Published: 23rd October 2017
Wanna read comic books all day long? This latest course at a UK-university will allow you to do just that
Here is a college that gives you a degree in comics. Enough said. Here's what the minds behind the new course tell you about its pros and cons
Do you remember getting chucked out of class for reading comic books during school hours? Comics were always considered as entertainment — inappropriate in a classroom. But hey! This is 2017 and we’ve come a long way. Now, you can sign up for the BA (Hons) programme in Comic and Concept Art at Leeds Art University, UK. Not just that, the course opens doors to several unexplored careers that will pay you to illustrate your favourite comic characters. Excited much? We caught up with one of the faculty members, Prof Fred Bates, to find out more about the course that will be launched in September 2018. Excerpts:
What’s the inspiration behind this course?
The idea for the course is developed from a combination of student demand for a specialist programme of study and an identified need within the creative industries.
Drawing the future: The graduates with specialist skills in pre-production visualisation, character development and sequential illustration can use the application across a range of disciplines
Can you break the dynamics of the course down for us?
Over three years, students will focus on developing high-level practical and technical skills, underpinned by an investigation of theoretical content, critical skills and the development of a professional understanding of comic and concept art. The first year will focus on developing existing visual skills as well as a practical understanding of the principles of sequential illustration, character development and concept visualisation. The second year will focus on increasingly specialist and industry-standard skills in traditional/digital production and distribution. The third year will encourage students to focus on their chosen area of specialism in order to work individually and collaboratively on live projects, competition briefs and work-based learning.
The course is studio-focused and develops an individual understanding of collaborative practices. Lectures, seminars, and studio and resource-based workshops are supported by group critiques and individual/group tutorials. Curriculum delivery provides a dynamic and student-focused learning environment that supports an increasingly independent development of professional skills and practices
Prof Fred Bates, one of the faculty members
What are the biggest challenges in drafting a course like this?
Providing a curriculum that effectively prepares graduates for careers in the industry, whilst encouraging innovation and risk-taking in order to move the profession into new territories, is a constant challenge in creative degrees. Ensuring that the curriculum capitalises on the strengths of the highly successful BA (Hons) Illustration course, but creating a distinct and unique identity, is another challenge.
How many students is this course expected to attract?
The target intake is 55 students per year. This will provide a year group that is small enough to maintain focus on individual development, whilst offering a breadth of input from students and tutors.
What are the employability opportunities?
All the degrees in Design Directorate enjoy high levels of student progression into creative careers across a range of roles within the creative industries. Also, the course is being developed with the involvement of a number of professional practitioners, production houses and industrial links.
Students and employers expect a high level of specialist technical skills, knowledge and understanding and a level of professional knowledge and experience. The embedding of work-based learning, live projects and competition briefs is becoming increasingly significant in developing the effective course
What comic references are you planning to take for the course?
The course includes all aspects of the comic genre. We are privileged to have Mike Mignola (Hellboy), Babs Tarr (Batgirl) and Cameron Stewart (Batman: The Dark Knight) as visiting speakers over the past two years. We have strong links with Thought Bubble and London Comic Arts Fair, both of which provide access to a broad international platform of independent comic artists as well as lead artists for Marvel and DC. The course encourages students to identify and develop their own references and influences from the breadth of international comic art.
What is the relevance of the course in a country like India, which by the way has its own set of superheroes?
All countries and cultures tell stories through images; they have their own heroes and villains, cultural reference points, mythologies and narratives. Wherever they exist, there will be people who will want to bring these stories to life. Our graduates will be able to work as storyboard artists, concept visualisers and character developers. Using drawing and image-making to communicate concepts, ideas and narratives is a global language with an international relevance.
The structure and delivery of the curriculum ensure that students are at the centre of the learning process; they will shape the course as much as we do. The specialist nature of the course means that we focus on the specialist skills, knowledge and understanding necessary to sustain a successful career from day one
Prof Fred Bates, one of the faculty members
And what about the social relevance of the course?
To be an effective visual communicator, you need to understand the historical, social, cultural, political and ethical context of your practice. You need to be aware of the impact your work will have on visual culture and the way people see their world. Being responsible for what you say…to whom…and why is a central question of the course. All degrees at Leeds Arts University encourage students to explore, understand and potentially challenge social and cultural perceptions. We embrace, support and celebrate social responsibility and cultural diversity. The work our students produce makes a difference.