I grew up loving art. I loved looking at it and making it. By luck, I lived near New York City. During a high school trip to MOMA, I spent time with Matisse’s Dance and it transformed my idea of what being an artist meant. It let me know that I could paint, I could BE a painter (that idea was nearly squashed by a rather evil nun and later by some snobby “art world” people - which will all be explained in some future comic memoir).
I went to the University of Vermont, where I started out majoring in environmental studies. But being released from the grip of the above-mentioned nun made me realize that it was art that I needed. It had always been art. And those environmental courses were fucking depressing. My angsty-ness did not need any more fuel; it needed paint and huge canvases.
So, I graduated as and art major and went right into an MFA program at the New York Academy of Art. It was art boot camp, and a huge amount of information that is still sinking in (I graduated in 2006). I learned a TON, but I also spent some years un-learning. I didn’t paint for a few years after getting my MFA, because those early critical voices had sunk into my very sensitive, thin, and permeable membranes, and I just didn’t have the confidence to make work.
I worked in retail, I sold lift tickets at a ski resort, I taught, I stocked shelves…. and all the while I was sad and unfulfilled. I always wanted to be making art. I would set up tiny studios in corners of my apartments with the intention of creating. But nothing came of it, and I almost always felt bad about myself. I remained in love with my favorite artists (Kiki Smith, Lisa Yuskavage, Jenny Saville, Julie Heffernan, Marlene Dumas…) and I wanted to make work in the path they had forged.
In 2011 I did a residency at the Vermont Studio Center to try to defibrillate my creativity. One of the visiting artists looked at my sketches and said, “These aren’t for paintings; this is a comic book”. And I quickly (as in that day) became OBSESSED with comics (Alison Bechdel, Jeff Lemire, Diane DiMassa, Julia Wertz, Adriane Tomine…). And all that pretension absorbed in NYC fell off like a crusty old scab. I had been avoiding art because it felt so stuffy and exclusive and foreign and unattainable. But in comics, nobody cares who you know. There are no rules or hierarchy. Draw and post it on the internet for free, or make photocopies and sell them for $5 - what a fucking relief. I’ve been drawing and writing comics since.
Small illustration jobs starting coming my way, and then a large project, which helped me realize that I love working within parameters of a specific job and helping clients get their message out. My time spent teaching high school and community college has made me crazy adaptable and organized, and I have bought these skills into my commissions and illustration work, almost unconsciously, in a way that feels creative and helpful. I feel like a late bloomer, even though I’ve been making and studying art my whole life. It wasn't until my mid-30’s that I really started trying to make art my main focus and it feels so damn good.