Mentorship at Helioscope:
Since 2005, Helioscope has provided over 60 up-and-coming cartoonists with hands-on instruction, professional development, and career coaching through our Mentorship Program. This four-month opportunity gives cartoonists with burgeoning careers the chance to work in our Portland studio alongside over 25 fully-fledged artists and writers from across the industry. Our alumni have gone on to work with companies like Image, Disney, Dark Horse, Oni Press, Marvel, and others.
Mentorship programs run May-August and September-December, with potential flexibility for those working around term schedules while still in school. Application windows open twice a year in March and July for a month-long period. Applications for our fall session (September-December) are currently OPEN and will remain so until August 5th.
Please read this page carefully for information about the program and our application requirements.
About the Program:
The Mentorship Program offers motivated cartoonists the chance to work on a contained project from start to finish in our studio, while receiving feedback and critique along the way. We also welcome participants into local industry meet-ups, signings, and convention appearances, striving to give an inside look at the region's comics scene. Our highest goal is to create an equitable exchange of knowledge and resources between our members and mentorship program participants.
Participants join us for a minimum of 20 hours per week, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 9am and 6pm. This allows us to schedule regular workshops and ensure participants get to know members of the studio and receive their feedback. We do our best to work with participants who choose to pursue additional part-time employment during their time with us.
Participants can expect to receive a variety of lectures and presentations from studio members during their time at Helioscope. Previous program talks have covered subjects like:
Writing for comics
Thumbnailing and layouts
Working digitally in Manga Studio/Clip Studio Paint
InDesign and Pre-Press
Pitching to publishers
Conventions and self-promotion
Marketing and social media
Merchandising and crowdfunding
These workshops and feedback sessions (as well as access to the studio's technology and materials) are offered in exchange for light assistance with studio tasks—mailing packages, running local errands, gathering reference materials, and scanning artwork. There are also occasionally paid opportunities to assist with flatting pages and performing more specialized work for members of the studio. Studio-related tasks usually account for an hour or two of each day, leaving participants plenty of time for self-directed work and receiving feedback.
As a not-for-profit collective, we are dedicated to maintaining a fair balance of labor and investment in all these activities.
We're always excited to hear from creators who are already making comics on their own, learning their way around social media, and looking to hone their professional skills. As a studio of busy freelancers, we prioritize those who can carry on self-directed projects and proactively ask for feedback. The ability to read a room and play well with others is a must, as is an independent work ethic. While we have no educational pre-requisites, we do require all applicants to be over the age of 18.
For your application we ask that you submit the following materials:
A Letter of Intent (in the body of your email): tell us a little bit about your background in comics, your professional goals and what you hope to gain from your time at Helioscope.
A CV (attached as a file or linked as a Google Doc): tell us about your work experience, your skill sets, and your educational background. We're not looking for a specific degree, we’re just curious about where you’re coming from.
A link to an online portfolio (in the body of your email): this can be a personal website, or a portfolio page on Behance or a similar network. While illustration is nice to have in your arsenal, we’re primarily looking for examples of visual storytelling and sequential art, so be sure to foreground those samples.
Links to your professional social media feeds (in the body of your email): Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.
The button at the bottom of this page will open a new email to our studio address. Be sure to write "Mentorship Program Application - [Spring/Fall, whichever is relevant]" in the subject line to ensure that your application is received.
We accept applicants from all over, but regret that we cannot provide travel or housing stipends for the program. We will, however, do our best to answer any questions you might have about housing, transport, and living in Portland.
Can I get academic credit for my time at Helioscope?
We are not an accredited institution, but if you have an internship requirement for your educational program, we are happy to sign letters detailing what you've been up to during your time with us.
Will I get a guaranteed position at [name of big comics publisher] if I complete the program?
What if I don't want to work for a mainstream comics publisher? Is this still a good place to be?
Our members work in a wide variety of areas, including monthly comics, traditional book publishing, crowdfunded indie distribution, webcomics, and more. Chances are if you've got a particular path in mind—or want to try something new—we have someone with wisdom to share about it.
Do you accept international applicants?
We sure do! Because many visitors to the US may only stay 90 days, we're able to be flexible and offer a three instead of four-month version of the program. Get in touch with us ahead of time to discuss details.
Am I allowed to work on freelance projects during my time at the studio?
Absolutely. We do encourage folks to dedicate a decent chunk of their studio time to drawing a self-contained comics project, but we also understand that freelancing is an unpredictable business and creators gotta eat.
What should I bring?
It's always a good idea to bring along any current printed samples of your work (business cards, minicomics, sketchbooks, etc) to share with members of the Studio. We like having stuff to paw over at the lunch table.
Still developing your creative practice? Studio members Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett have collected a massive list of educational resources for aspiring comics creators—including recordings of past mentorship presentations at the studio. If you're still on your way to a point where you can join us, be sure to check out their site.