Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Summer Sessions: Vorspiel

Bright-eyed & bushy-tailed morning, how many times can someone possibly loop the prelude to Das Rheingold? I never get sick of it, or Beethoven's Symphony No. 6 "Pastorale." And any morning's off to a great start when I remember to grind the beans the night before, and preload the Mr. Coffee; so with a flick the switch on the way to the outhouse, by the time I get back to the cabin it's filled with aroma, sound and the sight of dawn filtered through the cradle of birch trees. Details that I'm sure are interesting (sometimes it's the little things).

Major investment in time & energy overhauling syllabi + schedules for the new studio classes: a stacked Beginning/Intermediate/Advanced Drawing from 2-5pm, followed by the 5th year of Cartooning & Comic Art, offered at both Beginning and Advanced levels.

I've added a new topic label to accommodate the expanded content I aim to post over the duration of the next six weeks. What with 10+ hours/5 days a week up at the department. it'll mean some infrequent blogging (probably weekends only), but the goal is to present the material for this class and document the experience in much the same way as last semester's Beginning Drawing course. I'll toss in some freelance projects, regular Nuggets + editorial panels plus the occasional gig - the din in the background never fades and the work never stops nomatter how crazy things get.

One nice difference this summer is having an actual office where I can hold open hours on Fridays for individuals wanting input and more assistance with their projects, along with serving as storage so I won't have to haul everything back & forth to school like I usually do. That's almost as much of a relief as having a place to hide out and get some of my own work done, in-between duties. Suspiciously enough there is a steadily growing pile of graphic novels on the table in my adopted office, and one of my long-held dreams is finally being fulfilled with taping up miscellaneous cartoons about art on the door. Now I feel like an official instructor.
Another difference is the slight increase in registered Advanced level students in both classes, which translated into both opening up room for waitlisted Beginners, as these folks can be given considerably more flexibility and independence (i.e. enough rope to hang themselves) and not require as much hands-on work as the others. This in turn meant I had to spend a bit more time than usual outlining clear and specific expectations and guidelines to hand out before setting them off on auto-pilot.

Over twelve hours of prepping the day before first class yielded revised and updated schedules, assignments, critiques, handouts, lectures + accompanying images (over 1,500 burned). Huge bags of books for show and tell, two additional portfolios of samples, a case of folders with neatly subdivided categories of handouts, a box of demonstration materials, my tacklebox with drawing gear + the usual trusty tote-bag stocked with field-sketching supplies.
If one's state of mind can be ascertained by the state of one's desktop (to say nothing of the physically cluttered reality of the surrounding cabin), then we are definitely in for a wild ride. I suppose it's a somewhat obsessive control issue to pre-load the stress so far in advance, but locking in the dates (ex: booking field-trips and visiting artists) beforehand helps alleviate tail-chasing later, which gets real old real fast. With this schedule, keeping one step ahead is crucial, especially as inevitable speed-bumps will throw off any pretense of order as the session evolves.
Trying not to burn up on re-entry, as we sprint right outta the gate on day one: contrary to the unwritten tradition of the first class being a perfunctory review of paperwork, I hit the ground running with three hour-long-each opening lectures (one for Drawing + two for Cartooning). Plus the first assignments handed out - due in two days, and all the advanced students have until day two to get their contracts and presentations ready, not to mention everyone getting all the required supplies. First impressions and separating wheat from chaff aside, this sends a message that summer sessions isn't 6-weeks cut from a normal semester, it's a full semester's worth of work condensed into 6-weeks. It's also more bang-for-their-buck, since there's only 22 days, and each three-hour class carries that much more content. Flame on... or at least I smell smoke.

Everyone's warned about the pace an the rate at which they'll have to produce work to keep up: every week there's both an assignment and a critique, along with the daily in-class exercises. I like teaching this way, in part because I like learning this way - total immersion. It's so much easier to stay on top of individual students when the week's not broken up like a regular semester; there's four straight days + enough homework over the weekends to maintain velocity, thus the overall result is a better caliber of work. Plus I'd hazard a guess that any student taking a summer class is by default slightly more motivated, or at least that's my hope coupled with experience over the years.
Another sweet-spot this summer session is the brand-new digital copier they scored - never, ever give a cartoonist the code to a copier.

So nice to see some familiar and returning faces; already I'm confident and looking forward to seeing some of the work that'll come out of this group. There's a great spread of talent, which is a totally different groove than a regular semester; mixed classes like these point up the extra-helping of inspiration that can be shared in a classroom setting. A bunch of people with a shared interest is such a trip coming from the perspective of a habitual recluse; I always feel like it's a distinct privilege to play a part in someone's passion and to share what I know.

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