Illustrator and graphic novelist Luling supports scholarship for up-and-coming artists

Becca Hillburn displays 7 inch Kara, Vol.2, her graphic novel.

Becca Hillburn recalls the doubts she had growing up, and she also remembers the hurdles she had to overcome to become a professional comic and, ultimately, a graphic novelist.

And as far as the Luling native goes, the more she can help break down those barriers for some of today’s up-and-coming artists, the better.

Hillburn sponsors a comic and animation scholarship for underserved arts communities called the National Art & Trade Tuition Opportunity (NATTO). This is the third time she has organized the scholarship. This year’s applications must be submitted by June 30 and are open to anyone enrolled at undergraduate or graduate level who is interested in sequential art (such as comics, storyboard/animation, and books for children). The scholarship prizes are $1,000, $500, and $250 for 1st2n/a and 3rd place, respectively.

Hillburn was inspired to support the NATTO scholarship from her early life experiences.

“I didn’t really grow up poor, but our family had no money to spend,” Hillburn said. “They were counting on me to get a TOPS scholarship to pay for my education. While I dreamed of going to art school from an early age, finances kept me local and I felt frustrated that my scholarship didn’t cover the expensive art supplies needed.

It was only after Hillburn’s father passed away that she would have enough money, through inheritance, to pursue a more formal and strident arts education, as she was able to go to SCAD for Sequential Arts.

Over the past decade, Hillburn has been sharing the knowledge she gained from this education, but she also hopes aspiring future artists will discover the structure of a university program to learn the craft of comics, while as she did.

“I was one of them. I realized that organizing a scholarship would be a way to help these budding artists. The NATTO scholarship is structured to help artists of all levels improve their art in any college,” Hillburn said.

As for what she’s looking for, it boils down to raw potential: someone who shows a spark and the ability to grow — if not necessarily the most technically skilled performer around.

“I’m not looking for the best artist – there’s a lot of scholarship for that,” she said. “When I see some of the stories that these new creators submit, their personalities pop. They have a voice and that passion fuels their art and their writing.

“We need more of these creators, and I can think of no better way than to help make education accessible to them.”

Applicants must write a 500-word essay and submit a 12-page portfolio. Those interested in applying can do so at nattosoup.com/scholarship.

In 2020, Hillburn released 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 character series – is about a girl who is only seven inches tall and the very different experiences she encounters as a result.

Hillburn teaches comics and watercolors through the St. Charles Parish Library system, while also using YouTube and a blog to share her wisdom.