Letter to Joe Kubert

A few months ago, after far too long of a delay, I called up Joe Kubert to thank him for all I learned when I went to his school (from 1983-85). We had a nice chat, but I didn't want to take up his whole day recounting my life story. So I told him I'd follow up with the details, and here is the letter I sent him:

Hi Joe -- as a follow-up to our phone conversation from a while back, I want to share with you how much my education at the Joe Kubert School has meant to my life and career.

I attended the Joe Kubert School from 1983 to 1985. I got an amazing foundation of all the most important drawing and storytelling skills during those years. Up until I went to your school, my artwork had developed in fits and starts…but once I came under the full-time guidance of all the experienced teachers I learned more than I ever thought possible.
The old Kubert School circa 1984
In your Narrative Art class, I learned about telling a story visually. One of the core ideas that has never left me is that the  reader is always right. If they get confused it's my fault. The artist has to make the storytelling clear and compelling.

I learned solid basic drawing techniques from Jose Delbo -- his class taught me how to draw the real basics that are often skipped by young artists. I learned figure drawing, perspective, how to use pens and brushes, lettering, coloring and painting. I have used all those skills throughout my career; not only in animation storyboards (for Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros and Disney), but as a comic book artist/writer/inker/letterer and full-color cover artist for Nickelodeon Magazine.
Most important was that you taught me about the realities of working for publication and on deadline. You stressed over and over that an assignment is useless if it's not done on time. The professional world is all about production and deadlines, and if you can't hack that, you're dead. Thank you for putting so much emphasis on the importance of good professional work habits

Best of all, I have been teaching others, continuing the lessons and traditions that I learned from you and your crew of seasoned professional teachers. In my role as Storyboard Supervisor and Director at Disney TV Animation, I help teach other artists the solid basics of visual storytelling. I wrote and illustrated a book called, "Cartooning: Character Design" for Walter Foster Books, and I am currently teaching an online class in storyboarding.

By the way, I'll never forget that our first assignment in your class was drawing a comic book story with no words, and only with silhouettes. That assignment broke my brain open to the challenges and opportunities that can be achieved by telling a story with drawings. In my online class, I just taught a lesson on posing, acting and the importance of silhouettes!

Basically -- everything I know about drawing and storytelling had its foundation at the Joe Kubert School. I am eternally grateful that you started this wonderful school, and that you have been so generous with your knowledge.

Sherm Cohen


Paul Tumey said...

Thanks for sharing this , Sherm. I'm 48, but remember so wanting to go to the Kubert school when I was in my 20's. Your letter confirms that I had a good idea, even if I lacked the means. I recently read Bill Schelly's biography of Joe Kubert. I recommend it.

Jeff Overturf said...

Good for you for looking back at what you've accomplished and given one of your mentors a knowing nod. I can only imagine how gratifying it must be for the people like Kubert to hear this.

MrGoodson2 said...

I think I'll give myself that first assignment of storytelling with silhouette sans words

Severin said...

Haha, you make a strong case for attending the Joe Kubert school!

Paul Evans said...

Hi Sherm,

Great letter. Thank you for reminding us that it's important to thank those who have helped us along the way.

Also, loved your video and PDFs over at


mikehoffman said...

That's a very touching letter, Sherm! All I can think of now is how many people should go to Kubert's school but probably never will.

Roberto Severino said...

Sherm, thanks to this wonderful post, I'm considering attending the Joe Kubert school myself now after I get out of high school in two years. I just checked the website, and it really sounds like that place is serious about teaching students to have a solid art foundation, but I'm not sure I could pass the portfolio requirements. I draw a ton almost every day that I can really, and I do lots of studies and sketch a lot, but I feel that my own work is lacking somehow. Thanks to the super awesome Eddie Fitzgerald, I was also considering attending a liberal arts college and an art school for two years each.

How much is the yearly cost for attending the Joe Kubert School by the way? I hope it's not too expensive.

dnavas said...

Sherm I really appreciate you shared this letter in your blog.
Your sincerity, enthusiasm and transparency are fantastic, and as one of your online storyboard class students I have to say that you are an amazing teacher too and that I feel very lucky to be part of this. Thank you.