The kids are all right: SVA’s pre-college intensive

I just finished co-teaching a three-week class at the School of Visual Arts. It’s a pre-college intensive summer course in cartooning offered through the SVA admissions department and designed by long-time SVA instructor Keith Mayerson, who is also one of the two primary “homeroom” teachers. The other was Tom Hart. There were two more teachers in addition to me: Lauren Weinstein, who specialized in figure drawing, and another woman whom I never met who taught drawing on location. On top of that we had an able assistant in Sally Cantirino, herself a graduate of this program from years ago. My job was to teach “topics in cartooning”–the language of comics on the one hand; tools and techniques on the other.

Students hanging their original pages

Tom Hart and Lauren Weinstein survey the finished comics

What’s remarkable and rewarding (for teachers as well as students, I think) about this class is how ambitious it is: the kids (ranging from 14 to 17 in age) meet from 9-4PM every weekday and write, pencil and ink a 10-page comic in a little over two weeks’ time. The last few days are spent copying and collating all the comics into a master copy which is printed as a limited edition anthology, then mounting all the originals on the walls for a parents’ reception on the last day. Keith designed it this way deliberately operating under the assumption that the kids, not knowing what a huge task is being given to them, will find a way to finish their comics AND make them excellent. Like throwing them into the deep end. (A student sighed to me one afternoon, “Today I’ve only penciled, lettered, and inked one page, is that good enough?” Kid, if you can keep that up you’re already a pro! ) And it turns out Keith’s right: virtually all 25 kids finished their comics (well, two kids did only pencils and one kid only made it to 8 pages because his punk band had an out of town gig).

Keith Mayerson oversees installation of the art show

On the last day, after installing the show salon-style in a classroom and after the printed books have arrived, Keith has every student read their story outloud while the rest of the kids read along in the book. This is followed by student comments and a few words from us teachers. I was a little skeptical of this idea but it proved to be a blast. Many of the kids did inspired readings of their work and all the students enjoyed seeing all the finished stories and commenting on stuff they liked.

reading through students' finished comics

You’ll find a few more observations and photos in a recent Twitter feed roundup.

There is also a school year version of this course that is less intensive and taught primarily by Lauren Weinstein. you can find out more information about it here.

Finally/Coming soon: on the second to last day, Lauren and I dreamed up an exellent activity which I will blog here shortly: an improvised comic using two live models.


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