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Framing Fantasy

In shaping her Division III, Jerusha Tiffany Jagger Chapman-Hirsch (06) drew on both her remarkable imagination and her own life experiences. Working with her faculty committee, Professor of Art Bill Brayton (chair) and Professor of Humanities Bob Meagher, she created a series of four graphic novels based on an invented mythic world. Her project was titled The Forbidden Trinity: A Graphic Novel, Story Cycle and Experimental Art Piece.

Chapman-Hirsch’s use of the graphic novel reflects her interest in animation, which brought her to Hampshire as a transfer student in fall 2006. After earning an associate’s degree in graphic art at SUNY Ulster County Community College, she wanted to pursue animation and found East Coast options limited. Hampshire offered not only the opportunity to study animation, but also the ability to design her own program and work independently in an academic setting allowing flexibility.

During Div II, she concentrated on storytelling and character development, integrating creative writing, literature, Asian studies, and animation, and through that process building the foundation for her Div III. For an advanced learning activity, she took a storytelling course with Visiting Assistant Professor of Writing Benjamin James (87F) and wrote a 40-page summary of the storyline that served as the starting point for the script of her four novels.

Transforming this narrative into graphic form during Div III began with detailed storyboards, which are drawings to map out the story line. Chapman-Hirsch then “framed” each page of the novels by separating it into as few as one or as many as eight separate image areas. She eschewed a standardized format of consistent rectangular frames and instead drew frames in a variety of shapes and sizes. In making design decisions, she responded both to the individual characters and to action taking place within the frames. Once the frames were drawn, she sketched in the images, working initially in non-photo blue for the rough sketch and finishing entirely in pencil. The images were then scanned onto a computer, with some computerized edits. Text was added on the computer.  At 60 pages long and incorporating as many as eight frames per page, in addition to complex narration and dialogue, conception and production of these graphic novels constituted a tremendous achievement.

The roots of Chapman-Hirsch’s creative work trace back to her childhood in southeastern New York. Her family lived on Stone Mountain Farm, where she was immersed in a world filled with fantasy and imagination. Groups of theatrical performers would set up camp: Chapman-Hirsch might look out her window one morning and find a trapeze or a troupe of actors in costumes. She might discover a huge dragon puppet in a rock grotto, rigged with speakers to give it a “voice.”

 As a teen, she became involved with the well-known live-action role-playing (LARP) group The Wayfinder Experience when it came to the farm. She so enjoyed this experience that she was inspired to create and run her own role-playing game. Her game, entitled Veils, was written for 60 characters and ran for 60 hours over a weekend. The narrative that unfolded during that first weekend performance of Veils was used by Chapman-Hirsch as the basis for her Div III.

Following graduation from Hampshire, Chapman-Hirsch plans to continue working with the graphic novel and will perhaps take her series into a different visual format. She remains interested in animation, graphic design, and Web design. Her dreams include starting a small publishing company, which would cater to unknown or unestablished artists and writers, offering them hands-on support in getting published.

—Cynthia Lepage

 
 

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