Well, it’s back to school time and this year I have the lucky distinction of seeing both of my children (young adults) off to college to pursue the careers of their dreams or at least discover what that dream actually is.
Whatever career they each may choose it is certain that success will require focus, dedication, discipline, hard work, resilience, knowledge, talent, adaptability, persistence, confidence, faith, timing and luck. Few people succeed without most if not all of these qualities.
Ironically these qualities are mastered through repeated failure. Lessons are learned continually as we each strive for a level of perfection that is acceptable to ourselves, our peers and the expectations of the public. This process is known as practice and it begins simply with a decision to just do what our heart desires, embracing the failures as integral elements of the journey.
Make no mistake about it. If you plan to become a comic creator or a cartoonist, as some people like to say, prepare to experience your share of failure and expect that burden to be greater than most careers. Unless you are lucky enough to have had tremendous foresight to attend one of the few schools with programs dedicated to teach how to create comics, you are on your own.
The list of schools with reputable comic programs is small. It includes,
the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NY,
The Kubert School in NJ,
The Center for Cartoon Studies in VT,
Minneapolis College of Art and Design,
and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
The good news is that if you are attending any other art school or a liberal arts college you can piece together a personalized curriculum that will give you the tools to become a fine comic creator. More than likely you will become one one with an original perspective that is not mottled by preconceived comic industry standards.
Courses to look for:
Drawing: Learn to draw the human figure and inanimate objects, understand perspective, use of light and shade, anatomy and composition.
Illustration: Explore a variety of mediums and techniques for rendering your images. Become proficient in computer programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
Graphic Design: Comics is a graphic medium. A solid understanding of design, color theory, typography and calligraphy is extremely valuable.
Writing: Learn the fundamentals of how to tell a story. The better versed you are in understanding literature and character development the better off you will be.
Film: Understanding visual storytelling is very important to a comic creator. Film and animation may be best subjects you can explore to understand the dynamics necessary for good visual storytelling.
Drama: Every character in your comic is like an actor on a stage and you are responsible for their actions and the rendering of their emotions. Drawing from the expressions you make in a mirror is the easiest way to get immediate reference for your comics.
Journalism: Comics are becoming a major journalistic tool. Understanding the techniques and ethics involved in good journalism will be an asset to a comics career.
Web Design: The internet is the most fertile place to publish comics and reach a mass audience. Learn to develop and market a website and you will have your own forum to produce your own comics with complete control over your work.
Business: Learn and understand how to operate your career as a business. Too many artists and comic creators go into the industry with a lot of talent but no clue how to succeed from a business perspective. Make a point to understand copyright and trademark law. Learn how to write for grants and apply for small business loans.
Everything Else: As a comic creator your job is to express your ideas literally and visually as best you can. The more knowledge you have about as much as possible the more engaging your comic stories will be.
Comics are a unique medium with specific idioms that you will not find in these traditional courses that I’ve briefly outlined. Fortunately, only a search away on the internet, you will find many books on the subject, along with tons of information and tutorials about how to make comics.
Of course the best way to learn to make good comics is to just make comics as much as possible. Make mistakes and learn from them. Share your work and learn from criticism. Practice, practice, practice.
Make comics that you are happy with. Make comics that make you proud. Most of all make comics because you want to. That’s what we at CO2 Comics do and at the end of the day that’s what makes us happy and proud. That may seem like a small measure of success but if you can’t be happy doing what you enjoy and be proud of your work then it is time to start flipping burgers.
Making Comics Because We Want to