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Monday, May 27, 2024

Sequential Artists Workshop celebrates 24-Hour Comics Day

The local nonprofit comic school attracts artists of all skill levels

<p dir="ltr">The comic display at Mega Gaming &amp; Comics in Gainesville Fla., on Saturday 5, 2020.&nbsp;</p>

The comic display at Mega Gaming & Comics in Gainesville Fla., on Saturday 5, 2020. 

While crowds of people flocked to UF’s campus to celebrate Homecoming, a smaller few congregated on the other side of town to celebrate a niche and artistic holiday: 24-Hour Comics Day. 

Developed in 2009 by cartoonist Scott McCloud, the holiday began as a solo creative exercise. The challenge: create a 24-page comic book in the restraint of 24 hours. Not a sketch, not a rough draft but a finished, fleshed-out comic.

The exercise proved to be a unique creative challenge, and by 2004, it became an official holiday celebrated Oct. 7 every year, with participants spanning across the globe. 

In Gainesville, the Sequential Artists Workshop combined its monthly Draw Jam with the international holiday to create a more relaxed, family-friendly spin on the challenge. Rather than a nonstop 24-hour drawing fest, the non-profit comics school split one day into two, going from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Emma Jensen, the assistant executive director of SAW, is an Australian comics artist, designer and educator. She first came to Gainesville in 2018 for a nine-month comics residency. When her residency was finished, she decided to continue volunteering with the organization and now works alongside the founder and best-selling author, Tom Hart.

After trying 24-Hour Comics Day informally with students in her programs a few years ago, Jensen is looking forward to a more relaxed event with time to sleep in between the two days of creativity.

“The idea is that with the time restraint, with the physical restraint, you can make creative choices that you wouldn’t if you had put in a bunch of time to plan and you were working over a period of time,” Jensen said.

Saturday, a small crowd of artists ranging from all ages emerged at the event. Though many people attending were unaware of the special holiday, event-goers were eager to create within a community space and participate in a creative challenge.

In a room with walls covered in colorful illustrations and a diverse library of comics for reference, participants created artworks spanning a variety of mediums. Some brought their sticker-filled laptops to work on digital projects, while others doodled using the classic combination of pen and paper.

Janice Dees, a remote research administrator for Dartmouth College, is a regular attendee of SAW events. Saturday, she brought her notebook and a bright orange bag filled with pens and pencils to work on a comic titled “Accents Which Comfort Me.” Aptly named, the comic surrounds random phrases stuck in her head that she repeats to herself throughout the day, accompanied by her own black and blue illustrations. 

“I think cartoons especially can be such a solo and isolating passion,” Dees said. “I think one of the most beautiful things about being in a community like this is seeing how it can impact others. There have been times when I collaborated with people and they’ve made comics and I feel like it was healing for me.”

Aside from SAW, Gainesville has an extensive history in the realm of comic artists and comic books. 

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From 1993 to 2012 the city was home to Alternative Comics, an independent comic publishing company that was created by Jeff Mason, a UF student who wanted to give up-and-coming creators their first break in the industry.

Apart from that, the George A. Smathers Libraries at UF holds the Suzy Covey Comic Book Collection, which contains comics of every genre and style spanning decades of time. 

“Gainesville has a really long and generous history towards artists,” Jensen said. “It’s been a wonderful generative space.”

Philip Calvert, a writer and retired accountant, has been attending SAW events and programs since 2016. With no prior art experience, his goal is to learn how to create accompanying illustrations for his books, he said. 

Saturday, he attended the 24-hour event with his notebook and drawing supplies, ready to spend time with a community of people he’s made friends with along the way.

“It’s a wonderful world when you’re around creative people,” Calvert said.

Though the 24-hour challenge loomed in the distance, participants did not seem to notice the time restraints. Instead, their drawings and artworks were accompanied by laughter, an array of art supplies and a fellowship of comics enthusiasts.

“One of my favorite things about comics at this point in time is that comics can be anything,” Jensen said. “There are no rules, there are no limitations. The idea is to get a story on the page in a way that readers can understand.”

Contact Bonny Matejowsky at Follow her on Twitter @bonnymatejowsky 

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Bonny Matejowsky

Bonny Matejowsky is a third-year journalism major and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When she’s not writing, you can find her thrifting or watching Twin Peaks.

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