Center for Cartoon Studies Graduates Its Class of 2017

. . .on Saturday, May 13 in White River Junction VT

"What are you going to be when you grow up?" The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS) class speaker, Laura Martin, said that no child is encouraged to answer "storyteller, or God forbid, a cartoonist." But "being a storyteller is one of the most valuable jobs a person can choose . . . Stories allow humans to envision the invisible. Stories give us hope, and are worth more than any earthly currency."

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Turning toward her fellow graduates at CCS's 11th graduation ceremony, she acknowledged that the life of an artist is a difficult path, and that "the biggest obstacle will be the voice in your head telling you to quit." But, she admonished, "Look into your own eyes. Do you see a doctor, a lawyer, or a businessman? (Pause for laughter.) I see a cartoonist."

Commencement speaker Paul Karasik prepared a booklet of his advice, in the form of his own cartoons, for each graduate.

World-renown cartoonist Paul Karasik, who teaches a course on the graphic novel each summer at CCS and whose work can be found regularly inThe New Yorker, followed with a story of his own improbable career. Unlike many successful cartoonists, he had no talent at drawing as a child, and meandered for a time after college before securing a teaching job and an associate editorship with the famous Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. His first piece of advice to the graduates was drawn from his own youthful experience--"It's okay to flounder. Flounder is a kind of fish. If you're floundering, you're fishing," which is often the hallmark of career beginnings.

Karasik had other advice as well, some of it purposefully outside of the realm of all things cartoon. In urging students to take time with their work, he compared the creative process to the making of a stew, which needs time to marinate and allow individual components to talk to each other. He paused, and then added that students ought to learn how to make an actual stew as well, the better to feed themselves and their loved ones.

Paul Karasik speaks with ceremony attendee and Woodstock VT artist Margaret (Peggy) Kannenstine, who sits on CCS's Board of Trustees.

Finally, Karasik noted that cartoonists are often thought to be "nerds," and are all the better for it because "Nerds are experts." He advised that everyone in the room ought to commit themselves to becoming an expert in something, anything, and that there was no time to waste. He led the graduates, their families, and the blogger in the room to raise their hands and swear that within the next 48 hours, they "would study one single thing for 20 minutes" and continue to do so each day of their lives.

2017 graduate Moss Bastille poses in front of his thesis, The Burning Room, at the reception at CCS.

Following the ceremony at Northern Stage in White River Junction VT (with the current Mamma Mia set of a Grecian village providing a beautiful backdrop), a reception was held across the street at the Center. Students mingled with guests, and exhibited their theses, a body of their best work.

The next opportunity you get, take an artist--a storyteller of any kind--to lunch. They're that important to the world.

Musician Jen Freise provided sweet tunes for the graduate procession.


I write about the arts in the Upper Valley. Please sign up to receive an email each time I post something new by clicking here.  To view my profile page or to read previous posts, please click here.

Susan B. Apel, writer, ArtfulEdge

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