Sunday, 15 June 2008

Starting At the End: Building a Better Comics Art Program

The Third Year

In this installment, I want to look at how the final semester of a third year comics art program could best be constructed for the graduate to best meet the program goals covered previously.

I’m going to structure all three years like this: two semesters, each 14 weeks long, each week consisting of 5 days with two 3-hour classes. This would likely be more flexible at the program neared reality, but it should serve as the armature to build the program around.

I had decided that most of the final semester would be taken up with Portfolio Development, but this will be the most atypical course in the entire program as various students will be aiming for various targets. With that in mind, let’s leave the time allocated to that until after we determine what’s important enough to take time away from it.

Professional Development would be such a course. A course dedicated to informing the student on the hows and whys of the functioning of the comics industry. Everything from making initial contacts, self-promotion, developing relationships, and publishing agreements of all the many sorts running about would be covered. Yeah, making sure the graduate knows exactly how to function in the industry is certainly important enough to take time from building the portfolio. Once a week for three hours.

Life Drawing. I expect that all of second year and first semester of third year would have more intense exposure to drawing from the model, having it scheduled once a week for 3 hours should be enough to allow continued growth.

Painting the Costumed Model. Another course that would allow the student to further develop skills and abilities introduced earlier. Thanks to digital media, painted comics are making something of a comeback, so continuing work with coloured media would be a positive development for more than just the computer colourists. I think one three hour session a week spent on a small painting would be adequate, though I’d prefer spending six hours on this.

Already I’ve taken 9 (or 12 if I expand painting) hours out of the students’ week to maintain skills support and provide career information. As far as an expected 40+-hour work week, I’m already cutting the students down to 28-31 hours to spend on their portfolio work per week. If they were mandated to come into the school three times a week with “off-days” either working from home or at the school facilities, they would get their first taste of independent work.

Our second semester could look like this, then:

Life Drawing IV
Portfolio Development
Unsupervised Portfolio Development
Painting the Costumed Model
Portfolio Development
Unsupervised Portfolio Development
Professional Development
Portfolio Development

The end result allows for three supervised (or mentored) work sessions for Portfolio Development as well as two full days of time allowed to do the actual work either at a home studio or at school facilities. The two fewer days allocating teaching hours should result in a slightly lower tuition if only for that last semester.

The cheesy drawing at the top really sums of up many aspects of this; there's a tremendous amount of. . . stuff to cram into a very small period of time.

By taking a good hard look at all the material and what the student really needs we might be able to find a way to more effectively concentrate the information to suit the delivery package.

Next time, when I go on about this I'll assemble what I think would make a good first semester for the third year.



Kane Motri said...

This sounds solid. I think Professional Development is something that one doesn't learn everywhere and can't really learn by oneself. (I'd really love to learn about those things.)

I don't know if the unsupervised hours would really work. I suppose it's the students own fault if they use the time for other things (like going working or just hanging out) and those not serious about the whole program will find a way to slack anyway, but the threshold of doing this would be slightly higher if there would be some kind of control system to those hours.

Unknown said...


I'd hope students in their third year would be taking things seriously enough to know they'd have to meet deadlines. Any student unable to effectively use unsupervised work hours would be unable to do so as a new professional, so failing in school would be an indication that this wouldn't be the career for them.


Kane Motri said...

That's true. But there's still the distinction between education and job that could make a difference.
I know from classes (at school, not collage, I'll admit) that unsupervised hours which we were supposed to use for photoshop practice or programming were rather used to surf the net or chat with each other. Which had nothing to do with our capacities of handling those duties but rather with the possibility of enjoing some free time where there shouldn't be any.

Especially since, in my experience, motivation towards an education usually wanes at it's beginning and end (in the latter case mostly due to the desire to be done with it already) I can imagine that those hours would remain unused.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that this is a bad idea, quite contrary. I'm just trying to point out some possible troubles that I imagine could come up. :)

Unknown said...

And they're valid concerns, but learning how to meet deadlines without being watched by an overseer would be a part of the educational process.

It is a real case of a student who couldn't maintain focus and do work toward a deadline should fail since comics art is a freelance career.