Daniel Stope is a well-intentioned young man from the country who has dreams of becoming a professional artist. Of course, one of the best places to foster, as well as dash, such ambitions is going to an art school. In can be honey or vinegar, depending upon numerous factors. Jamie Coe explores the honey and vinegar of art school in his debut graphic novel, “Art Schooled,” published by Nobrow Press.
Here’s the thing about art school: It’s not for everyone…and that includes artists. Let’s say you are in art school and you are given an assignment. When the time comes to hand it in, everyone tacks their work to a wall for a “professor” to administer a critique or “crit.” Then this overpaid authority figure lets you know how much you suck and coughs up an artist you should look up since that artist is already excelling at doing what you are so painfully attempting to do. These funny, and sad, observations are faithfully expressed in Coe’s book.
And here’s the thing about Jamie Coe: This guy has a really good sense of humor. And I don’t mean he’s ever ready with the snark. Nope, Coe has a good-natured satirical touch that will serve him well as the years go by and art school is but a distant memory. The cool thing about Coe’s art school memoir is that he actually completed his art school experience fairly recently. The memories are still fresh and it carries over to a fresh and irreverent, even cheerful outlook. He’s more prone to look at the world, give a little shrug, and just show you what his take on it is than to make too pointed a statement. Maybe he does get in a few nice jabs at the rarified world of academics and deluded world of hipsters but he knows when to let up.
Along with the satire, you’ll also find an engaging little love story as our hero, Daniel, gets to know, Pip, the truly cool girl at school. The artwork here is quite crisp. Coe has an excellent grasp of comics, color, and design. He does some interesting things with the narrative too as he shifts back and forth between the chain of events in the story. And he provides some fun breaks in the story that manage to keep you in the flow. There is a section where he provides profiles of all the types of students he’s met. And there’s a nice two-page spread exploring some inner turmoil with the panels wrapping around forcing you to turn the book all the way around to read the full text.
If there are any shades of “Art School Confidential,” by Daniel Clowes, to be found here it is only because we’re covering similar terrain. Coe makes the subject his own with a winning grin. I definitely look forward to what else Mr. Coe has to share with us.