TWITTER & INSTAGRAM
What’s your graduation comic all about? - Tulip is the story of a girl who feels like she’s changed. She ventures into a dark forest in hopes of finding her old self – and in there, she meets twisted creatures who make her question who she is, was and will be. It’s a very personal story about learning, evolving and forgiving yourself. I hope it’s going to resonate with others! Where did the idea originate? - From a dream I had, actually. Of course the dream was very different from what the comic is now, but I woke up and immediately thought “I have to draw this”. I chose it as my bachelor project because I wanted to do something a little less commercial than what I usually do – and I wanted to create something that was one hundred percent for myself.
What’s next? - I hope to create much more personal artwork, and worry less about what’s gonna get me published. I want to draw what makes me happy, most of all – and I want to find my voice rather than trying to fit into a box that someone else created for me. I think that it shows in your work whether you’re having fun or not; I want to find a way to make everything I do as enjoyable as possible.
What about Tulip are you most proud of? - Tulip is, as mentioned, a very personal project, and it is very dear to me. Tackling the issues that it revolves around was tough, as it mirrors my real life feelings, more specifically feelings I had during a very dark time in my life. I’m proud that this story and these experiences have now been executed as a comic; that they’re no longer just my feelings, but something more. What did you learn by doing the project? - Maybe not to worry so much? If I were to do a comic like this again, I hope to be less nervous – my process was full of worries, and they all turned out to be misguided; I was capable of more than I thought. Perhaps it is fitting for a comic like this, haha – It is, after all, about personal growth and, you guessed it, learning that you are more than what you think.
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MEET THE GRADUATES
Angelica Inigo PROJECT: ON/OFF WEBSITE: ANGELICAINIGO.COM @ANGIE_INIGO ON INSTAGRAM
Tell us all about your graduation project! - ON/OFF is a graphic novel for teens and young adults that comments on our use of SoMe and screen time. The story follows Olivia – a 14-yearold SoMe-obsessed teen girl who has to visit her grandparents on an isolated island with little to no internet. The challenge for all of them becomes to balance their online and offline lives. Why that theme? - This story came to life because it revolves around an issue I personally have myself. Everything is about balance, and as we’re living in an online age, being offline is a choice you must make every day. I thought it was interesting to make a subtle slice of life story about the choices we need to take in order to be present and connected to people – be it online or offline.
What did you learn doing it? - I learned that being open minded, being structured, having a schedule that’s flexible and a good touch of taking care of yourself makes you do wonders. What are your plans post-graduation? - I’ve planned different scenarios after graduation, but all of them involve being a freelance illustrator and cartoonist. I will keep educating myself and grow as an artist – that’s for sure!
What about ON/OFF are you proud of? - I wanted my bachelor project to be a product of all the things I’ve learned in my four years at the Graphic Storytelling program. From pitching an idea, to scripting, to actual production and to final print. So just completing all the stages as best as I could and checking off all the milestones makes me feel super proud of myself.
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MEET THE GRADUATES
Ari HG Yates
PROJECT: STUBBY SAVES CHRISTMAS WEBSITE: TEIKNARI.COM @TEIKNARI ON INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK
Ari! Give us the skinny on your graduation project! - Did you know there are 13 Santa Clauses in Iceland called the Yule Lads? Well there totally are! My story is about one of them, called Stubby. Stubby is rather, well ...stubby. Duh! And he’s not too happy about it. In fact, he’s so unhappy about it that he has decided to stop being a Yule Lad altogether, in protest! That is, until he sees that THE Santa Claus has crashlanded right on the side of his mountain, in Iceland. Santa desperately needs help to get back to the North Pole and Stubby very reluctantly steps up to the challenge. They go on a big adventure to find ways to fix Santa’s sleigh. They meet trolls with giant boogers, weirdo Elves and a big fat dragon! Will they manage to save Christmas? I don’t know, you’ll just have to read the book... or the title of the book ...you just need to read the title. Tell us about the genesis of the story! - I have long had a story in mind where I could mash together the Christmas stories of the US and UK with the Icelandic ones. They are similar in many ways but polar (no pun intended) opposites in many others; I smelled an opportunity for hilarity! Originally I meant to do a standard 32-page picture book, but as I started writing it became apparent that I would need more space for all the hilarity. There was just too much hilarity!! So, after talking to my mentor, the spectacularly awesome Cecil Castellucci, and my teacher, the spectacularly bearded Peter DyringOlsen, I opted for a mere 62-page hybrid picture book (meaning like a combination of a comic and a picture-book). So I would only have to fully finish about two pages a day, in full color ... easy, right? What’s the best thing about Stubby for you? - The thing I’m most proud of about this book is that I actually finished it. It was not without it’s bumps in the road, I can tell you that much. The fact that I had never attempted anything like this scared the living
bejesus out of me. I knew I’d make some (or a lot of) mistakes, but I liked the idea of taking on a big challenge and proving to myself that I could in fact do it. What lessons did you learn along the way? - I learned a lot. One of the things I learned is that planning and keeping a schedule is key. And communicating with your peers and teachers etc. I don’t really regret the way I did it, even though it was very improvisational, because if I had tried doing it in a “safer” way, I believe I would have procrastinated myself to death. So I can look back and see a lot of mistakes. For instance, I wish I had had the time and wherewithal to have all the characters 100% the way I liked them and scorched into my drawing memory, but I had around 20 characters and precious little time. I also wish that I had the color profile totally the way I like it before starting to draw. If I were to do this again, I would definitely try to get those things 100% the way I like them before doing anything else. However, in this case, I just had to learn by doing and hit the ground running. Which I believe I did. And isn’t that the whole point? NO? Oh, okay. Fine, whatever. Post-graduation plans? - I have started an illustration studio with some excellent individuals from Graphic Storytelling. I’m very much looking forward to being able to apply myself 100% to that. My plan is simply to be a professional illustrator and children’s book author. In fact I have got two new book deals waiting for me as soon as I finish graduating (hitting the ground running again). One of them is being published in Iceland and the other in Canada and Iceland (and who knows what next?). I’m pretty hopeful that my graduation project will get published as well. I feel very good in Viborg so I’ve decided to stay a while... if I can keep the wolves from the door!
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: POPPY SAVES THE DAY WEBSITE: AHANSENART.PORTFOLIOBOX.NET @AHANSENART ON INSTAGRAM
Tell us about your graduation project! - Poppy Saves the Day is a picture book about a lonely little dog who learns about responsibility and selflessness. Dogs are probably the best creatures on Earth, so why not spend some time with a feel good story that features not one, not two, but three adorable pups? Why a picture book about dogs? - It is no secret that I love dogs very much. Since I cannot have a puppy of my own as of right now, I decided that the next best thing would be to make a story that stars a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, my favourite dog breed out there. Well, that’s part of it, at least. As much as I love drawing animals, I wanted to create a book that resembles the kind of things I was drawn to as a child and, to some extent, as an adult today. I also wanted to challenge myself in writing and designing material that is aimed at a young audience and is more light-hearted in nature.
What did you learn by doing it? - A host of different things - simplifying environments and characters, for one. I have improved some of my animal drawing and struggled some with writing for little kids. For the most part, the tone of it all seemed to elude me; if I were to do things differently, I’d perhaps try to take a different direction writing-wise. What’s next? - Hopefully, the beginning of a successful and fulfilling drawing career (and the eventual arrival of a puppy if I get my way).
What about Poppy Saves the Day are you most proud of? - I am proud of the fact that this project has managed to keep my focus at fairly high levels. One of my chief concerns was falling out of love early on and finding it a burden to keep churning out pages. I am happy to report that was not the case at all probably because it would be downright impossible to draw dogs and feel anything but happy at the same time.
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MEET THE GRADUATES
Cecilie “Q” Thorsen PROJECT: MAE’S DUNGEON DIARY WEBSITE: STRIKINGLY.COM/CECILIEQ @QCECILIE ON TWITTER
Tell us about your graduation project! - Mae’s Dungeon Diary is a fun and sweet pen&paper-inspired fantasy story - told through a sketchbook! It’s about Mae - an aspiring performer full of confidence - and her friends, as they make their way from island to island and eventually uncover a conspiracy. Mae writes it all down in her sketchbook, and she is the narrator of this piece, not me. It’s about friendships, storytelling, and what it means to be good enough. Also it has SONGS! Real, actual songs that I have written and you can PLAY! Why a sketchbook? Why pen & paper? Why songs? - I try to think outside the box for every project I do: HOW you tell a story is just as important as why, or what the story is. A sketchbook is such a personal thing and using that medium to tell an intimate story about searching for fame and acceptance… that was appealing to me. But ultimately, no matter how cool the high concept is, I believe every project should be a joy to make. Mae’s Dungeon Diary combines all the things I love these days: fantasy, sketching, watercolors, D&D, songwriting, and optimism.
2: Sometimes your mentor tells you to scrap a third of the script and do it all over, and then you say “okay” and then you do it. Mentors are a godsend and should be listened to, always. 3: When you make a sketchbook, the pages look sketchy and unfinished, whowouldhavethought?! Deal with it. You made this choice. 4: Sometimes life is stressful. That’s when you make use of that plan we talked about and give yourself some days off, so you don’t crumble. What happens after this? - Exciting things! I’ll be splitting my time between Viborg and Copenhagen; building my portfolio and taking odd jobs until I figure everything out. BUT ALSO I’ll be making the EPIC FANTASY WEBCOMIC that my teen-self always dreamed of (advice: make your teen-self happy whenever you can, you both deserve it).
What about the book makes you proud? - It might be weird to say, but I’m proud of Mae, my main character. In some ways, she’s a reflection of myself: an artist just trying to make her way in the world and document the journey. And through making Mae’s Dungeon Diary, I really got to know her and see our abilities grow. But also, have you ever tried life drawing something that doesn’t actually exist?! I take pride in my fake life drawing, and I thank the years of hard work it took to build those skills! What did working with Mae teach you? - Four things! 1: Big projects, as it turns out, aren’t as scary as we think they are, as long as there’s time to make a good plan in the beginning. 20
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MEET THE GRADUATES
Christoffer Hammer PROJECT: FROGATEERS WEBSITE: CHRISTOFFERHAMMER. STRIKINGLY.COM
Christoffer! Tell us all about your graduation project! - Frogateers is a 41-page kid’s picture book with comic book elements worked into it to make a mild fusion of the two. It’s the story of three small frogs that lose their one and only small pond due to discord and must learn how to get along with each other in order to survive the wilderness on their journey to find a new home. It’s a fun, wacky and fast-paced story about learning to come together in times of need instead of trying to impose your own problem solving methods on others and getting ahead of yourself. Why frogs and a kids’ picture book? - The idea for this project came from a deep-rooted love for simple yet strong children’s stories that kept me coming back for more. All my other comic pitch ideas were too big and grand, mainly just for the sake of it, but I realized that a much simpler story and setting would leave a stronger impact (and would be a more ideal project to dig into during a 5 month work process). I’ve been excited to make my own kid’s book for years, so this was just the opportunity I was waiting for. From the beginning I’ve been more of an illustrator than a storyteller, but this was just the thing I needed to get myself pushed more into an independent story-teller direction and do something that was mine from the blank canvas to the finished print.
my side for years, since I would always take too long to get works finished. I am very happy with how Frogateers has turned out and I hope everyone who reads it will enjoy it. Name some things you’ve learned? - What I take most from this whole book-making experience is just that; experience. Learning firsthand the process of making something this big from start to finish will be a huge help next time I will make another storybook, about character and text placement, pacing, use of shadows, colors, etc. Truly a learning experience. What will you do after this? - After the graduation, I will be joining forces with a handful of my classmates and do our own “drawingtable” group, where we will do freelancing while I get a job on the side for steady income.
What are you proud of accomplishing with this project? - What I’m most proud of is the fact that I have physical validation that I’m capable of undertaking a whole book that’s my own, that I can actually pick something and stick through with it and never feel like I’ve hit a dead end. Being too precious and perfect with individual images has been a thorn in
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MEET THE GRADUATES
Emei Olivia Burell PROJECT: THE GREAT FANTASY BAKE OFF WEBSITE: EMEIBURELL.STRIKINGLY.COM @EMEIBURELL ON TWITTER & INSTAGRAM
Tell us all about The Great Fantasy Bake Off! - My graduation project is a monster version of the Great British Bake Off set in a fantasy universe. I have werewolves, merpeople, witches, ogres and knights giving their all to win the title as the be(a)st amateur baker in the realm! So if you like cakes and weird monsters baking, this is absolutely the comic for you.
What happens now? - Well, in the summer following our graduation I’ll be working on a comic book together with a very nice American publisher. Keep your eyes peeled for something special in 2020! During that same time, I will be freelancing for a small game company doing concept art for a new app game. It’s gonna be real cute!
Why that particular high concept? - I came up with it while on a walk around the lake at the end of our 3rd year. I’d been thinking a lot about Fantasy Sports by Sam Bosma - it’s a fantastic comic that I love very much. I’d been feeling like I wanted to make something equally fun and enjoyable to both read and create. And then it hit me - why not just do what he did? Take two things I love and mash it all together? I looove the combination of the fantasy and slice of life genres, but what if I threw some baking into the mixture? The Great Fantasy Bake Off popped into my head during that walk and hasn’t left me since.
- And in October of this year I will move to England to start my job at Media Molecule as a Narrative Artist! I’m very excited about this as it was a wonderful place to intern at, and that it actually led to employment was more than I could have ever dreamed of!
What are you especially happy with about it? - What I’m most proud of is that I swore at the beginning of this project that it would not be allowed to take over my life for 6 months. I would still have a healthy lifestyle where I took care or my body and had time to relax, see my friends and cook good food for myself. I would only work 8 hours a day and no weekends. And I’ve kept that promise to myself. I’ve left at 4 pm every day and don’t regret a thing! What did you learn from the whole thing? - That I can work really fast, that writing takes a long time and that pre-production is my favorite part of a project! And most importantly, that it’s only a school project, so it’s not the end of the world if something goes a bit awry. 24
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: WELCOME TO THE HOTHOUSE WEBSITE: ERLENDSANDOY.COM @ERLEND_SANDOY ON TWITTER & INSTAGRAM
What have you been up to these last five months? - Welcome to the Hothouse is essentially a guidebook on how to survive climate change – where all the advice is extremely expensive. What inspired it? - The idea came to me while I was packing 3.000 envelopes full of stickers together with my classmate Simao during our internship at The Nib magazine in Portland, USA. While working there I had also been making a lot of informational comics with a satirical edge and I was curious how far I could push this combination.
What happens now? - I’d love to explore this genre further, or something tangentially related. Straight after graduation, however, I’ll be starting the animation work on two short films for two different NGOs, which both are scheduled for release in August/September.
What did you do right in the process of making Welcome to the Hothouse? - The research process for this comic was quite long, and there wasn’t a very clear path towards making a coherent narrative to weave all the information together. Pages have been switched around a lot from their original place and themes have also come and gone. But suddenly, less than two months from deadline, a thread started to appear. A giant constipation immediately left my body! I see this partly as a successful result of keeping the whole structure modular along the way. What did you learn along the way? - I learned a lot about how to make a dishonest, unreliable guidebook with a - in my opinion anyway – timely/relevant point. This is a genre which I personally haven’t encountered before, so I largely had to pull the mechanisms out of my ….
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: ZAK ZOMBIE WEBSITE: TORNAGER.COM @FRED_TORNAGER ON INSTAGRAM & TWITTER
For your graduation project, you did an offbeat zombie comic? - Zak Zombie is the first chapter of a five part action comedy comic series about an average sucky teen turned zombie, who enters a fight club tournament, held at a church, to chase stardom and thereby gain a sense of self worth. How did you land on this idea for your project? - Zak Zombie had been in the back burner for about a year and a half before we had to consider what to do for our bachelor. Initially I wasn’t gonna pick it because it were to be a miniseries and I would have wanted my bachelor to be a finished thing. I decided to go for it anyway because it was the story I considered to be the most fun, and I knew it’d be the only story I could stand working on for more than a few months.
at a time so I don’t end up with 50 unfinished pages. It’s all very unsatisfying and time consuming, and I’m glad I know that now. What happens now? - I’m working on this comic for Danish publisher Fahrenheit, written by Tomas Lagermand Lundme, it’s called Min Nat Med Dig. I was gonna work on it simultaneously with Zak Zombie, but that was before I realized how the bachelor would rule my life. Min Nat Med Dig is quite different from Zak Zombie, but the story still fits me perfectly and I love it, so I’m super excited for when it comes out which will hopefully probably be real soon!
What about the comic makes you proud? - I’m most proud of my character designs. Because I’ve had the story for a good while, the characters have had time to develop naturally into the best versions of themselves. Character design is definitely my area of expertise, and what I consider important above anything else, and the fact that people seem to react to the characters exactly how I want them to makes me feel very powerful. If you were to do it all over again, what would you do differently? - I learned so many things as to what not to do. Don’t work on A3 paper when the finished comic is gonna be A5. Don’t wing the environments. Don’t start coloring the pages without color thumbnails. Don’t do screen tones when grays works just as well. Don’t do an unfinished story. Don’t do 50+ pages and don’t try to work on another 50+ page comic alongside of it. I would personally also finish a page 28
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: HOLLOW LIGHT WEBSITE: HOPEHJORT.STRIKINGLY.COM @HOPEHJORT ON INSTAGRAM & TWITTER
What’s Hollow Light all about? - Agnostic Nigel never got along with the Temple of Radiance, a powerful religious group. When the acolyte Zephyr tries to recruit him to the temple, Nigel uses it to get a bit of revenge. Zephyr catches Nigel red handed and things go awry sending them both on the run from the temple. Life as they knew it starts to crumble among them. But is it really their fault? Or is there something deeper going on? Hollow Light is a fantasy hybrid novel for new adults. It works with the themes of faith outside and inside religion, love, adulthood’s responsibilities, found family and more.
probably look a bit more into the visual sequences and make them a little longer or layout them as comic pages. Plans for the future? - I’m going to look into writing courses and see if I can tighten my skills even more. I also have a graphic novel I’m currently fleshing out that I want to focus on after school’s over. I want to keep going as a creator.
Why this project? - I decided this project because the concept of the story has been rummaging in my mind for quite a few years. Zephyr was first created back in 2013 and Nigel came into being not long after. Over the years, the story went in a lot of different directions, but the moon and sun power theme has always stuck with me. I settled on a hybrid novel because I’ve always had a love for the writing part in story creating and after suffering two tennis elbows and more in just two years, I was worried making a comic in such a short time would cause distress on my arm. What about it are you happy with? - I am so proud of the writing. It was a major battle to get it down right and tight, but thanks to my mentor who pushed me past my boundaries I managed to write a story that I’m still proud of – flaws and all. What did working on it teach you? - I learnt a lot about storytelling in just the few months I worked on this, the beats and specifically how to keep pushing the story forward without getting boring. If I had to do it all over again, I would 30
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: BLACK BORDER WEBSITE: IMMETHI.STRIKINGLY.COM @IMMETHI ON TWITTER
So what is Black Border all about? - It’s a psychological thriller about men struggling with the impact of their past mistakes and regrets. We follow three soldiers as what they believe to be a quick pit-stop in a small village soon turns out to be a scene laid out to expose the very depths of their souls. Why this theme and story? - I’ve always loved stories that dive into masculinity and pressure-cooker situations. I also grew up surrounded by people in uniforms, as my dad is a colonel in the Norwegian army. So it feels foreign yet familiar enough that I thought it would be interesting to do a war story.
What lessons do you take away from this project? - If I were to do it all over again, I would let myself relax more. At the end of the day, it’s only a comic, just get to it, page by page, and don’t worry whether or not you’re creating the next War and Peace. What happens next? - After graduation I’m looking forward to working with stories. Preferrably with live-action filmmaking, storyboarding and scriptwriting etc. I hope to find myself somewhere in Britain soon!
What turned out the best, do you think? - I’m most proud of my dialogue. I think I’ve captured a realness, an essence of humanity in the characters. I was also thrilled I finally got to do a project with so much dialogue and character interaction! Using my own photographs and altering them to make backgrounds was also incredibly rewarding (if not also a major pain in the butt).
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: BADASS GRANNIES IN SPACE WEBSITE: MADSSKOVBAKKE.STRIKINGLY.COM @MADSSKOVBAKKE ON INSTAGRAM & TWITTER
Tell us about your project! It’s … not a comic? - Yes, it’s a story bible - a long-form pitch of a universe where a multitude of stories could unfold. B.A.G.S. - Badass Grannies in Space is a wacky and fast-paced universe where old people are shot into space aboard a giant, floating, intergalactic retirement home! Imagine a giant death-star, except this one is run by your grandparents’ posse! Why a story bible – and why this story bible? - It has been quite a ride already: The groundwork for B.A.G.S. was laid when I was making my secondyear exam. The prompt back then was to develop a story-world that could work across multiple media platforms, and I just wanted to have fun after an intense semester. It turns out that having fun is a great idea: The pages I did for that exam is still some of my favorite work. But I never really thought more of it afterwards - until… The bachelor preparations came around! I was struggling with some of the pitches I was creating, and nothing really got me excited. But then someone reacted to my old B.A.G.S.-pages on social media. And on top of that, my colleagues at my internships highlighted it in my portfolio, and immediately began spontaneously jamming ideas for space-gramps gags. When it was time to decide on a project, I was still super confused about my pitches! They all had old people in them! (Maybe I should get that looked at) But my classmates reacted very positively towards B.A.G.S. and it even got it’s first jingle (credit to Steve Seagle). At the end of the selection process I confidently chose to make a story bible for B.A.G.S. oh the hubris. TL:DR: I just wanted to have fun! What about this project are you most proud of? - Creating a story bible from scratch is completely new to me. It is a pretty vague format and an intense amount of work. Finishing one in 4 months is an
accomplishment that I don’t take lightly. Struggling to find and maintain the vision of an ambitious IP while straddling this formless story bible beast - was a lot do deal with. It was all too easy to burrow down in production and lose the overview of the project as a whole. So even though I am still piecing it together as I write this, I am very proud that I took a step back, took care of myself, and re-established some of the structure I had lost along the way. What did working on it teach you? - This is going to sound super lame - but I honestly wish I had let myself have more fun and draw more nutty old people in space-diapers fighting aliens. More visual exploration and development of the specific story moments. I got very concerned with the final look, and reaching my extremely ambitious goals for the final product. As a result, I completely forgot to enjoy all the development that made B.A.G.S. an interesting IP to begin with - and felt very lost, working way too hard at something that did not have as strong a story foundation as I would have liked. So I would have let myself produce way more concept art from the beginning - even if it is just ugly little sketches. Because as long as I was sticking to writing and abstract planning, I kept working in unspecific high-concept world-building, instead of getting to some of the specific gags that help sell the idea of B.A.G.S. as it is supposed to be. What’s next? - Realizing B.A.G.S. is going to be a long journey, and the bachelor has just been the beginning. I won’t get into details, but development is sure to be continued from now on. But first I am off to Japan for a cultural exchange! Apart from that, I am going to bring some freelance work with me around Scandinavia for a while and then move to London to try my luck in the post-brexit big city! (Because I play life hard mode)
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: BRUISED APPLES WEBSITE: PATRICIAAMALIEECKERLE.COM @PATRICIA_AMALIE ON INSTAGRAM
Tell us all about your comic, Bruised Apples! - My story is about someone that goes through a tough time and finds a little companion along the road that gives her back joy and something to do in life. I don’t want to say more because it will spoil things. Just read it! What was the genesis of your project? - I have had the idea for this project for a long time. I was watching a documentary called Land of Silence and Darkness by Werner Herzog. I can’t reveal what it is about because it’s a spoiler, but it’s set in a location in Germany that’s very close to where I grew up. It felt almost like I could know this people. I wondered how it is/it would be to be that person? - A lot of my stories start with a question like this, something I want to understand. I am pretty involved in everything I do, which isn’t always the most efficient way of working, but I feel that everything I do needs that kind of engagement. My stories are a lot about empathy and being a very soft person in a tough situation, and overcoming that without having to lose this part of yourself. - Later on during the writing process, the plot started to mix with an old friend of mine, and evolved to a cast of characters and scenarios that are very linked to my upbringing and my experience of childhood. I remember lying a lot in bed and just dreaming. I was creating other worlds, other characters I could be … In a way I think I still do this today. That’s what I do in my art. I become someone else and get a glimpse through their eyes. Or at least I try!
A long project like this is always a learning process. What did you learn? - As far as technical stuff goes, I feel like creating a 30+ page comic during my internship at Rotopol helped me a lot in terms of structuring a project of this size. I didn’t finish that one, so I knew that for my bachelor I would have to make some adjustments to my process. I made the adjustments and it worked out. I’m very happy for the experience. The internship project definitely gave me a kind of overview and some confidence for the bachelor project. - Beyond that, I learned a lot about myself. I learned to push through themes that scare me. Like imagining going through the hardship of my character or writing a story that brings me, as the creator, in a vulnerable situation. What if I say something inappropriate or if it all feels shallow? Many fears came with the story and I feel I fought them well. What’s next? - I’m going to move back to Copenhagen and have a home studio, from which I will work on my own projects, as I did before I entered this school. I will have to earn some money to make a living, but I don’t need much and I don’t worry too much about that. I like to work in different fields where I meet people that I can use later on in my work. If a job comes along that combines both, that would be great, but it’s not a necessity. Let’s see …
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: AUNTIE SPROUT MARRIES A SILVER FOX WEBSITE: SILJALIN.COM @SILJALIN ON INSTAGRAM
What is Auntie Sprout Marries a Silver Fox? - It’s a comic for kids about a little boy named Aske who experiences jealousy for the first time when his beloved Auntie decides to marry a silver fox. Surrounded by oblivious adults and strange talking animals, Aske now has to learn to accept that life as he knows it is about to change forever and that maybe this isn’t as scary as he thinks.
my pages. In order to be finished before the family event, I’d have to work at double speed for two weeks to finish my pages. I succeeded in reaching this goal and not only was I able to go to the family celebration, I now also had oceans of time to do the edits and touch ups before the deadline. This is probably the one thing I’m the most proud of throughout the entire process.
Why a comic for kids? - Throughout my time on TAW I’ve mainly made stories with themes of loss, horror and tragedy. It’s long been a running gag that someday I’d make a story with a happy ending, but every attempt I made always turned into tragedy. When I reached the last semester I felt like I was finally ready to take on a children’s story. Though I had two other good pitches that I’d been equally happy to do, I thought it’d be less emotionally draining to go with this one. The bachelor was already going to be stressful and exhausting by nature so I wanted to make it easier for myself where I could. This story is also very personal to me, and I felt like I wanted to make this one as a love letter to my family.
What would you do differently? - I would say “no” a lot more. I had many awesome career related experiences outside of my bachelor from January to March that I don’t really want to be without, but a small handful of those I would most likely say no to if I were to do this all over again. I still managed to get everything done in good time, but I wonder what my project would’ve looked like if I had had January and February dedicated fully to my bachelor. I think I would’ve used that extra time to explore my options more and hopefully find some paper that would’ve been able to take my coloring pencils a bit better. It was a rushed decision to go with rough paper. I thought the effect would look cool, but in hindsight the paper I chose was a little too grainy for some of the finer details. It’s not a huge regret, it’s just something I’ll be aware of next time.
What about Auntie Sprout are you most proud of? - The time management aspect. From the beginning I decided I wanted the project to be as smooth and easy as possible. I did have bumps on the road but if I could do the heavy lifting early so that I could take my time in the final stages, then that would be ideal. It felt good when I reached that stage and actually had time enough to take things slow and not stress over a single thing. That was really, really nice. It pays off to set constant goals, stick to them and do weekly check ups on where you are in your process. - At one point there was a very important family event coming up and I was only halfway done with
What’s next? - I’ve pretty much been prepping for life after school since Autumn of last year and have set up a little art studio along with some of my awesome classmates (Tegnestuen Oberst). I’ve also started my own one man company where I’ll do illustration for clients. My main goal after graduation is to continue building a good client base and getting to know as many potential clients/colleagues/associates as possible. It’s an area I am a little intimidated by so I figure the best thing to do is to just take the plunge and try to get to know people and see what’s out there.
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: THE PLUMBER WEBSITE: SIM-MAU.TUMBLR.COM @SIM_MAU ON INSTAGRAM
The Plumber! It’s a sexy comic. Tell us more! - A plumber named Joe finds out that he has a deadly brain tumor and decides to achieve his life dream of becoming a porn star. Will he make it? Read The Plumber to know the answer and get surprised at every page turn. But why? - We all know the porn trope involving a plumber, right? I thought it would be fun to dissect that idea through an erotic comedy …
What did you learn doing it? - Take advantage of your artistic limitations. That’s my new mantra. What’s next? - My plan is to find a random part-time job. Then I’ll use my spare time to do linocuts and comics until I figure out how to earn a living from my art.
What about the comic makes you most proud? - The Plumber is a statement about who I am and what I believe life is all about. The crude drawing style and the absurd plot are middle fingers raised against all the systems I hate.
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MEET THE GRADUATES
Thorbjørn Petersen PROJECT: WOLF’S BANE @THORBJORN_DRAWS ON INSTAGRAM
So, Wolf’s Bane. What’s it about? - My graduation project is a take on the classic Franco-Belgian style of comics. It’s a pseudohistorical story about a Viking who has settled with his daughter in England in the late 800’s, and who tries to keep a history of violence buried in the past. Unforeseen and dire events occur, however, and the Viking must come to realize that you can’t escape who you really are. Why this type of comic? - While on my internship, I found a comics shop in Copenhagen that sold a ton of old and affordable second-hand Franco-Belgian comics, and I would pick up a couple every week. I became fascinated with the level of craftsmanship and over-the-top pulpy storytelling in these comics and decided that THIS is what I wanted to do for my graduation project.
you imagined, but embracing “happy accidents” and letting things rest before looking at them with fresh eyes will really make a positive difference for the work-flow. What are you up to post-graduation? - After all of this, I’ll have a nice, foaming frosty beer and polish my project so it’s completely up to snuff. Then, I’ll try to get it published and start on the sequel while I make my way up in the freelance-jungle.
Where did you feel you really succeeded with Wolf’s Bane? - I’m very proud of the level of drawing skill I was able to maintain throughout the whole story. Normally when you’re creating a ton of pages on a tight deadline, the level and potency of the drawing tends to drop as the project goes along, but in this case, I feel that I managed to work around that. I’m also very pleased with my cast of characters as I feel that this is the first time I’ve made such fleshed-out characters in any project. What do you take away from the experience? - I learned a lot about time-management and to be more in control of my emotions when it comes to the topic of ambition versus actual production. It’s easy to feel down when things don’t turn out exactly how
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: AT SEA WEBSITE: THOMASVIUM.COM @THOMAS_VIUM ON INSTAGRAM
Thomas, what is AT SEA? - It is a surreal comic spanning 60 pages. The story begins when an infant is about to be born. Something goes wrong and the amniotic fluid flows from the mother like a seismic sea wave and destroys the known world. The father manages to grab a hold of the infant and he must find a way to safety for the two of them. At its core it is a story about how there is a life before and after having a kid. How did you settle on this concept? - I came up with the story in the opening weeks of my third year at Graphic Storytelling during classes with Zander Cannon and Thomas Wellmann. In other words, AT SEA has been sitting in my drawer for quite a while. The time was right for it to grow and become a graphic novel. What about AT SEA are you most proud of? - There are many things to be proud of and it would be easy to point out my progression with for example pencilling and inking. However, what I am most satisfied with is that I made a tight schedule and I stood by it during the semester. I kept to my regular working hours of 9-16 every day, and I used my experience from school to make the comic in a way that suited my skillset. I did not stress out during the process and I am sure my planning played a big
part in that. Sure, I have been confused, insecure and felt lost from time to time. Nevertheless, having the schedule as a guide for myself allowed me to step away from the page every day. I played with my kids. I looked after my vegetable garden. I slept well. In addition, I enjoyed coming to work because of that. What could you have done differently? - I have taken too many detours to make this comic. There are so many ways to make a comic, and so many ways we can tell our stories. Knowing this makes it easy to sit and think about what your comic could be. Donâ€™t do that. Get to work, make a decision and put something on the paper. Then make as many iterations on the thing as your schedule allows you to. What are your plans post-graduation? - I have set up my own company (Vium Illustration) at Arsenalet in a studio with five friends from Graphic Storytelling (Studio Oberst). After graduation, I will get back to work on a childrenâ€™s picture book that I have been making with one of my former teachers and a classmate. I also teach at the local Art School and I will continue to do so in the future. I love living in Viborg with my family and I am excited to help make the local community an even better place to live and work in the future. If you have a question or something to tell me, please stop by.
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MEET THE GRADUATES
PROJECT: ERASE WEBSITE: ARTLEYSART.STRIKINGLY.COM @ARTLEYSART ON INSTAGRAM
Hi Tina! What’s your graduation project all about? - Erase is a scifi story about an agent who changes peoples’ memories, so that he can turn criminals into law-abiding citizens, but who soon finds himself haunted by someone from his own past. Tell us about the genesis of the story! - At first I really didn’t think anything of it. I came up with the story from a class we had with Joe Kelly, where I had come up with a pitch by combining two elements: Handcuffs and a police officer. The pitch ended up sounding more interesting than I expected, and with a big love for sci fi, I decided to try and give it a go. I’m usually more into doing fantasy related themes, but I’m also very open for a challenge and trying out things I haven’t done before - you’ll see how that turned out!
even make it to the middle part of my process. That’s a luxury to be saved for a longer deadline. What’s next? - My plan is to go freelance and I’m currently lined up for several smaller things, like children’s books and museum illustrations. It’ll be a nice shift from all the school related stuff and I’m itching to stand on my own two feet - especially when it comes to comic creation. I have a lot of epic stories lined up that are more than ready to be drawn, and I can’t wait to get to work on something that is completely my own.
What about this comic makes you proud? - I mean, that fact that I’ve even managed to make such a massive project is an accomplishment in itself. One that I’ve never really known I’d be able to handle, but now I know otherwise. If you could go back and do it over, what would you change? - I’d keep it more simple and not obsess over making something perfect in the beginning. I ended up wasting a lot of time on too many details that didn’t
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Want to read more? Check out all the lovely Graphic Storytelling graduation projects:
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The newest issue of Animation Workshop school magazine Blazing Squids is all about the Graphic Storytelling class of 2019 - read interviews...
Published on Jun 5, 2019
The newest issue of Animation Workshop school magazine Blazing Squids is all about the Graphic Storytelling class of 2019 - read interviews...