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Danielle Corsetto's Cartoonish Vision

by Matt Makowski + photos by Chris Jackson

Cartoon

A knack for drawing has Danielle Cosetto living with her art.

Danielle Corsetto’s workspace in Shepherdstown, W.Va. may be a little cluttered, but it’s mostly organized — much like her mind. She’s got more stories up there than can fit in a single narrative, and manages to keep them just orderly enough to get them on paper or pixel. That’s how she’s been able to turn out a daily web-comic called “Girls With Slingshots” for nearly ten years, graphic novel adaptations of the Cartoon Network’ s “Adventure Time,” and spend a brief stint as the brains behind the now-defunct Weekly World News’ comic strip documenting the adventures of Bat Boy. Oh, and she also finds time to teach illustration at Shepherd University, and volunteer with the Girl Scouts.

This year, Danielle is planning a cross-country tour and at least two new “Girls With Slingshots” books, as well as attending the regular circuit of comic conventions and small signings. All this coming from a self-proclaimed procrastinator who works into the wee hours of the night to make sure she maintains her daily output. If only we were all so lazy.

See You In The Funny Papers

Danielle took to the funnies early — while still in diapers, her grandfather would read Blondie, Beetle Bailey and the like to her. In elementary school, her name filled the borrowing card in the back of Garfield and Family Circus books she took out from the library. These “studies” came into play when her third-grade art teacher assigned the class to create a comic strip. Danielle wrote and drew what she calls a blatant Garfield rip-off called Fat Cat, and was hooked on the format. “Ever since then I've been telling stories about some fictional world in the form of comic strips,” she says.

In a rural, quiet neighborhood in Ijamsville, Danielle spent a lot of time during her formative years alone with her imagination, drawing, thinking and stargazing outdoors. She was a fairly quiet kid, but was by no means antisocial. She spent summers at camp, winters on sleds and school nights playing hide-and-seek. “I was a good student, but would daydream too much and have to finish my tests in the principal's office during recess.” Despite the occasional respite with the principal, Danielle maintained an even-keeled, if not typical upbringing.

“I think my childhood was so ‘normal’ it was abnormal. I tell people about what my life was like, and they don't believe how sitcom-perfect it was,” Danielle says. Nonetheless, she was an inherent contrarian and managed to push a lot of her father’s buttons while growing up. “I'm pretty sure my stubborn insistence on becoming an artist was his worst nightmare. He'd tell me there's no money in the arts, and I'd reply by saying things that probably shouldn't be printed in your magazine.” Lo and behold, Danielle struck a compromise with her parents when it was time to go to college. She studied photography — a subject her parents grudgingly gave in to. Since they had paid for senior portraits in high school, Danielle’s parents admitted there must be at least some money in it.

Pictures: To Snap Or Draw

Now that Danielle has been running her own business for nearly a decade, she and her father see eye to eye. “I’m grateful that he sent me to college with no expectation of making a living in the arts,” she says. This forced her to start stockpiling tolerable backup plans like wedding photography and teaching. After graduating, Danielle landed a gig with the Martinsburg Journal in 2004 as a photographer and graphic artist — though it didn’t last long. It was right around this time she started “Girls With Slingshots” and took on a sort of understudy role with seasoned comic book artist Michael Lark, who convinced her to quit her job and start working for herself. She spent less than six months with the journal, and her newfound self-sufficiency allowed her time to take on more freelance jobs in illustration, character design and caricature jobs at private parties and events that she landed via two different agencies, which she really enjoyed.

While maintaining her daily strip and building her portfolio, Danielle’s reputation grew and so did her workload. “I never expected to make a living at creating comics, let alone art at all. I started GWS as a way to advertise my writing, drawing, and web design skills, in the hopes that one of them would take off as a freelance career,” she says. Three years of hard work later, Danielle started selling her first “Girls With Slingshots” books, and by the beginning of 2008 had enough money to move out of her small apartment and into a big 230-year-old house.

After some adjusting and rearranging, Danielle keeps her bed in the studio, which has lots of natural light that comes in through east-facing windows. “Now my favorite things — drawing, sleeping, and sunlight — are in one room, and I spend most of my time in there,” she says. “Most people think I'm nuts for wanting to put my bed and my drawing board in the same room, but drawing is such a big part of me that I don't see any need to separate it from my daily life.”

Keep On Keepin’ On

When writer’s block rears its ugly head, she looks for inspiration in other cartoonists’ work — occasionally resorting to a glass of wine or a cider to “loosen the brain” a bit. Ultimately, it’s the self-imposed deadline that keeps her whipping up fresh stories. “The dedication to a nightly deadline is a godsend for artists like me who doubt themselves constantly; if I had no deadline, maybe I'd stop writing entirely, out of fear that I'll never write a comic ‘good enough’ to share.”

As for the daily tasks of writing, drawing, selling merchandise, and staying in-tune with her readers, Danielle doesn’t romanticize the rigmarole behind being a 21st century artist. “It's become a job, but I think it's sort of like a marriage; you have to plan date nights. You have to remind yourself why you enjoyed it so much in the beginning, and rekindle that excitement when it becomes stagnant.”

Editor’s Note:
Just for the sake of full-disclosure, Danielle has moved on from the content she learned from Garfield and occasionally addresses some adult-themed topics. While her tactics remain tasteful, not all of her work may be suitable for children.

Girls With Slingshots

She also maintains two Etsy Shops
www.etsy.com/shop/ShopGWS
&
www.etsy.com/shop/dcorsetto