I was lucky enough to do The Cartoonist’s Diary column for a week (June 15-19) for The Comics Journal., TCJ. com. I call the series “The Wide World of Kutztown.” It’s all about my take on the pandemic in the tiny college town of Kutztown, PA. It has been going viral by my standards. 300 plus people liked Tuesday’s strip. Maybe so many people are at home and online.
The Comic Journal notes “A new Cartoonist’s Diary begins, with Kutztown’s own Kevin McCloskey clocking in for a look at his mailbox, his fertilizer, and his missing mailman!”
Here is an earlier version of a segment of a one of the diary strips. I will be posting some more comics here when I can.
As promised, here are more Kutztown University illustration student responses to the New Normal School. These students are working from home with what they have. Many don’t have scanners, or printers, or the fonts they had at college. Considering the circumstances, the work is remarkable and captures the moment.
Nicole Iuzzolino, below, is back home in central New Jersey and found solace in her favorite Elvis tune. Nicole says her passions include illustration and jamming out to Elvis Presley songs.
Comic below is by an aspiring animator, Alana Hernandez. She writes, “I am currently a senior at Kutztown University studying to get a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Digital Arts. Here’s how my life has changed from living on campus to taking classes digitally from home.” Her Instagram – @alamallana
Andrew Ferreira moved from The Edge, his off-campus Kutztown apartment, back home to Chalfont, PA. He takes some solace in long walks.
Casey Dohner, above, brought her many houseplants home to Mechanicsburg, PA. She is studying communication design with concentrations in illustration and graphic design. She also received her minor in music. She enjoys staying at home and being creative, no matter the media. She hopes to work for a design firm out of school and aspires to illustrate a children’s book.
Jacquline Uhler, below, has a new normal task of minding tots so that their mom can work at a hospital.
Lindsey Brown writes, “My name is Lindsey and I live alongside the Amish in Lancaster, PA. Currently I’m a junior at Kutztown University pursuing a degree in Communication Design. When I’m not creating logos or magazines I really enjoy sculpting with ceramics, check out my work 🙂” Lindsey’s drawing shows the superhuman effort Professor Gwendolyn Yoppolo went to in order to save her ceramics course.
Page below is by Sydney Studley. She writes, “I am from Philadelphia. I’m currently studying at Kutztown University majoring in Communication Design. My other hobbies I enjoy doing besides art is cooking and running, “
Here is Madison Xander’s sketches for her New Normal.
I appreciate the student’s resourcefulness. I do apologize for my shortcomings using ZOOM to communicate. We had no idea how the semester would be upended. I have learned a thing or two in The New Normal School.
Kutztown University of PA was founded in 1866 as Keystone Normal School. Throughout the U.S. colleges that educated teachers were known as “normal schools.” When KU shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic we had to abruptly adjust to a New Normal.
CDE 253, Illustration 2: The class is making zines this semester. We got a table at MoCCAfest, the giant indy comic book festival in New York City. We were going to hop on the bus and show our stuff, but the Society of Illustrators postponed MoCCAfest. These students were doing extraordinary work so the change of plans was disappointing. The class meets via ZOOM now. We came up with a new assignment: Here are some reflections on the New Normal.
The simple pleasure of finishing a puzzle is the theme of Chris Weaver’s piece. He writes, “My name is Christopher Weaver and I’m from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. I love illustrating characters that make me and others laugh.” Website: www.behance.net/christoweaver
Cole Winters is a Communication Design major at Kutztown, concentrating in Illustration. He cannot get enough of giant robots, monsters, and loves horror to death. He drew a story about his last meal at a restaurant before quarantine. He went for the DA-BOMB hot wings.
Gisela Rivera is currently studying Graphic Design at Kutztown. She is an avid reader of comic books and literature, she aspires to publish her own comics in the near future. Her page appears below.
Maxwell Jackson is an illustrator from a little place called York, PA. He is known for his freestyle sketchbook drawings and being a product of his environment. He is drawing on sneakers at home.
‘Apologies to J. Roiland and Dan Harmon for using their characters, Rick and Morty.’ – Maxwell Jackson.
Jake Woods is riffing on working in underwear in this new normal. Jake is slated to graduate in December and the professor handing out the diploma is meant to be me. Jake writes, “I’m a traveling illustrator and graphic designer from Upper Black Eddy, PA. I spend my days in quarantine with my roommates and cat, keeping me as entertained as a person stuck indoors could be! My work and info can be found at jacobwoods610.myportfolio.com “
Malina Quarry is a Communication Design student whose illustrated works consist mostly of traditional media and vector-based drawings. She is minoring in art history and hopes to develop and expand her visual style. Find her on instagram @ ma.lime.
Brittany Clauss writes, “Hello! I’m Brittany and I live in Bushkill PA. I am currently studying Communication Design, with concentrations in Illustration and Graphic Design. A lot of my work is illustrative, however I am working on branching out into graphic design.”
Jason Padilla writes, “As a double major in Communication Design and Applied Digital Arts I thought I would be in more of a panic during this covid-19 pandemic. While I still am, to a degree, I find myself calm as not much has changed besides working from home. I look at this situation perhaps selfishly with optimism and a hint of pessimism. Thankful for still having my pen, paper and family’s health. In full understanding that things can change for the worse. Until that happens, I will make the most of what I can in this situation.”
We’ll share more Kutztown “New Normal School” pages next week. We plan to make them into a zine and print as many as we can. Hope to bring it to the rescheduled MoCCA fest.
Professional illustrators are responding to this crisis with autobiographical comics. Aron Nels Steinke, author of “Mr. Wolf’s Class” did a great one last week for The New York Times. I’ve swiped a panel below, and the whole thing can be found here.
Below is another by children’s book author Meghan McCarthy. It popped up on my computer screen, made me laugh and I asked if I could share it. There is more to see on her web page, meghan-mccarthy.com. Her speciality is nonfiction for kids and her latest book is Firefighters’ Handbook.
This is from her project called “TRYING TO CONVINCE MY PARENTS TO TAKE COVID-19 SERIOUSLY.”
I once handed a comic book by a student to a professional cartoonist. He opened it and then closed it instantly saying, “It’s computer lettered. I only read hand-lettered comics. Lettering is big part of the art of comics.” He has a point. On the other hand, he is not very prolific and computer lettering can help us get work done.
Personally, I don’t like my own Sharpie lettering above. I don’t like to hear my own voice much either, so my wife does our answering machine. It may seem like a cheat, but I use the computer to print text in Comic Sans. Then I loosely trace that type at a light table. Sometimes I do a tracing of a tracing to get a bit more of my individual style. The balloon below was made by tracing Comic Sans.
We should all do what we can to practice our lettering. And if we cannot master it, there are affordable options like Blambot.
Blambot is a great resource for a beginning cartoonist. Master letterer Nate Piekos offers free typefaces like Badaboom (above), and reasonably- priced fonts in the $20-$30 range for independent creators. From the website: “If you are an independent/small press comic creator, you may use Blambot indie fonts, free of charge … even if you are making money with your project …This is Blambot’s way of supporting the independent comic community.” The entire agreement can be read here.
Ivan Brunetti has great advice on title lettering and sound effects lettering in his book, Comics Easy as ABC, TOON Books, 2019.
Frank Cammuso is a professional cartoonist and a prof at Syracuse University. He told me one of his publishers arranged to have a font made from his hand lettering. The digital font is so much more efficient than white-out when the editors want to change text.
If you do want to make a font from your handwriting there are a number of sites that can do just that. One that looks good is CALLIGRAPHR.COM. Fonts made at this site ask you to write the alphabet several times. They use character randomization, so every ‘T’, for example, doesn’t look the same. Digitizing your hand lettering is something to consider if you, unlike me, love your lettering.
Below is my new HeyMcCloskey.com personal web page with info on my books and school visits. Say Hey!
Kutztown University has applied for a table to display student zines at MoCCA Fest 2020. We find out in Mid-January if we get the table. Let’s think posi!
My Illustration II class will be making zines. Any KU student who makes a zine is welcome to display it on our table. The Dean’s office will provide a subsidized ($20) bus to Bryant Park which is in walking distance to the festival. Admission is $10 for the day. The event is NYC’s biggest indie comics fest and held at on Manhattan’s west side at Metropolitan West.
What is a Zine? (Pronounced ZEEN) The word “zine” is derived from magazine and has come to be defined as a small self-published booklet or comic book. How many pages in a typical zine? Generally between 8 and 32. Since a sheet of paper folded in 2 gives 4 pages, the number of pages should be ideally be divisible by 4. A standard sheet of copy paper is 8.5 by 11 inches. Folded in half that becomes 5.5 by 8.5 inches, a good size for beginners.
A zine can be about almost anything. I must admit I get tired of zines about two bros sitting on a couch playing video games exchanging snappy patter, but it can be about that, too.
One of the bestselling KU zines at MoCCA 2015 was a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood by Kristen Tully. The story was told in crisp black and white line art and the cover was printed on Kraft paper. As I recall it sold for $5 and she sold the 20 copies that she brought to NYC.
Subject manner? Students have drawn zines based on old tales like the one above. Others are serious contemplations of issues like body image or LGBT autobiographies Honestly, issue-oriented zines are not the bestselling zines, but that are certainly meaningful for the individual artists and other students who share their experience. Sometimes students go to the expense of creating full-color covers as in the example below by Meredith Shriner. Typically the interior pages are black-and-white.
As my zinester son, Daniel McCloskey always says, ” Zines are a great calling card for an artist. Zines have a life of their own.” Very often the original reader will think of a friend who likes a particular sort of story and pass it on. And so on.
Besides the opportunity to sell one’s zines, MoCCAFest also gives students a chance to hear star cartoonists talk about their work. This year’s featured artists include Trina Robbins, the first woman to draw Wonder Woman. I wrote about meeting her here. Other special guests include Jillian Tamaki,Chris Ware, and Ronald Wimberly. Bios of the featured artists and info about MoCCAFest can be found here.
Any Kutztown Student who wants to talk to me about making a zine, come find me in Sharadin 303. Happy to help!
Kutztown Univiverity got a $750 federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The SAMSA grant was meant to create a “town hall” for students on the subject of substance abuse. Let’s be honest. –How many students would actually show up for a Substance Abuse Town Hall?
Fran Cortez Funk is the university’s Director of Health Promotion and Alcohol & Other Drug Services. She came up with the idea of hacking the grant into a participatory event focused on the visual arts. She met Prof. Ann Lemon and other arts faculty to create one amazing event.
The First Ever Sharadin Creative Royal was born. The atrium and halls of Sharadin Arts Building were overflowing with creativity for one cold November night. Well over a hundred students viewed or actively participated.
Prof. Ann Lemon guided the student artists in reflection on their family and friends. She asked them to recall someone close who had been harmed by substance abuse. She led a brief meditation on loss and inspiration. Then fifty student artists competed against each other and against time to create a piece of art delivering a positive message.
Students had exactly 90 minutes to create a work of art.
Celebrity judges included Anne Marie Hayes-Hawkinson representing the KU Arts Society, Karen Stanford of the Miller Gallery, and Prof. Rhonda Wall, artist and beloved faculty emeritus.
Every participant got a bag filled with art supplies to keep. But prizes were not the point. For some it was a welcome chance to step away from the computer and grades. It was a rare chance to use traditional art supplies. The studios were filled with as much camaraderie as competition.
A senior, Omair Ali, posted his artwork on social media. He wrote, “I’ve been so caught up in schoolwork in prep for graduating, … it was nice to take a break to do some live art. Getting a chance to just breathe… and gather my thoughts and remind me of the people who motivated me to take this journey over 4 years ago.”
The Amos Lemon Burkhart Award honors the son of Prof. Ann Lemon. Amos passed away last year just as he was about to enter art school. He was a Gov. Mifflin grad and already an accomplished artist. Tragically, his problems with substance abuse led to his untimely death. You can see his art and learn more about Amos here: www.amoslemon.org Dane Burkhart, Amos’s father presented that award to Maddie Zeeman
A few students went down to the printmaking studio and managed to produce stunning etchings within the 90-minute time constraint. Erin McKormick’s landscape, left, won for Innovative Printmaking. Nick Roberts’ figurative work, right, won the Blick Technical Ability Award.
The evening included free caricatures, cookies and coffee, and a live D.J. Graduate students from the KU’s Health Promotion Services set up a station where students could learn about substance abuse and campus resources.
Fran Cortez Funk was thrilled with the success of the event. “I would have been happy if ten or twenty students showed up,” she said. “The response was just overwhelming. I am so happy.”
“150!,” replied John Steven Gurney. He quickly explained these were series chapter books which entailed a color cover and a handful of interior black and white illustrations. Even so, that’s a lot of books! The A to Z Mysteries, Bailey School Kids, andThe Calendar Mysteriesseries kept him busy in the 1990’s. He often completed a book a month.
This fall semester John has been teaching illustration techniques at Kutztown University. He studied at Pratt, Brooklyn and got his MFA from The Hartford Art School. He shares his years of professional experience with sophomores studying Communication Design.
Dinosaur Train, published by Harper Collins in 2002, may be his best-known book. Inspired by combining his son’s two obsessions, trains and dinosaurs, the picture book got rave reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist.
John shared an unusual story. “Dinosaur Train, the T.V. show, produced by Jim Henson is not based on my book,” he said. “Harper Collins advised me that you can’t copyright a title. Still, I got a call from the Jim Henson Co, now part of Disney offering to buy the rights to the title. It ended up that I earned as much from the title negotiation as the book’s original advance.”
John is now working on a series for Papercutz, a new publisher devoted exclusively to the hot trend of graphic novels for kids. Fuzzy Baseball is his first graphic novel and it is becoming a series. “I like writing these because Papercutz gives me a lot of freedom.” he said. His technique is a mix of analog and digital. He draws his illustrations in pen and adds light washes by brush to shape the figures. Then he scans the work and digitally adds final colors.
What has he learned from the Fuzzy Baseball project? “Kids today are less knowledgable about baseball than when we were kids.” So in addition to telling a good story, John explains basic baseball concepts to youngsters like the sacrifice fly. He adds more ‘inside baseball’ jokes to appeal to older readers.
Publisher’s Weekly noted, “Gurney’s love of the game is apparent.” School Library Journal wrote, “Panels illustrate where players are as they steal bases and the action speeds up. The overall effect is a very clear picture of the game.” The success of Fuzzy Baseball led to Ninja Baseball Blast and the book he is making now, Fuzzy Baseball #3, will be released in May, 2020.
John is also an amazing caricaturist. He honed his skills on the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore. He recently shared that talent by sketching students at the Creative Royale event at Kutztown University.
When he is not at the drawing board, John loves to do school visits. He was in Tennessee this weekend. He has visited 31 states and presented at international schools in Hungary, Poland, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia. To invite him to your school or see many more examples of his artwork, visit his website: johnstevengurney.com
Last year my Snails are Just My Speed!book tour took me to Takoma Park Library in Maryland. Someone asked what my next TOON book would be. This happened…
Francie was right. I was wrong. So I dedicated “Ants Don’t Wear Pants!” to “The children who teach me things, like Francie at the Takoma Park Maryland Library who told me about EXPLODING ANTS!”
Heading back to Takoma Park Library on October 3. I hope I see Francie so I can thank her properly and give her a copy of Ants Don’t Wear Pants!
Well, Francie is now 5 years old. She and her family came to see me at the Takoma Park MD Library. She is such a wonderful human being. She wants to be a writer and illustrator. Francie even knows the Latin name for exploding ants – Colobopsis. I have to look it up every time.
Steven Engelfried wrote a nice review of Ants Don’t Wear Pants! at School Library Journal: “Lively and intriguing information, with high visual appeal. VERDICT: An excellent choice for younger readers who like animal facts peppered with humor.” He also noted, “the variety of ant species with some especially interesting examples such as the trap-jaw ant and exploding ants.“ (emphasis added) -Thanks, Francie!
I finally got to SAW, the Sequential Arts Workshop, in Gainesville, Florida. I was in Gainesville for an Ant Camp at University of Florida. UF is a mega-school with 50,000+ students, multiple disciplines, stadiums, museums, labs and climbing walls. SAW, on the other hand, is a mini-school with a handful of students. SAW, founded in 2011 by indie cartoonist Tom Hart teaches just one thing – comics.
SAW is a bit hard to find. My Uber driver dropped me off on a street lined with cinderblock warehouses. Her parting words, “It’s around here somewhere!”
SAW’s library holds more rare comix and graphic novels than most universities. SAW has no climbing walls, but it you do get to run through a maze of studio spaces to find the toilet.
I meant to interview Tom Hart over lunch. Looking back at my notes, I realize I did all the talking. I did learn that he grew up in upstate Kingston, NY, before it became hip. And his biggest formative influence was Peanuts by Charles Shultz. And he eats vegan burritos.
SAW students make their own comics. I was impressed that SAW has three Risograph printers! Risos have that cool retro silkscreen look. Tom admitted the machines are so temperamental it takes three to be sure one is working.
Tom is proud of Miranda Harmon, a recent grad of SAW’s year-long program. She’s signed a 3-book deal with Scholastic and is already working for Cartoon Network.
I gave Tom two of my Toon Books. He gave me three of his books. I’d already read his moving memoir, Rosalie Lightning, but now I have an autographed copy. His book on creativity, How to Say Everything, is available FREE, all 192 pages! at tom hart.net. Anybody teaching or practicing illustration, writing, or any art form should check it out.
The third book Tom gifted me was B. IS DYING, a down-and-dirty xeroxed zine of strips that appeared on the website Popula.com. I love this little book. It reminds me of Matt Madden’s formalist comics. Every page is a climax. Our hero, B., is dying among Neanderthals with anachronistic 21st observations firing across his synapses. Made me think, made me laugh.
Together these books reflect three distinct facets of Tom Hart’s genius,- as a memoirist, an educator, and as an indy comix creator.
I wrote about SAW in 2012 as an alternative to a pricey Comics MFA. SAW remains a bargain. Tom says, “I created SAW to be an alternative or supplement to art school, with a small institutional foot-print to keep things intensive and affordable.” SAW’s has cool short courses and a yearlong course that is basically a Masters in Comics without the accreditation. The sliding tuition scale asks students from households earning under $30,000 to pay just $3300 a year for tuition.
An accredited Comics MFA cost a fortune. I told Tom the low-residency MFA at San Francisco’s CCA cost $70,000. He repeated that mind-boggling number, “$70,000?” I just checked the CCA website, –tuition is $82,000 for the 2-year program. Plus fees including an Adobe Creative Cloud fee, and living expenses for two 7-week stays in S F. That is a lot of money. Full disclosure, the low-residency MFA in Communication Design at Kutztown University totals $36,540. That’s a lot of money, too.
If the accreditation doesn’t mater. In other words, if you don’t plan to teach, if you really want to make comics, SAW seems like the place to study. The great comics creator Box Brown told me took exactly 2 comics courses. He took a Tom Hart’s class at SVA. Then the second class he took, was the same class, again, with Tom Hart.
If you can’t go to Gainesville to see SAW yourself, the SAW website is still worth a visit. If you can get to Gainesville, do it.