Courses for cartoonists

June 19, 2012 in General, News

News of cartoonists in academia is provided below, thanks to Adrian Tooth, leader of the Cartoon and Comics Art degree course at Staffordshire University. Adrian kindly answered questions about his work following a recent article.

Cartoon and Comics Art course at Staffordshire University

Cartoon and Comics Art course at Staffordshire University

Q. Who is interested in and applying for the course?

Applicants who have a very strong interest and skill in cartoon design and character development. At this stage it would be true to say that many are just mimicking a particular genre of comic or cartoon. The one thing fundamental to all of these applicants is their absolute passion for the subject and their very strong ability to draw. Until now there has been a very limited progression route for these students.

The interest has been excellent. Our numbers have been controlled over the past two years … with a cap of 12 per year group … but without this cap we could have recruited double if not triple this number!

Q. How do you draw the distinction between cartoons and the comic arts?

The award is aimed at anyone who has a passion to draw, create images and tell stories. The course allows individuals to develop a range of skills that make them more employable, so these include anything from the one-off political image which you might see in a newspaper, to a three-panel gag seen in magazines, to the full-blown graphic comic.

Cartooning is about mimicking life of characters and comic arts are about developing stories and events.

The course is not about copying other people’s artwork,  but we accept that you can be influenced by a particular style. But we want to develop the individual’s style and make them into something original.

Q. Why is such a categorisation important?

It’s not to me, but I think it allows students to understand what the course is about. People are embarrassed by the word cartoon and comic and try to hide them behind words such as satirical representation, or sequential art. The award has strong links to graphic design, illustration and animation.

Graphic design, because we want people to think and research the work they produce similar to a graphic design artist, and Staffordshire University produces some excellent award-winning graphic designers.

Illustration allows the student to develop their mark-making skills. Who says the only item you can draw a cartoon with is a fine black-tip pen, or a comic has to be such-and-such dimensions?

Animation helps the students to be future-proof and think about their ability to develop ideas and also about how comics will be read in the future. Already students turn up with their tablets and they have access to the internet and YouTube. Comics and cartoons are competing with this and we can’t bury our heads in the sand. Instead we have to embrace it and make it our future home.

You can read basic details of the course here and we will be publishing the second part of Adrian’s answers to our questions during the next fortnight.

5 responses to Courses for cartoonists

  1. These seem good, informed responses

  2. Interesting to get a view from an academic on the arts of cartooning, comics and illustration. We cartoonists readily fight over what defines each, given a heated room and a campari or two. We never reach a satisfactory conclusion. 

    One particularly interesting view from the “outside” (that is, not a professional cartoonist’s view) is that “People are embarrassed by the word cartoon and comic and try to hide them behind words or saying such as satirical representation, or sequential art“. If that’s so, then it’s no surprise cartoon at is treated disdainfully by the art establishment in the UK. I guess it doesn’t surprise me, but it’s painful to see it in black and white. The question remains; “Why?”
  3. It seems to be a British problem: in the rest of Europe, we’re taken a lot more seriously – if that’s the word I want…

  4. This is an old,old tune we bang out constantly. If it makes you laugh, its not art. Shrigley’s proved that not to be the case. I don’t mean the obscure rubbish favoured by the Guardian edgies, but his [just closed] exhibition at the Hayward. I’m convinced that there IS a route somewhere whereby reactive gag cartoonists can adequately compliment exhibitions of all sorts – contemporary or otherwise. But curators have to see the gags before that can happen. We know that [as far as the Hayward’s concerned at least] it doesn’t work the other way round . “Serious” artists can’t do cartoons. Shrigley and Banksy are regarded as serious artists.

  5. It’s worth remembering that sequential art/illustration doesn’t just cover graphic novels (a term which comics hide behind these days!), but picture books for an entirely different market, so it’s not necessarily because students are embarrassed about ‘cartooning’.

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