Today on the site we have cartoonist J.R. Williams interviewing his old pal Peter Bagge about the new Complete Neat Stuff collection. It’s a treat to read these guys chatting about Bagge’s early NYC days and the 1980s in Seattle.
You attended SVA for only three terms. What did you come away with from your experiences there? What sorts of things influenced your decision to drop out?
I dropped out mainly because I ran out of money. I needed a job — a FULL TIME job — to get by. But I didn’t miss the place, either. SVA made me take a lot of courses in subjects like painting, sculpture and photography, which mainly taught me that I didn’t want to be a painter, sculptor or photographer. Not that the teachers were all that inspiring. Most of them showed up late, hungover and eager to hit on their students. I had nothing but contempt for them. And the then huge sway of abstract and conceptual art dominated the school at the time, which was a great way for blowhards with no skills to make the rest of us feel like rubes. SVA — and the New York “fine art” world in general — was a total scam back then.
Once your decision to become a cartoonist had been made, how did you proceed, at first? You said you didn’t really know (or socialize with) any other cartoonists at that point in time, and it seems that a few years would pass before you began to make connections with other like-minded artists.
Well, I started reading underground comics (especially R. Crumb’s) in earnest while at SVA, and decided “THIS is what I want to do.” But by then I was out of school and working day jobs. So I drew comics in my spare time, using tools like a crow-quill pen that I had no instruction in using, and, well…winging it. I drew a LOT, though. Obsessively, and naturally got better as a result, though I had a huge learning curve ahead of me. Comics are hard! Sure, “anyone” can make a comic strip (as many drunken accountants and dentists have informed me through the years), but to make a GOOD comic? I’d say dentistry is easier!
All humans should either run to a newsstand or keep checking Frieze.com, because Gary Panter has contributed a masterpiece of a 7-page comic using an entirely new coloring method that I’m not at liberty to disclose. Look closely at the comic and watch the patterning and the washes and you’ll see something that, as far as I know, has never been done in comics. Also, it’s an extremely funny and insightful strip drawn straight out, no penciling.
It’s late August, people. That’s it for now!