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Feature Tue Oct 12 2010
Drawer and painter Jeremy Tinder has been teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 2008, educating students in the ways of art, comics, and those who make it. He's come a long way from his early days in rural Illinois, tracing Garfield: his submission to Papercutter, no. 8, 2008, "Pete At Night", was mentioned in The Best American Comics 2010, and will have a comic in Fantagraphics' Mome 20. Jeremy continues to make comics and participate regularly in gallery shows across the country. How he got to this point is, like his comics and paintings, a story that's unique and colorful, at times cartoonish, and often funny and sad.
Name: Jeremy Tinder
Job: Instructor SAIC, Evanston Art Center
Education: BFA, 2002 University of Iowa, MFA, 2007 School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Awards: Notable Comics, 2010 Best American Comics
Hometown: Carlinville, IL
Favorite place in Chicago: The bar at the Paramount Room, splitting a burger with my fiancée, or walking on frozen Lake Michigan in the winter.
Why did you choose to go to School of the Art Institute?
That's where I wanted to go to undergrad, but my parents wouldn't let me.
They wanted me to go to a liberal arts college -- I'm glad they did, I really loved University of Iowa.
Did you grow up reading comics?
I grew up reading newspaper strips, like Garfield. I think it was around age 5 when I really started getting into Garfield and tracing it out of the paper every day. Tracing the script. Before that I was really into Disney cartoons and Sesame Street. Garfield was my focus in life for six years, I was so into it. I didn't buy a real comic book til 6th grade: Ninja Turtles Adventures and an X-Men comic book. We were going on vacation, and my mom thought I should read something in the car, so she said pick out a couple things from Wal-Mart.
The Orator (painting, 2008)
What kind of comics (besides Garfield) did you eventually draw when you were a kid?
See when I was a kid, I didn't make comics -- I made picture books and storybooks. I would create a lot of characters, pages after pages of characters and their names and backgrounds. I would draw little stories about them, but I would never make comics, maybe a couple of three-panel strips.
Why do you think you didn't start making them earlier?
I really loved comics, but I was too intimidated by them. I didn't want to do a bad job, but I don't think I realized that I'd only get better by making more.
Right, all the mistakes you kind of have to make. How did you get into writing your first graphic novel, Cry Yourself to Sleep?
Every time I was going to those conventions [Alternative Press Expo and Small Press Expo], I'd bring my newest little comics to Top Shelf, and give them to Brett and Chris, they would always say well this is nice, maybe something longer, try something longer. And I'd have a little book that I wanted to be a series, and they'd say well that's really a financial risk for us, maybe something longer.
So then I sat down and...what had happened? My then-fiancée had gone away for New Year's with some friends to Germany and made out with this guy that I knew. They'd come back, and I was so upset when she told me, literally I was just laying there the whole night crying. I drew the cover of the book -- these were characters I'd been messing around with and had drawn a couple of comics about -- I drew like the a variation of that cover for that book with that title, and then decided if this relationship is going to fall apart, this is a good time for me to do what Brett and Chris have been saying and try to make a whole new comic.
We didn't break up then, and I spent the next three months writing and drawing that book, four or five hours every day, just sitting down and working on it. And then I think we broke up while I was inking the last few pages. Which was fine. It's good that that happened, and she's a really nice girl. But...yeah. That was how I made that book. But yeah, I made some copies of it, and gave it to them, and I think it came out a year later. I was so excited that they liked it and...I don't know. I was thrilled.
Cry Yourself to Sleep
It sounds like it was pretty autobiographical.
A lot of it is. And a lot of it is my friends' lives. There's a bear named Nate, that's my friend Nate. There's a story about Nate's mom in the book, that's a real story. Maybe biographical more than autobiographical. It was more like cobbling together pieces of people's lives that I knew, I didn't know any way to tell a longer story. So I think every character is a combination of separate people I know.
Why did you draw them as animals?
I was just -- I had theories back then. Well one, I just really liked drawing cute things back then, and I thought -- I mean, I only had a couple people I knew that read or made comics, so I wasn't having a lot of discussions about how comics worked. Part of me just thought if there's a cute character on the book, then people will read it, which is really stupid. I think my goal -- I think back then I was really into how many hands can I get this in, and I thought being kind of cute would be a way to do that.
Cry Yourself to Sleep
Black Ghost Apple Factory is more of a collection of mini-comics. What made you start drawing in that format?
Well, half of those were drawn before I made Cry Yourself to Sleep, and half of them were after. There may be three comics in there that I drew during my first year of grad school. The other ones there are minis I had at conventions, sort of. It was sort of whatever people liked. It was supposed to be a stopgap between Cry Yourself to Sleep and the next book, which I was working on at the time.
A panel from Black Ghost Apple Factory
When did Cry Yourself to Sleep happen?
I made Cry Yourself to Sleep six months before I started grad school. At that time I was living at the boarding school where I was teaching in Iowa, which was in the middle of nowhere on a farm: a Quaker boarding school called Scattergood Friends School.
How was teaching there?
It was great. My girlfriend had been working there as an administrative assistant, and I'd been working at that copy place. During that time I got into grad school at SAIC, but at the same time I was offered a job teaching art classes at the Quaker boarding school. I really wanted to know if I could teach.
How do you think teaching influenced your comics?
Teaching's made my comics a thousand times better. It forces me to verbalize things that I'm doing intuitively and not even fully aware of, and by looking at so many students' comics and thinking of ways to help them make them better, I gain all that knowledge of what does work and what doesn't work. It totally informs my work, I think it's night and day if you look at the comics I did before I was teaching versus now.
What do you want your students to get out of your class?
I guess understanding that this comic isn't just for them, but that they're communicating something to someone else, like this is a one on one communication between them and the reader, and that they need to respect that and value that. And that when they're showing you the comic, if they have to explain anything, then the comic isn't doing the work. Right? That's my main goal.
The Eye, 2009