The first semester in my MFA 1 year has almost wound down to the end and we are into the final crit weeks with the hustle and bustle and "go for throttle up" at the "House that Eakins Built." Not enough sleep, a lot of coffee and the usual rush-rush drill is on and everybody seems a mix of worry and anticipation for the holiday break. On top of that and having my research presentation to give in my Writing Seminar, my regular teaching gigs at PAFA and Uarts-- I was a guest lecturer in the Comics Writing class my good buddy Jamar Nicholas teaches over at Drexel University.
I gave a talk to the class and then did a live demo of laying out pages from two of the students scripts in class so they could watch live the creative process of an artist taking their script and turning it into an actual comic page. I think this was a unqiue opportunity to watch and openly discuss the most important stage in the comic process--the turning of something like a script-which is still very open to interpretation and turning it into something concrete like a comic page. This also gave the students feed back on what an artists needs or wants from a writer, the things that must to be in the script and how often something in a script has to be re-interpreted to work as a comic because of the needs of the medium. It was a lot of fun and the stories were good and different, one being about a bunch of monsters as roomates and the other about a family dealing with a storm approaching, so one more comedic and one more realistic. I discused ideas about staging for humor vs staging for drama, how much dialougue is needed. Do you need to say everything you show and how you can condense information to save space. The couple of hours flew by quick! They had a video rig set up so I could draw and talk and the students could watch the drawings happen---like magic!
In my drawing seminar I missed the previous week due to getting the latest issue of Draw! out of the house and into layout and catching up on Judge Parker, but I got the info on what the homework assignment was. The assignment was to make an alphabet of marks and then use them to make a drawing. You can see my alphabet above and my drawing below. Now to be honest for me this was really easy. I have done this type of thing for a long time now as an artist, working with different pens, brushes etc., in comics, animation and fine art to give a different feel and variety in a drawing. So this wasn't an assignment that pushed me in any new direction. In a way this drawing gave me the feeling of doing the type of illustration you'd see in an old Reader's Digest magazine. Often the artists would work with all kinds of papers, pencils, inks to make a drawing that had a great variety and vitality of line and color. It was fun to do and maybe a bit redundant for me, but I always try and do a good piece of work no matter what--why rob myself of an opportunity to do a good drawing, challenge myself there if nothing else, and to have some fun. Again--that FUN word, something tossed out of ART school too often.
Its interesting to see what my fellow classmates do with the same assignment. In a way I question if we should have any assignments at all or just bring in our work, or all do the same drawing assignment that happens over a long period of time to discuss the difference in the process. In an undergrade class you have homework, like drawing a self portrait, etc., and they are often to show the skills learned and hopefully honed week-bye-week. But in an MFA program how does this apply? I know some students want some skill based learning and others just want concept based or idea based classes. You sooooo often hear" skill without some serious content is masturbation", that is even more an opinion in an MFA program, art schools in general-- the endless discussion between differing "schools of philosophy" on what a drawing is. What merrits content, my content says your content is shit. My content can kick your content's ass. The modernists vs the traditionalist. The Mark makers. Marks as a mechanism or process to transport the viewer into the work. I am not a mark maker in that way and for me a bunch of marks don't excite me at all, so a lot of what the modernists call drawings I just don't engage with.
In my Writing Seminar it was our second week of presentations on our research subjects. The presentations were pretty varied and I know some were a bit nervous about giving them. Thinking back now I was unhappy with mine I think because I was pretty tired. I did my presentation of the Russian Social realists and Norman Rockwell- how they painted similar subjects and themes -- Captilaism vs Communism, the fact that artists are always in service of the client or the patron and what they will allow you to show or paint. Several of my classmates came up and gave me some props after my presentation which was nice and Dr. Richards gave me some good feedback and banged me on some historical point that I will fix in my final paper. I felt I was not up to my A game, but that's the way it goes, head down and press on.