Continuing Education Instructor Caitlin Skaalrud
Continuing Education Instructor Caitlin Skaalrud
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MCAD Continuing Education instructor Caitlin Skaalrud ’11 describes her comic creation philosophies, newly discovered passion for Drag makeup, and how to have fun in the classroom.

Tell us how you first became interested in comic art.

Like a lot of other cartoonists, I’ve been drawing comics since I was a child. I used to make my babysitters take dictation before I could write, and then drew the pictures in over top. 

The idea of pursuing a career as a cartoonist didn’t fully synthesize until I was in high school, however. That’s when I first got heavily into manga and online fan comics (so many of which had an Angelfire domain name). When the issue of how to become a financially independent adult finally dawned on me, I did some very naïve math. Things that people buy and would pay me to produce plus things I like to do equals making comics. That innocent view of the comics job market was actually a boon, because it gave me the drive to cultivate patience and passion for what is a very skilled artistic trade. I harbored zero room for doubts. And while not generally a healthy practice as a working artist, it kept negative emotions from discouraging me in the least bit. I appreciate it now.

“There’s a real spirit here of creating and exchanging ideas, especially across disciplines and types of artists. Everyone from young kids to adults of all ages come here to really engage with themselves and their abilities, and what it means to make something with intention and beauty.”

What do you do when you aren’t teaching Continuing Education classes?

Oh, just a million things! I’m currently a freelance cartoonist, illustrator, and graphic recorder, I’m working on my second full-length graphic novel, and planning to publish more of my own books and new books from other artists in 2018. And when there’s time between that, seeing movies and playing RPGs. But always imbibing coffee.

Caitlin Skaalrud

Skaalrud lecturing in a Comics Creation Continuing Education class


What other creative outlets do you have?

I mostly paint with gouache and acrylic for fun, but recently I’ve also gotten into makeup! It took me my full twenty-nine years and a newly found love for Drag culture to realize that makeup isn’t just cosmetic vanity but the art of drawing on your face! Plus, it helps that one of my favorite queens, Sasha Velour, is a cartooning drag queen extraordinaire.

What inspires you artistically?

Film, surrealist novels, paintings, internet memes, music (from punk and noise to drag pop and weirdo electronica), well-designed packaging, fashion, and poetry! My motto is an artist needs visual food to survive, and taking in a wide range of art and appreciating it on its own terms—that’s the food that nourishes me! Lately, I’ve been looking at lots of painting and web comics and am fascinated by how color and texture is becoming a tool to create new kinds of comics.

"Once the ice breaks after the first few weeks, I learn to relate with students and we have stimulating conversations about ideas, artists, and methods. This is the point when the feeling of being in a classroom doing homework shifts into artists learning from other artists and joyfully changing information."

What do you think is unique about comic art classes at MCAD?

I think the comic art classes here benefit from being in close proximity to so many other forms of art—fine art, design, printmaking, etc. There’s a real spirit here of creating and exchanging ideas, especially across disciplines and types of artists. Everyone from young kids to adults of all ages comes here to really engage with themselves and their abilities and what it means to make something with intention and beauty. And to explore what those words even mean! It’s a great experience as a cartoonist, and it encourages creative cross-pollination.

What do you find rewarding about teaching Continuing Education students?

The drive all my students have! It takes real creative fire to take time out of a busy schedule and sign up for more work, especially as a working adult. And it can be an uncomfortable situation, putting yourself out creatively in front of strangers no matter your experience level. It’s also volunteering for homework. That’s always brave! We all live in very busy worlds, and it gets more hectic every day, so I appreciate the joy and energy all my students have brought to making comics.

Caitlin Skaalrud

Skaalrud working with a Continuing Education student.

 

Do you have a story about a favorite moment or experience while teaching?

Well, actually, it’s an experience I have almost every time I teach a class. Once the ice breaks after the first few weeks, I learn to relate to students and we have stimulating conversations about ideas, artists, and methods. This is the point when the feeling of being in a classroom doing homework shifts into artists learning from other artists and joyfully changing information. That renews me in a way I’ll never be able to describe.

If you could condense your experience and knowledge into one tip for aspiring artists, what would it be?

The single best way to learn is to do, and the single best way to “do” is to harness your personality and passion. Simple, but it’s the truth.

 

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