Describe a project you are currently working on:
One of the projects I’m juggling at the moment is a graphic novel-in-progress known right now as Jimmy’s (R)Evolution about life of a young mutant starting with his awful childhood on the streets of a Kowloon Walled City-esque desert community, and following him through his teenage years and into adulthood. The choices he makes as a boy will decide what kind of man he becomes as he accepts the name that was once a disgrace and goes out in search of the answer to the question, “Who is Jimmy Ether?” Oh, and there’s a huge origin story secret and social unrest and superpowers, too. When asked on the spot about the meaning of this project, the first reason I can think of for making this comic is just shameless self-indulgence. I just really love to tell a good story, and I’ve grown up dreaming of making others feel the way I felt when I read something so wild, so good, that I couldn’t help but be swept along with whatever world I’d been invited into. The second reason is that I love people! I love them! Human interaction is really great, and I wanted that to be a theme in my work; the way people fight and love together, and trigger events in the lives of others they come in contact with.
The way I go about translating Jimmy’s written story into a graphic novel starts with character designs. I do a bunch of sketches; usually with some music that reminds me of the character I’m drawing. The goal here is to get the feel of the character I want while also finding a design that I won’t get sick of drawing over and over. The next step is to create thumbnail sketches of comic pages paired with dialogue and screen direction. It’s pretty messy stuff, but detailed enough so that once I get through these rough pages with all of their camera angles and panel layout, I will ideally be able to move to pencils and inks without any trouble. For this piece, the plan is to ink by hand before scanning the raw pages into Photoshop and adding accent colors digitally to produce an end product that is (hopefully) engaging in both story and art.
What inspired you to work with these ideas?
This project actually started with math class. Freshman year algebra, I had a desk with the words “Jimmy Ether Was Here” carved into it, probably by some troubled ne’er-do-well who sat there years ago. I remember liking the sound of the name so much, I wrote it down in my notebook. By chance, I sat at the same desk again when I was taking one of my finals sophomore year, and again in my math class the year after that. He just kept following me! I began to wonder what kind of person someone named Jimmy Ether would be. A few months, lots and lots of music, and one collapse of civilization later, I found myself with a story to tell.
Describe qualities in a teaching artist that have been helpful for your growth as an artist:
I’ve only ever had good experiences with the teaching artists here at Marwen. Some of the most important traits I’ve encountered in each of include trust in their student’s ability to work and learn as their own person (the responsibility of having the freedom to create just feels really good to have), and the ability to provide constant feedback. Throughout the creation process of any piece, it is reassuring to know that a person cares enough about one’s project enough to explain why they hate it or love it and how it can be improved. I personally respect a blend of organization, the capacity for not unreasonable strictness, and honesty in anyone I would call an authority figure. Also, a good sense of humor and appreciation for strange trivia, tasty food and new music will guarantee any teaching artist a special place in my heart.
Kate Adams is an artist, teaching artist, and mom. As a Marwen staff member she oversees Marwen’s teaching artist professional development, student assessment, and program evaluation. Through her artwork she explores concepts of home, generations and change. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org