[by Jamie Carr, WITS Intern]

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, seventy students gathered in the Franklin High School Library to hear Chris Ware and Chip Kidd talk about their projects, artistic processes, and longtime friendship. (Ware and Kidd were in town for their Portland Arts & Lectures conversation later that evening.) After making everyone laugh by proclaiming himself an ex-nerdy kid, Ware turned to the audience. “How many of you like comics or want to be cartoonists?” Rows of hands shot up. He then admitted he started drawing stories about real life when his superpowers didn’t kick in. Another round of laughter ensued. In Ware’s graphic novels and cartoons for prominent publications such as The New Yorker and the Sunday New York Times Magazine, realism, specifically exploring themes of isolation and depression, is a signature of his work. He told students that when he draws, he tries to get down what it feels like to be alive.

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The students’ questions made it clear that most in attendance shared Ware and Kidd’s passion for the visual. One student asked about color choices, to which Chip Kidd, a graphic designer and comic lover, admitted his tendency to gravitate towards red and black. Kidd then talked about his work on Jurassic Park and, more recently, Haruki Murakami’s new book. Another student asked about parenthood, giving Ware the opportunity to talk about his nine-year-old daughter. And both Kidd and Ware agreed judging a book by its cover is a no-no unless, as in Ware’s case, the author of the book is also a designer. When a student asked what they liked most about their jobs, their answers varied. For Kidd, the pleasure comes from process, “in finding a visual solution to the prose.” While Ware enjoys process too, he particularly loves the freedom that comes with freelancing. Needless to say, the questions continued well past the hour.

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The conversation ended with Chris Ware urging the students to continue in their artistic endeavors. “Drawing is a way to think about and understand the larger world,” he said.

Special thanks to Franklin High School and Sandra Childs for hosting this remarkable WITS event.

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Chris Ware and Chip Kidd Visit Franklin High School