Alumni Programs

Chickens, Alcoholism and Unrequited Love:

The Comic Labors of Chelsea Baker '06

Growing up outside Omaha, Nebraska, Chelsea Baker's view of comics was limited to the Sunday "funny" pages. Still, 8-year-old Chelsea made it known, "I want to be a cartoonist!"

olympia comics cover art A highly visual learner, she was better at thinking in three dimensions than two. Chelsea' family didn't have money to buy the toys she saw on TV. Instead, they gave her reams of construction paper from which she made cars, doll houses, and scale models for her father's train set. Whatever she wanted, she found a way to make.

Despite an active mind and plenty of motivation, Chelsea struggled through high school. Most instructors did not understand her need for visual learning methods. She announced to her parents that, in college, she wanted to major in comics, and found an unusual college to fit her unusual dreams. "I treated Evergreen like my own personal playground," she says. "Every quarter I would look through the class listings and find something that genuinely interested me. I found it a challenge to make whatever I was studying relate to comics."

She took every course offered by Jim Blevins. For a Buddhist Psychotherapy program, she gave a speech called, "Life is Dukka, Charlie Brown." One summer quarter, she read 25 graphic novels.

"Recipes are not rules... You can make things up as you go along."

Like Matt Groening and Lynda Barry before her, Chelsea drew cartoons for the Cooper Point Journal. While serving as comics coordinator, she created HayDay: a strip about "chickens, alcoholism and unrequited love." One character, Party Chicken, lives on in infamy. It's hard to explain the strange allure of Party Chicken, his creator muses. "He just sits there, drinks booze, belches and pukes - and nothing else. And even though he's the most useless character... he's the one everybody loves." (The HayDay zine can be found at the Danger Room, the downtown Olympia comics shop where Chelsea now works.)

Chelsea Baker is not a party chicken. She recently became director of the Olympia Comics Festival when creator Frank Hussey retired. "I decided it would be a real shame to see something this cool and this amazing die...so I stepped up to the plate." This year's festival featured a panel discussion with Jim Woodring, Michel Gagné, and Evergreen's own Katy Ellis O'Brien '07 on the increasingly popular art of "silent" (or wordless) comics.

Since graduating from Evergreen, Chelsea has developed a strong interest in the educational use of comics. Adding illustration to instructive texts, she believes, significantly increases retention and comprehension. Her latest work is a graphic cookbook designed to teach the frugal art of cooking for oneself.

Chelsea approaches cooking much as she does comics and life. "Recipes are not rules," she explains. "You can make things up as you go along."