Sunday, 14 September 2008

Year One Comics Curriculum, part 1


Here's the first part of what I think the first semester of the first year of a three year comics curriculum should look like. I'm pretty much giving what I co-developed at Max the Mutt a failing grade, here. I had no experience developing a curriculum, just an understanding of what skills a comics artist should have at the end. The school administration wasn't nearly as much help as i would have hoped, since their vast experience running an animation school really just resulted in forcing bad choices and excluding necessary course changes where needed.

One thing that was a seemingly minor battle I lost at the time has really been a burden on the program; when it came to simply entitling the comics storytelling class, "Comics Storytelling" or "Storytelling for Comics" wasn't good enough. "Cinematic Storytelling" was pushed on me, and, honestly it didn't seem that big a deal at the time even though I'm not a big fan of buzz-words. Then I have to include mention of film in the course description because cinematic is in the title, blah, blah, blah. It did get to the point where I'd get a call to make some revisions to this-or-that document and I just did them without thinking. After all, they were the experts in all this.

Of course, two years later the point of what the course is gets buried in the stupid title and amendments to the initial course outline I wrote and the intructor gets told it's a film course and NOT a storytelling course.

All that aside, here's the breakdown of the weekly schedule. All classes are three hours long, with the exceptions of Comics History and Digital Media, which would be 1.5 hours long each. Some classes would have homework, others would be entirely in-class work, with perhaps some sketchbook work.

Monday
Introductory Perspective

Perspective is the backbone for all realistic drawing; it’s key to building the environments figures act within as well as building manikins and the objects they interact with within those environments. The first semester would develop a perspective vocabulary and hammer home the concepts of one, two and three point perspective.

Structural Drawing
Almost Introductory Perspective pt II, Structural Drawing is a course on simplifying complex objects down to their component shapes in accurate perspective then carving into or adding detail to get the final structure. The course would start with how to extract a sphere from a cube to building elements like furniture with a collection of blocks.

Tuesday
Introductory Object Drawing
This is the first of the “draw what you see” courses. Starting with a simple block, students will develop their hand-eye coordination as well as their critical eye by drawing increasingly complex real life objects paying attention to accurate perspective.

Design and Composition
Essentially a refinement of the design and composition course I created and developed over the last two years. Students would have in-class assignments to apply newly introduced concepts and have daily work in their “design journals” analyzing designs and compositions from the world around them.

Wednesday
Anatomy: The Simplified Human Form
This is the precursor to Life Drawing I and all the anatomy courses over the rest of the program. The students would learn the basic shapes and structures of the human body as well as the fundamentals of how it moves. This course would lean heavily on Bridgman’s approach and prepare the way for a more varied range of approaches in the subsequent course the second semester. An understanding of what’s happening within the form as well as some knowledge of proportion will allow students to make better use of their time with the model and allow them to develop into more advanced studies faster. The Nicolaides-derived curriculum I had to teach these past two years is akin to throwing babies into the deep end of the pool to teach them how to swim. It wasted a great deal of time with the model, for some students it wasted nearly a whole year.

Drawing Fundamentals
This would be an amalgam of lectures, slide shows, demonstrations, hand-outs and sketchbook work as many of the core elements of drawing are introduced. How to use line, line sensitivity, contour, mass, weight, tone, media and materials, etc.. Everything from how to sharpen a pencil to point construction to how to crosshatch would be introduced in this class.

Thursday
Storytelling for Comics
I’d probably just get Ty Templeton to teach the storytelling class he’s been doing for years (I wasn’t allowed to have it called Comics Storytelling back when developing the program at Max the Mutt, it was insisted that it be called Cinematic Storytelling and now they’re trying to get films shown in the class. MORONS! Let Ty teach what he does best! Sorry for the digression. . . .).

That’s not the best description, of course. This course would not just explain the basics of visual narrative, but it would cover the entirety of comics as a visual medium. Ty manages to connect everything from page flow to covers to drawing to comics history to give the student a great foundation in comics. Short of getting Ty to teach the course, I’d have Ty develop a full textbook for the semester. Yeah – I typed his name five times there.

Introductory Colour Theory
That’s pretty self-explanatory; students would study colour and do a number of exercises to enhance their experience and retention of colour mixing.

Friday
Comics History
A broad-stroke overview of the development of visual narrative from cave paintings to tapestries to the early comics to the modern era with attention paid to specific events and people who shaped the current medium and industry.

Digital Media
The course would start with a quiz to determine the computer and specific computer software knowledge of the student, the result would determine at which point the student would start attending the class, if at all. Starting with the introduction to the magical box, the course would move on to the practical uses of the computer in comics and then briefly cover and demonstrate what programs are most often used, specifically Adobe’s Illustrator and Photoshop.

Imaginative Drawing
Every week students would be assigned a drawing utilizing knowledge imparted over the course of the week. The emphasis would be on creating the fantastic to the best of the students’ abilities at the time allowing them to see practical application of the skills as they’re introduced, understood and eventually competent with them. At the end of the course, the students should have a dozen or so drawings showing their course-wide progress over the whole semester.

Of course, effort would be made to ensure that many of the classes are dealing with similar or overlapping drawing elements at the same time so students will be getting 3 or 4 versions of doing the same thing or solving the same problems some weeks.

~~~~~~~

I'll try to have the next part up within the week, and I'll get to the questions and comments people have been sending me about the school hopefully this week.

~R

3 comments:

f said...

what about having the students' voices heard in regards to: 1)problems that may come up within the curriculum, for example if a teacher is not explaining theories as clearly as they could; or 2) ideas that will make the year more efficient and/or enjoyable, such as student representatives or drink and draw nights?

Richard said...

Hi,

There has to be a fair and structural approach to maintaining both a high level of educational value in a course as well as student satisfaction.

The previous school I was with made a big show of being open to student feedback, but as far as I saw, student's expressing disatisfaction with the program were labelled as whiners and nothing was changed. There was a rather shoking event last year where over 80% of the students expressed disatisfaction with how a specific course was being taught in a student meeting. The result was a witch-hunt that ultimately resulted in a class full of students getting yelled at and blamed for the shortcomings of the course design and teacher.

That's unacceptable.

A school has to be open to dialogue with a student body, preferably through student representatives for larger issues. There should be anonymous course review forms the students fill out at the end of each program as well, so an ongoing record of the program and teacher performance can be tracked.

The student meeting venue should be two-way communication, not just limited to pep sessions or 25-minute long speeches about politicians. Students and teachers have to be partners in the education process. At Max the Mutt, the owners often regarded the students like the enemy.

Encouraging students to actually have some fun doing what they're being taught to do for the rest of their lives is a good thing. Events like Drink n' Draws or Dr. Sketchy's should be a part of the larger art school experience.

Hope that answers the questions.
~R

Dela said...

I agree 100%