Self-Master’s Program (SMFA)

Okay, so a lot happened in the last week. 

First though, I didn’t make it clear when I began this blog a few posts ago, that I am putting myself through two full years of a self-master’s program. There are two reasons for this. Price, and value. Yes, they are different. 

The price of a master’s program is too high for me at this point. I had a full scholarship for my entire BFA, but in order to get the grades I desired, I took out full student loans every semester, quitting my day job. I have nearly $50k in debt because I chose to live alone, focus, get awesome grades, and not work. 

The value of my education is related to what exactly my aim is in choosing to master in something. Because I want to master in both writing and sequential art, and because I already have a strong foundation in drawing, I would have to choose a master’s in creative writing. And I’m not about to get into why I think a master’s in creative writing is totally wrong for my endeavor.

The game plan for Year One of my self-study program is to learn from comics that are already out there, by deconstructing them, both visually and textually.

Now, onto that first meeting with myself…

Thursday, April 30th was my first meeting with my two selves. I named the illustrator “Sal,” short for Salina, and the writer “Sol,” short for Solution. I gave them emails. I introduced myself as the director, and that I would only be present as a third person for one hour a week, during the meetings, to give assignments and to facilitate dialog between the two. 

The day before the meeting, I was actually checking out a local comic shop. I was on a serious budget, so I went straight to the sale rack, and picked four items that seemed good for study. One was a graphic novel that I chose because it was written by someone I’ve heard great things about (Mike Carey), “My Faith in Frankie.” One was a graphic novel prequel, “The Surrogates: Flesh and Bone.” And two more were serials, bound in volumes. They were “Lucifer: Evensong (Vol. 11)” (being interested in the work of Mike Carey and Peter Gross) and “Fables: Legends in Exile (Vol. 1)” (because I’ve heard so much about it).

I assigned Sal the following tasks for the next meeting:

- Go through The Surrogates, Lucifer and Fables and take note of the use of value throughout each one, and how the lighting affects the visual mood. Do not take note of color use at this point. Only study and analyze value, contrast and lighting. Imagine everything in black and white. 

- Take note of different inking styles, jotting down which ones you love and which ones you really do not love. Nothing in between.

- Identify how the pages are laid out, how the boxes fall together on a page, and when and why vertical, horizontal, or full pages are used… and anything in between. Study the boxes (frames?) and their relation to one another. 

- Do not read anything. You are not Sol. Study only the visuals, as stated above.

- Trace 15 different examples of perspective. Choose challenging compositions. Tracing them will help get your hand ready for creating the illusion of space. In at least half of these examples, find and draw the perspective guide lines. Identify if they are 1, 2 or 3-point perspective drawings.

I assigned Sol the following tasks for the next meeting:

- Read “My Faith In Frankie” and take extensive notes on the plot, character development, timeline structure, and anything else that you can decipher about the writing.

- Create an outline afterwards, of how the story is composed, breaking down the chapters and scenes and even the boxes (frames).

- Take note of any dialog, narrative, or other types of writing that you either really love or you really do not love. Nothing in between.

- Brainstorm how we can accomplish writing Part One of our graphic webnovel and have it drawn out and ready for consumption by October. Is this possible? Can we accomplish Part One in 40 pages? 

…….

While I was at the comic shop, I ran into the owner, who informed me that he runs a comic expo in town every year. After some brief chatting, he asked if I could have something ready by October 24th, for the expo. 

I’m just hoping that there’s a good printer in town. It’d be nice to have more than something online to show… it’d be nice to sell some physical stuff. 

So I guess this first year just made its own syllabus. *gulp*

At this point, Sol is finished with her assignment and Sal is beginning hers. Their next meeting is a few days from now, on Monday. And btw, Sol’s assignment was to deconstruct the graphic novel, in order to study it. Guess what? It was written by Carey in a deconstruction style. I swear I had no idea! It was on the sale rack and had a cute cover! Serendipity?? It even made mention of Derrida!

This is crazy! And EXACTLY why you should try a self-master’s study program. Cheaper, and it allows for following your intuition. Hell yes.