What does it say when your career path was shaped by Dilbert? Or more specifically, Scott Adams, the cartoonist who created Dilbert. Danielle Corsetto recalls emailing Adams when she was in middle school to ask what advice he’d give to an aspiring young cartoonist. “He suggested joining the school’s journalism club. The following year, at Urbana High School (Ijamsville, MD), I did sign up for journalism club, and was crestfallen to realize that “journalism” was NEWSPAPERS — I’d assumed that it was about journaling! I was completely divorced from current events as a kid and found the comics page to be the only redeeming thing about newspapers [Ed. note – no offense taken]. But I stuck with it, and of course I’m glad I did.”
What was your career path into professional cartooning?
“I enrolled at Shepherd College as a photography/digital imagery major, and stayed for five years so that I could also take all the illustration, printmaking, painting, and drawing classes available. I was (willingly) roped into working on The Picket while I was at Shepherd. That experience led to my first job out of college, as a photographer and digital photo processor at The Martinsburg Journal.”
What’s your process for creating your work?
“Digital drawing tools are fantastic, but I still love working traditionally on paper, so I use a hybrid approach. I brainstorm ideas and sketch out facial expressions and body gestures and page composition in a regular old spiral-bound notebook in pencil, which is also where I work out the final dialogue. Then I’ll take photos of the pencil sketches — called “thumbnails” — and drop them into a template I made on my iPad with the Procreate app, and maneuver and resize and fine-tune them there. Once I have a readable page on the iPad — the pencils stage — including the text and word balloons and panel borders, I print the digital pencils BACKWARDS on the back of a sheet of Bristol board.”
“From there, I’ll set up my light table and place the printouts, print-side-down, over the light, so that I can see the printout in the correct direction through the front of the paper. I’ll use those digital pencils as a guide for inking. The inking stage always goes disappointingly fast, because I enjoy it so much I won’t stop until it’s done!”
“Then it goes back to digital; I’ll scan the page and drag it into another template I built in Photoshop on my desktop computer, and work at coloring the page there. I tend to second-guess the entire process up until the minute before it needs to be finished, when I throw my hands up and decide that DONE is better than perfect!”
Corsetto’s current project is Elephant Town, a graphic novel that she updates on a biweekly (ish) schedule on its own website. “It’s a passion project,” she says, about the drama set in Shepherdstown.
Elephant Town tells the separate-yet-intertwined stories of four people who happen to live in the same house, each in their own apartment. The characters are amalgams of real-life people encountered during Corsetto’s 22 years living in the town. But it’s the buildings of Elephant Town that are uniquely recognizable — almost carbon copies of Shepherdstown’s. “Drawing buildings is sort of new for me,” reflects Corsetto, “So I’ve been doing a lot of studies of the buildings here. Luckily the old architecture is easier and more fun to draw than the stiff straight lines of newer houses.”
Corsetto estimates that it will take three to four years for her to finish Elephant Town. In the meantime, her fans follow along (and financially support) her work online. In real life, Corsetto connects with other local artists by participating in the Over The Mountain Studio Tour whose artists self-organize the popular annual event. Whether online or IRL, Corsetto exemplifies how modern creators pursue their goals.Staff Contributor