The serious art of cartooning is taught at Parkrose

But seriously folks — can being a cartoonist a “real” job? Learn what a full class of Parkrose area students learned from professional cartoonist Steve Lieber ‚Ķ

Professional cartoonist Steve Lieber holds nothing back as he demonstrates some of the skills required to draw comics – and earn a living doing it.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The class, sponsored jointly by Parkrose High School and Multnomah County Libraries, was packed with serious-faced students.

No one was clowning around, even though the class was called “Cartoon Workshop”. The students for this elective course, who were mostly of high school age, came to hear and learn from Steve Lieber, a top cartoonist.

Most class attendees knew Lieber’s credentials: His work is published by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Oni Press.

Likes sharing his knowledge
“It was great to be asked to do this,” Lieber told us. “I like talking with young artists. If I’d had a class like this when I was in high school, it would have saved me two years of misapplied effort when I was in college.”

Professional cartoon artist Steve Lieber tells the class, “Anyone can do this, if they work at it.”

Made, not born
To the surprise of some, Lieber said great cartoonists are just ordinary people; anyone can do it if they apply themselves.

“Cartoonists are made, not born. 95% of it is sheer hard work,” commented Lieber.

“I’ve known only two cartoon ‘naturals’, and neither of them do it for a living. Both of them were born with fantastic abilities. But, they never worked at getting any better, so they never improved,” he explained.

Secret of success
We asked Lieber to share his secret for succeeding in the competitive world of commercial comic art.

He spilled the beans: “All the people I know got good by doing about 10,000 really crappy drawings. You learn not to make mistakes by making a whole lot of them. Soon, you start to make some good ones.”

In addition to demonstrating cartooning techniques, Lieber encourages the students as he critiques their work and offers them individual suggestions during the class.

Arranges Parkrose class
One of the reasons this class was held in the Parkrose High library was that that’s is the only area school teaching courses in animation. We learned from the school’s librarian, Stephanie Thomas, that some of these students got extra credit by taking this class.

“Of the 26 class members,” Thomas said, “most of them are from our school. This class wasn’t just for Parkrose students. Any one who wanted to sign up, regardless of their age.”

Thomas told us she collaborated with Multnomah County Library to bring Lieber to the school.

“We partner with the Multnomah County Library,” Lieber continued. “Special classes are open to the public, but are primarily held for our community of students. Instead of having the students travel to Midland Library, the teacher came here. It’s great to be able to partner with them.”

Special agreement with county
Some Parkrose residents still resent that the County withdrew support of a branch library at the high school – after it was constructed.

Because the Parkrose High library was once intended to be part of the county library system, Lieber explained, “We have a special agreement. This is the only school in the county offering an inter-library loan. Any of our students or staff can have any material in the entire system brought here and dropped off.”

The result is, Lieber concluded, that Parkrose High students get an increased number of opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have. “I’m glad we are able to expand our offerings to our students ‚Äì both in terms of tangible resources, and special classes.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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