Thesis Mentor: Caitlin Skaalrud
Exhale is a webcomic about family, loss, responsibility, and magic. Alex has just lost her mother at the young age of 22. With that loss, Alex gains the immense burden and title of Family Necromancer—a role she has been preordained to fill since she was a child. Now, it is Alex’s responsibility to make the sacrifices, perform the rituals, and release the spirits of her deceased kin into the afterlife. Unprepared for the task that is death magic, Alex must fumble with not only her personal morals but also the strained relationship with her older sister, Isabella, as all four sisters prepare to lay their mother to rest and say goodbye one last time under the full moon.
Vanessa is a screenwriter and illustrator from New York who has seen the world as one big story for as long as she can remember. As a young black child she was particularly interested in stories built on diversity and began writing stories of her own. Her fascination with cartoons, urban fantasy, and science fiction led her to a creative writing degree from Fordham University, where she also fell in love with sequential art. Currently, her focus is on writing for animation and webcomics.
For the community project, Exhale was posted on Instagram under @V.A.Doll as a seven-week campaign. After the first three episodes on launch day, the story was updated one episode a week on both Instagram and Tapas. The intent was to utilize the subscription and episodic nature of webcomics as a way to re-introduce the project and art to a potentially new crowd every week. For the full project, visit @V.A.Doll and follow for future content!
Instagram is an excellent platform because it’s a casual place where creative individuals can genuinely connect with other artists in their community. Through this project, I’ve gotten to connect with artists that helped inspire my thesis and artistic process. Death is the star of Exhale. But there is also the theme of confidence. Alex is the necromancer and at the end of the story, sure she loses her mother, but she also has that chariot card that gives her the confidence to do well. This Instagram campaign was my chariot card: a triumphant lap of my thesis experience to use it as a vehicle to drive me and my career forward.