Becca Hillburn remembers the doubters she had growing up, and she also remembers the hurdles she had to clear on route to becoming a professional comic artist and, ultimately, a graphic novelist.
And as far as the Luling native is concerned, the more of those obstacles she can help clear for some up and coming artists today, the better.
Hillburn is sponsoring a comics and animation scholarship for underserved art communities called the National Art & Trade Tuition Opportunity (NATTO). It’s the third time she’s hosted the scholarship. This year’s applications are due in by June 30, and is directed toward anyone enrolling in undergraduate or graduate and interested in sequential art (such as comics, storyboard/animation and children’s books). The scholarships prizes are $1,000, $500 and $250 for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place, respectively.
Hillburn drew inspiration to back the NATTO scholarship from her experiences as a youth.
“I didn’t exactly grow up poor, but our family didn’t have money to spare,” Hillburn said. “They counted on me getting a TOPS scholarship to pay for college. While I dreamed of going to an art college from an early age, finances kept me local, and I felt frustrated by the fact that my scholarship didn’t cover necessary expensive art supplies.”
It was only after Hillburn’s father passed away that she would have enough money, through inheritance, to pursue a more formal and strident art education as was able to go to SCAD for sequential arts.
For the past decade, Hillburn has been sharing the knowledge she’s gathered from that education, but she also hopes for aspiring upcoming artists to experience the structure of a college program to learn the comic craft, just like she did.
“I was one of them. I realized hosting a scholarship would be a way to help those aspiring artists. The NATTO scholarship is structured to help artists at any level boost their craft at any college,” Hillburn said.
As to what she’s looking for, it’s boils down to raw potential: someone exhibiting a spark and the ability to grow – if not necessarily the most technically skilled artist at the moment.
“I’m not looking for the best artist – there’s plenty of scholarships for that,” she said. “When I see some of the stories these new creators are submitting, their personalities are just bursting through. They have a voice and that passion fuels their art and writing.
“We need more of these creators, and I can’t think of a better way than to help make education accessible to them.”
Applicants are required to write an essay of 500 words and submit a 12-page portfolio. Those interested in applying may do so at nattosoup.com/scholarship.
In 2020, Hillburn published her second graphic novel, 7” Kara. The book showcased not only Hillburn’s artistic and storytelling talents, but also her home parish, as the story is set in Hahnville The book – second in the series about the character – is about a girl who is just seven inches tall and the very different world experiences she comes across as result.
Hillburn teaches comics and watercolor through the St. Charles Parish library system, while she also utilizes YouTube and a blog to share her wisdom.