Beyond Vassar

Stress Illustrated

By Jessica Winum

It’s the rotten things in life that inspire Peter Conrad ’91, a Silicon Valley-based technical writer and illustrator who is becoming well known for his sharp-edged cartoon commentaries on today’s technologically driven society. Since 1994, Conrad’s work has been appearing in the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. His mini-comics titled “Attempted Not Known,” are distributed worldwide by Tower Records, and his cartoons have appeared on the Internet and on T-shirts all over the San Francisco Bay area.

Conrad, who majored in anthropology at Vassar, has been drawing cartoons since he was eight, but he abandoned the art form during his college years and never seriously considered it as a full-time career until after he graduated. What restored his childhood aspirations? “I was working in a horrible job at a landfill not long after Vassar, and it was so bad that it made me laugh,” he said. He began drawing satirical cartoons, using humor to get him through the daily unpleasantries of working with trash.

It may seem an odd thing to be inspired by life’s common miseries, but Conrad insists that the dark character of his work is reason for his success. “There is nothing funny about chilling out on a sofa somewhere with a tall, cool glass of iced tea. Unless there is some stress, nothing is happening, and if nothing is happening then nothing is funny.”

Conrad is thrilled that his work is getting noticed, and is hoping that it will eventually be picked up for syndication. “If I can make 1,000 or 10,000 or 10,000,000 people chuckle, that’s enough,” he said of his current aspirations. In the meantime, he pays the bills by working as a technical writer and illustrator for a computer hardware company in California.