Cartoon Crossroads Columbus is bringing comics greats to an already amazing comics town this month, so it seemed like a good time to highlight some of our grads who are killing it in the comics and cartooning world. Here are four CCAD alumni who are living success stories, sharing advice for people who want to follow in their footsteps.
Steve Hamaker, 1997
Steve Hamaker’s career in comics started with a degree at CCAD and crossing paths with a legend of the field. After graduating from CCAD, Hamaker spent some time at a toy design company in Columbus, where his work on toys based on Bone led to meeting the comic series’ creator Jeff Smith. Smith eventually hired Hamaker, who became his full-time colorist and worked on the color versions of Bone produced for Scholastic. Since then, Hamaker has worked as a colorist for creators and publishers including Penny Arcade, Judd Winick, Terry Moore, Random House, and even the band Coldplay. He currently does regular coloring work with cartoonist Scott Kurtz on his online comic series, Table Titans and self-publishes his own comic series PLOX, an online comic that published its first 244-page volume in 2016 after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Steve Hamaker’s advice: “Learn from your friends, and don't be afraid to share what you know with them. Staying in touch after college and having your own network of artists will help you create your own opportunities. Don't expect someone else to create them for you.”
Colleen Clark, 2014
If you follow Cartoon Network on social media channels, you’ve probably seen Colleen Clark’s work. Growing up in Maryland near Washington D.C., Clark knew she “couldn't do any sort of job that either required me to do complicated math or wear heels.” After realizing she could get paid for doing art, she enrolled at CCAD. While at CCAD, her feminist work was picked up by publications like The Huffington Post and Buzzfeed. Now as Social Media Designer for Cartoon Network, she uses the diverse skills she learned as an undergrad on a daily basis. “My work ends up being a combo of graphic design, illustrating, video editing, marketing planning, and copywriting all in one,” said Clark. “It's super challenging and fun.”
Colleen Clark’s advice: “1. Be nice to everyone, as much as possible. 2. Get involved on campus! CCAD helps create some incredibly talented alumni every year. There are always going to be other people who can draw and design as well as you … The easier you are to work with, the more you'll stand out from the crowd.”
Alissa Sallah, 2016
As a kid growing up in Massillon, Ohio, Alissa Sallah was “into the usual ‘kid things’ like newspaper comics, cartoons, and video games.” She eventually discovered manga and was inspired to try doing her own comics, which led her to hone those skills at CCAD. “The classes were intensive and trained me to use every hour wisely,” said Sallah. “I don't know if I would be able to handle as much now if I wasn't pushed in school.” Sallah has taken that work ethic to Portland for a mentorship with the comic studio Helioscope, where she’s working on her first piece to pitch to publishers while gaining feedback from other creators in the field.
Alissa Sallah’s advice: “Always be open to meeting new people, taking on small jobs in the field, and having initiative in your work. You could be making some of the best work, but if no one knows about it, your stuff gets lost. You have to be willing to put yourself out there and show your strengths.”
Michael Watson, 2004
Though he’s currently artist/creator on four different titles at Legacy Rising, Watson has described his career path since leaving CCAD as “rugged.” “I tried to work for Marvel Comics right out the gate,” Watson said. “I had several portfolios reviews with Marvel.” When they ultimate found his work to not be a fit (“too urban,” he recalls), Watson shifted to self-published and freelance work, eventually building his own fanbase leading up to his signing with Legacy Rising. As he has navigated the business, Waston credits CCAD with “making me a more well-rounded individual and artist,” adding, “CCAD took the cockiness out of me, which I needed.” He’s got room to be cocky now, working as artist, writer and/or creator on the comics Hotshot, Vigilance, Heroes International, and Emerald Quest.
Michael Watson’s advice: “Make sure this is what you want to do. You have to be, because it is a ton of work and dedication. Create your own product to have and shop around. Show your work to be better than you or in higher positions than you. Let them tear into you. Never be satisfied with where you are.”