By: Dave Astor
Guy Gilchrist does four syndicated features, but his cartooning life also has a fifth dimension — a school he founded last year in Connecticut.
It’s called Guy Gilchrist’s Cartoonist’s Academy, and it’s growing rapidly. About 100 students a month take courses, and nearly 200 students are participating in the school’s cartoon camps this summer. In addition, about three-dozen people — including some from abroad — are taking the academy’s online courses.
“Many cartoonists live a solitary life. Guess what? I don’t!,” said Gilchrist, who teaches courses at the school and whose studio shares the same Simsbury, Conn., building as the academy. He often brings students into his studio to see a professional cartoonist practicing the craft they’re learning at the academy.
Gilchrist co-creates the “Nancy” comic for United Media, does “Your Angels Speak” and “The Poetry Guy” for DBR Media, and self-syndicates the “Night Lights & Pillow Fights” strip.
Other academy instructors are also professional artists, and the school’s advisors include Brad Gilchrist, who co-creates “Nancy” with Guy; Pat Brady, who does “Rose is Rose” for United; and Greg Walker, who works on “Beetle Bailey” and “Hi and Lois” for King Features Syndicate.
Gilchrist, 49, didn’t start the academy just to be with people. He wanted to give children and adults the kind of art training he didn’t have as a kid. And Gilchrist wanted students to be able to learn or hone drawing skills on an inexpensive pay-per-month basis. (It’s $100 a month for each course, with discounts for taking multiple classes.)
Courses cover comic strips, comic books, painting, sculpting, anatomy, perspective, marketing, and more — and are offered in beginner, intermediate, advanced, and professional categories. Classes can be taken in the afternoon, in the evening, or during the weekend.
Future plans for the school include booking a local hotel that people from outside the Connecticut area can stay in while taking courses.
How does Gilchrist have time for the academy as well as a seven-day-a-week comic (“Nancy”) and three weekly features? “My golf scores have gone through the roof,” he deadpanned. Gilchrist also does fewer speaking engagements, and has cut back on his book work (he’s written and/or illustrated 44 children’s books).
Gilchrist added that teaching has helped his own cartooning. “You’re really practicing what you’re preaching,” he said. “And there’s a ‘rush’ from all the enthusiasm of the students.”