Posted October 12. 2016
Jarad Greene, a former SIPA student assistant, is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. SIPA gave him the encouragement and validation to stick with his craft through college and beyond.
Talk a little bit about your path since graduating from the University of South Carolina
in 2011. Was pursuing an MFA in cartoon studies always your goal as an undergrad?
My path since graduating from USC has taken a number of turns. Originally, I planned to go to law school, but after taking the LSAT I knew that wouldn’t be a good fit for me. I ended up taking a number of odd jobs right out of school: I worked as a records clerk for the Columbia Police Department, a whiteboard artist for a bingo hall collective and a production manager for an independent film. Eventually I ended up at the South Carolina Press Association, a job I got because of my work with SIPA, where I stayed for four years.
I never imagined I’d get to pursue an MFA in cartooning! The Center for Cartoon Studies had found its way onto my radar a number of times, but it was only in the last two years or so that I started to see where my work fits in the comics industry. I’ve been writing and drawing my own cartoons for 14 years now, and what I see in my head is finally lining up with what my hand is able to draw. That always seemed like an impossibility. Having an intense, inspiring space to create for two years is an absolute dream.
In addition to drawing comic art, you also work in illustrations, storyboards and
comics journalism and have written and directed an award-winning short film. How would
you characterize or describe your work as a whole? What interests and inspirations
drive your work?
Storytelling has always been a part of my life, but it wasn’t until I took acting classes starting my sophomore year at USC that I began to explore different ways to tell a story. I’d spent most of my life alone in my room hunched over my desk drawing cartoons, and suddenly I was a part of a collaborative experience that required me to be up and moving, using my voice and body to create characters and worlds. It really opened up my mind to what I was capable of creating.
My early work, like “Spurned,” [a comic] I drew for The Daily Gamecock, was heavily autobiographical and concerned with self-examination and reflection, whereas now I’m curious about exploring topics like escapism, friendship and identity in fiction. Overall, I think my work has always explored characters trying to understand their place in the world. Interactions from my daily life inspire my work. I’m always taking notes when I come across something that interests me. A story usually emerges from months of collecting little bits of ideas that I like and then weaving them together.
How did you first get involved with SIPA? How did SIPA shape your interest in comics
My high school in Florida published a newspaper, Revolution, and I drew editorial cartoons, illustrations and comic strips that appeared in every monthly issue. I attended SIPA in my junior and senior years, and my adviser happened to be the chair of SIPA at the time. When she knew I was attending USC, she told me that the SIPA office was looking to hire an undergraduate assistant — but it almost didn’t work out since my initial email inquiry went to spam! Luckily, I connected with the right person, and I worked for SIPA all four years in undergrad. I came back to help at the convention for four years after undergrad — ten SIPAs in all!
SIPA was the first time I got to interact with other students who were also cartoonists. I still remember attending a session about writing humor and opening InDesign for the first time. At 17 or 18 years old, I felt encouraged to keep going despite being unhappy with the way my art looked. Submitting my work to the SIPA contests and then winning was incredibly validating at the time. I kept working as a newspaper cartoonist throughout college. I can see now that the time I spend writing and drawing under tight deadlines year after year was crucial to developing my creative process and work ethic. I probably wouldn’t be where I am now without those formative years on a newspaper staff.
What are your favorite memories from SIPA events and working in the SIPA office? What did you learn or experience that still sticks with you today?
There are too many to count! Karen Flowers, Leslie Dennis and the other assistants were all such a delight to be around and learn from. I am so thankful I had the opportunity to work for the SIPA office!
I particularly loved working on the carry-in contest [now visual contest] for SIPA. At the convention, I had to check in and sort all of the entries, work with the judges, and then enter the winners. Getting to see the cutting edge work first hand and hearing the judges’ evaluations in real time was fascinating — especially when there were close calls and different viewpoints. It taught me a lot about presentation and the impression I want to leave when my work is speaking for itself.
What’s next for you after you graduate with your master’s degree?
Right now I’m in the midst of writing and drawing my thesis, which I’ll be posting progress photos and videos on my Instagram and Twitter for the next nine months. My goal is to write and draw graphic novels for middle school-aged kids. I’m also really interested in using my skills as a cartoonist to work in publication design or as a graphic facilitator, helping businesses and organizations clarify complex and unusual information to a broader audience.
What advice do you have for scholastic journalists and artists coming up through SIPA?
Say ‘yes’ to new experiences while also pursuing your genuine interests. Everything you do adds to your pool of knowledge. You never know what new idea or person you meet will illuminate your passions. And create projects for yourself, especially if you can’t find the jobs that you want. Self-initiated work tells people more about who you are than you may realize. You’ll never have as much time for exploration as you do when you are a student, so don’t waste it!