Senior draws the darker side of life

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Fourteen years ago, a toddling pre-school-age Connor McCann ’14 had the sudden urge to pick up a pencil and a piece of paper to scratch out, for the first time, an image he had unwittingly conjured in his head: Nickelodeon’s CatDog. After minutes of ardent three-year-old concentration, he presented his work to his pre-K colleagues.

“It was a really good CatDog. I’m still proud of that CatDog,” McCann said. “Everyone was impressed by it, and I said to myself, ‘I might be kind of a good artist.’”

Now with quite a bit more experience than a CatDog sketch, the 17-year-old McCann is still scratching away at his paper. On Dec. 1, he published his second graphic novel titled, “I am a Graveyard.” This comes on the heels of the first book in the series, “Bitter Liquid,” which McCann published in October 2011.

“‘Bitter Liquid’ was good, but it just didn’t feel nutritional, if you know what I mean,” McCann said. “I put things in ‘I am a Graveyard’ that were honest, which I don’t think I did in the first book.”

One of those honest elements was recreating a feeling from one night last November, during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. That night, he snuck out with a few friends to walk around the otherwise desolate town.

“There was something really sinister in the air, I guess from after the storm, but I was having a really good time. It was an interesting dichotomy,” McCann said. “I wanted to capture that — that there are periods of good moments in dark periods of your life, and there are dark moments in light times.”

Still, delivering this message was only a part of his ultimate goal. In the novel, while “examining relationships through a horror-adventure lens,” McCann develops a detailed story, told through black-and-white illustrations, about a man named Jim Strick who struggles simultaneously with life, loss and love.

But that doesn’t come to fruition in a day; at roughly 190 pages, the novel has taken McCann nearly two years to finish. Yet, in that time, McCann says he’s learned quite a bit about making art.

His learning comes in part from the composition of the book but also from a six-week program this past summer at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), one of the world’s premier art institutions, where he was accepted into a course on illustration.

“Even the way I look at art is different now. I can’t stop thinking about it,” McCann said. “I went to a bunch of other art programs, but they were pretty depressing. I mean, when you’re the best in the class and you know you shouldn’t be, it’s depressing. RISD is so intense.”

Despite his new outlook, McCann still holds an affinity for his darker style of art. He says he’s been inexplicably attracted to that style for as long as he can remember, throughout early childhood repeatedly drawing Jason from “Friday the 13th” and consuming media like “Goosebumps,” “Courage the Cowardly Dog,” and “Hellboy,” a book he had confiscated from him one day in third grade for being “too dark.”

To add to his already daunting list of aspirations, he sets the goal of getting away from his dark comfort zone to “become better as an artist,” to find new ways to conjure feelings and different means of creation.

“I am a Graveyard” is available at www.connordraws.bigcartel.com.