Feature / Oct. 25, 2011

Meet Madeline Rupert, sequential art alumna and webcomic author

Madeline Rupert, or Mad, has been drawing since she can remember, but she made her first forays into storytelling as a teenager. Early in high school, she penned a couple of lengthy fantasy novels-which she now laughs off as her "space operas" - prominently featuring angels and demons. "Pretty much everything I thought was cool at the time was just smushed together," Mad says.

As she grew older, she abandoned these early melodramas and turned to her lifelong interest in drawing. After high school, she studied animation in Boston, but quickly found herself unhappy creating art in a liberal arts college setting. She decided to switch to an art school and applied to SCAD; it was only after she'd begun the transfer process that she discovered the sequential art program. "I was reading the course list on SCAD's website," says Mad, "and I was like, 'This is pretty much everything I ever wanted to do!'"

Now at SCAD, Mad's hunch that art school would be a better fit for her has proven correct. "SCAD's a good atmosphere for learning because everybody's an artist," she says. "It's so important to have other people who are also learning and drawing around you ... I need people around me who have the artistically critical eye."

By watching her classmates' processes and discussing their works, Mad says she can pinpoint specific elements of her own style that need work. Watching her friend David add drop-shadows to his characters' chins has prompted Mad to add more depth to her own characters' appearances; seeing another friend labor over her textures has prompted Mad to put more effort into her surfaces as well. "I can be exposed to a really simple idea, but it can trigger one of those 'Eureka!' moments," Mad says. "It happens all the time when you're around other artists."

Since coming to SCAD, Mad says she has seen huge leaps in her skill level. "I'm a lot happier with my work now," Mad says. "People always say that they have an image in their head, but they can't actually get it out, and I feel like I'm finally getting to the place where I can do that. I can make what I want and make it look how I want it to look. I feel like SCAD was hugely instrumental in that whole process."

In her classes, Mad has assembled a sizable portfolio with works ranging from Manga to collaborative graphic novels. She has shown her work for two years running at SCAD's annual Mini-comics Expo, and her side projects have garnered a great deal of attention. Most notably, Mad draws a twice-weekly webcomic called "Sakana," which follows the lives of two brothers who operate a fish market in Tokyo.

Since she began the comic over a year ago, Mad has accrued a regular readership that she estimates numbers somewhere between one and two thousand. This success has brought her attention both online and at the conventions where she mans a booth selling her work. "It's great meeting my readers," says Mad. "People will come find my booth and come and see me, and say, 'Oh my God, you're Mad!'"

Mad is looking to expand her artwork sales through shopSCAD. She is also negotiating a contract with Oni Press Publishers to create the art for a graphic novel the company is currently scripting. Since graduating, Mad has enjoyed having more time to focus on her web comic and travel to more conventions where she can sell her work. She recently self-published the first volume of "Sakana," and plans to move to St. Louis, where her boyfriend lives, and where she will continue writing and drawing long-form serials to pitch to publishers.

View Madeline's webcomic, "Sakana."

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