As promised, here is the first of many more blog posts from our first Scholar-in-Residence — Ms. Štěpánka Jislová, a comic book author/illustrator from Prague. Ms. Jislová will be joining us in October as part of the prestigious “Getting to Know Europe” grant that Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences was awarded from the European Union. We are excited to get to know Ms. Jislová and meet her in the Fall.
How To Become An Artist: Central European Edition
By Štěpánka Jislová
First, I would like to introduce myself, as this article should map my way into the art industry and the community that surrounds it. It will be a bit like spoiling the end of a story, but on the other hand, it’s polite to give the reader a heads up, right?
My name is Štěpánka Jislová and people usually just copy and paste my name into emails, because I managed to hoarder all the accent marks the Czech language has to offer. I am twenty-three years-old and I am working on my master’s degree at the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art, University of West Bohemia in the Czech Republic.
Plzeň is not my home town though, I am one of those overly-proud people from the capital cities, meaning, I was born, grew up and will most certainly die in Prague, the architectural jewel of central Europe with the best night transport you can get.
Growing up in Prague, I was one miserable kid. Being a hardcore tomboy, puberty wasn’t really something I welcomed with great enthusiasm. I ended up being one of those depressed teenagers with a redundantly black wardrobe. Lacking in the friend department, I spent most of my time writing down stories and trying to piece together a novel. My writing was usually a rip-off of any book I was reading at the moment, meaning, I still have a lot of Terry Pratchett-like, Steven King-like and Neil Gaiman-like stories on my hard drive.
At that time I was obsessed with Comics Magazine and the story about five little witches who fought very cool battles with love struggles and forces of evil. I had two friends that were also really into this comic. We would come up with our own characters and draw our own stories. Each of us would draw a couple of pages and then hand it over to the next one to continue. Eventually our sketchbooks began to fill. Doing this only made me want to draw more and more. The more I drew, the less I wrote, but after a while, I started missing my stories, so I made a full circle and came back to comics, which is alongside with illustration, my main domain.
As time progressed, so did I. I started attending many different art workshops, such as, figure drawing, graphic techniques, etc. This prepared me and advanced my portfolio and I was accepted at Art Uni.
I became more active in the community and started submitting my short stories to competitions and magazines. It’s wonderful, really, how much you can accomplish with art and more specifically, comics. My love and talent with comics has led me to a month in Bulgaria at a comics residency, a ticket to the biggest European comics festival in Angouleme, and last fall, I received a three month long cultural internship in Brussels. And soon, California!
The best thing about the comics community it that it is considered small but still consists of very dedicated people who are active and willing to organize festivals, lead projects and produce comics magazines and albums. It’s like one big family of two branches – the superhero comics versus the alternative comics and the community often behaves like a family get-together, with all the good and all the bad. Though, honestly, it’s just been getting better and better. When I first became involved with comics, people weren’t really interested in anything but DC and Marvel. Comics lacking a “superhero” were automatically branded as ‘art’. Plus, being a female comics author wasn’t the “norm” — leading to numerous bitter remarks. Thankfully, however, those days are few and far between today.
I recently co-funded a Czech branch of Laydeez Do Comics (LDC). LDC is an international organization originally from the UK, that focuses on presentation of females artists, but also on the comics community in general. We, as the Czech mutation, are more about interviews and reviews and this summer we are hosting our first comics symposium and exhibition, that I am very excited and proud of.
So, there you have it, that’s me in an nutshell. Please look for more post leading up to my Chapman residency in October.