Monday, October 12, 2015

"In the footsteps of Superman"/ "An education that sparkles"

This is on my
May 28  "In the footsteps of Superman": I cut out this article by Marlene Habib in the Globe and Mail on Nov. 10, 2014.  It was under a special section called "Report on Colleges."  It's about studying to be a comic book artist.  Here's the article:

The world is rich with comic book fare, driven by U.S. publishers such as Marvel Comics (Iron Man and the X-Men) and DC Comics (Batman and Superman), and the influential and rapidly growing Japanese manga market.

But comic book “visual storyteller” Ken Steacy aims to put more Canadian artists, writers and cartoonists on the comic book industry map – whether they follow in the footsteps of industry legends such as Toronto-born Joe Shuster, co-creator of Superman, or take a more entrepreneurial route.

Mr. Steacy and his wife, graphic novelist Joan Steacy, developed and founded the Comics and Graphic Novels certificate program at Camosun College, an 18,500-student community college in Victoria.

Camosun bills the Steacys’ eight-month program, which is in its third school year, as “the only one of its kind in the Canadian public postsecondary school system.” Each student pays $10,500 for tuition, fees and supplies, with a focus on drawing, creative writing and publishing for visual storytelling.

Students learn about the history of comics in the United States, Canada, Britain and Japan, but also create their own “cmics magic,” says Mr. Steacy, 59, who has been inducted into the Canadian Comic Book Hall of Fame, which recognizes lifetime achievement in the industry.

“We teach visual storytelling as language composed of words and pictures. Camosun is the ideal home for our program, with their tradition of career-focused skills-based training,” he says. “And we encourage students to tell the story that only you can tell – communicating things in your heart.”

With 17 students enrolled for 2014-15, there have been 31 graduates ranging in age from 19 to late 50s, including Karen Gillmore, an inaugural-year alumnus.

An artist and musician, Ms. Gillmore, who turned 60 this summer, spent a year looking for the right course before enrolling in the Steacys’ program, justifying the cost by saying it would help improve her illustration work.

“I started out not knowing a lot about Canadian comics culture because it’s different than American or Japanese; it’s more creator-oriented,” she says from her Victoria home.

“As the course went on, I said, ‘I’m going to be a comic book artist – I always wanted to tell my own stories as opposed to other people’s stories,’” she adds.

Ms. Gillmore, who moved to Canada from the United States about 20 years ago to be with her husband, just released her first graphic novel. A frequent comic book convention-goer, Ms. Gillmore has also published two comic books of her own.

Besides Camosun’s program, some comic book training is offered at dozens of other postsecondary schools in North America, but they’re usually courses – not programs – that are content driven, Mr. Steacy says.

(Many of the schools are also privately run or don’t just focus on comic books. For instance, Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art and Design in Toronto has a four-year diploma program that covers cartooning and other areas such as animating in 3-D for video games, with tuition running a total of about $45,000.)

Interest in breaking into the comic book and graphic novel industry is partly driven by the massive potential financial rewards.

The North American market for comic books and graphic novels in 2013 was valued at $870-million (U.S.) – $780-million print and $90-million digital. That’s up from $681-million – $680-million print and $1-million digital – in 2009, according to a paper titled The New Comics Customer presented by Milton Griepp, chief executive officer of the Wisconsin-based publishing and consulting company ICv2.

Those figures don’t include the big box office takes from comic-book inspired movies or related sales of memorabilia.

Comic book creators, publishers and fans – who dress up as superheroes, villains and other characters – gather in droves at hundreds of Comic Con conventions around the world annually, including Comic Con expos in New York, Toronto and Medellin, Colombia, CUT and the Victoria Comic Book Expo in B.C., to name just a few.

Since his breakthrough 1974-published Super Student two-page comic strip that he wrote, pencilled, inked and lettered, Mr. Steacy has written and illustrated the adventures of characters including Astro Boy (Osamu Tezuka’s 1950s-originated science fiction series), Harry Potter, Iron Man and those in Star Wars, and has produced his own major print works, including Tempus Fugitive, The Sacred and the Profane, co-authored by Dean Motter, and Night and the Enemy with acclaimed science-fiction author Harlan Ellison, due to be re-released next year.

Among his wife’s works, her autobiographic graphic novel series, Aurora Borealice, deals with her struggles with literacy and how meeting media theorist Marshall McLuhan in art college changed her life.

The couple’s idea for the Camosun program stems from Mr. Steacy’s experience during years teaching workshops and evening courses, and while signing copies of his works at comic conventions. He was commonly asked where one could go to learn the craft – only to have no ready answer because he learned it by practical application, built on a foundation of film and illustration studies at the Ontario College of Art and Design, which is now OCAD University.

Finally, about four years ago, Mr. Steacy was teaching in part of the Change Everything program at Camosun’s continuing education department, when he and his wife pitched the idea of a full comic book program – getting it under way in the 2012-13 school year.

In conjunction with creative writing instructors in the English department, the Steacys work to help students to develop skills in fiction and non-fiction writing, script writing, comic and graphic novel drawings, storytelling layout and character design. Students also gain publishing knowledge to manage their own careers – as their main project, they must each create and publish a 24-page colour comic book, which can be used in a portfolio to show publishers, and potential employers and clients.

Comics are not just as pop culture staples, Mr. Steacy says, but also can be “edutainment” in the form of entertaining and educational resources and manuals. He says that since the 1950s the U.S. Army has been using a comic-book format to train soldiers on the use of equipment. Camosun also helped the B.C. government revamp a food-safety training guide for the service industry by replacing words with cartoon images.

“Of all our students, we’ve had very few who wanted to do mainstream comics,” Mr. Steacy says. “All the rest wanted to do Web comics, graphic novels. … They’re much more interested in the kind of stories they tell and they understand the future – their intellectual property is the currency of the future, and they get that.”

Superheroes, super sales

Comic books are said to have their origins in Japan in the 1700s, but they didn’t gain popularity until the 1930s in the United States with the release of Famous Funnies, a 68-page periodical that sold for 10 cents and became inexpensive entertainment during the Great Depression.

Today, boosted by the widespread popularity of superhero movies and television shows, as well as conventions where fans dress up as their favourite characters and comic-book creators attend signings, the comic book industry is thriving.

September orders of comics and graphic novels by shops in North America were valued at more than $50 million for the second time in three months, according to figures by Diamond Comic Distributors, a Maryland-based distributor of English-language comic books, graphic novels and pop culture-related products.

"An education that sparkles": This is written by Deirdre Kelly also for the Report on Colleges.  It's about jewelry making and I'm interested in it.  Doe anyone remember this Dec. 2012 blog post "jewelry business/ HIT & master list/ credit card sales"?:  

Here's the whole article:

Craft Ontario’s inaugural retail show in Toronto during the Thanksgiving weekend showcased the designs of 15 young jewellers, many of them with their own indie lines of handcrafted pieces made of precious metals.

Many of the participants in Emerging Makers were trained through the community college system, which recently has expanded its offering of jewellery programs to reflect the popularity of the craft.

Among them was Alex Kinsley, a 24-year-old recent graduate of George Brown College’s three-year jewellery design program.

Originally from Hamilton, Mr. Kinsley moved to Toronto in the summer of 2010 to participate in the program. Founded in 1967, it is the longest running and most established program of its kind in Canada, according to the college.

“I choose the community college because it had a really good program for what I wanted, was affordable, and was located in a desirable city,” Mr. Kinsley says.

But it was what he could do in the final year of the program that really sold him: “The ability to design and create something unique fascinated me,” says Mr. Kinsley who now runs his own jewellery company, Kinsley Vey Designs.

Community colleges offering jewellery programs across the country provide training formerly covered by the manufacturing sector through apprenticeships.

When manufacturing in Canada began to decline 15 years ago, the schools enhanced their course offerings, adding design and emphasizing jewellery as not just a profession but as an art, a form of self-expression, according to George Brown.

It’s a sea-change that has increased enrolment in community college jewellery programs across the board, says Paul McClure, a practising goldsmith who is a professor of jewellery studies within George Brown’s Centre for Arts & Design.

“We’ve actually doubled our capacity over the past eight to 10 years in terms of enrolment,” Mr. McClure says.

Mr. McClure says jewellery design is increasingly popular among students who aim to eventually establish their own independent jewellery lines once their training is finished.

Forty per cent of graduates, he adds, will go in this direction. The others will seek employment in the industry, finding work as bench jewellers, gemologists or in customer service.

It’s a valuable education, says Erin Tracy, who 10 years ago launched her own business, Erin Tracy Bridal and Fine Jewellery, in Toronto after studying at the Ontario College of Art and Design (it had become a university by the time she graduated).

“Attending college to learn my trade was beneficial in giving me a realistic view of the working life of a jewellery designer,” Ms. Tracy says.

“I spent our time in class using my hands and exploring the very same materials I use today in my work. I also have maintained relationships with many of the same suppliers I was introduced to during my time in college. Running my business has really been an extension of my time and work during my college years.”

Other schools offering metalsmithing programs and attracting record numbers of students are Vancouver Community College, LaSalle College in Vancouver, Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary, and Georgian College in Barrie, Ont.

Saskatchewan jeweller Jeanie Andronyk, a graduate of the Vancouver Metal Art School, believes jewellery design programs are gaining in popularity as more opportunities for graduates to sell their wares open up across Canada.

“The maker/entrepreneur movement has been building for years with the rise of [the e-commerce site] Etsy, along with craft and trade shows that exhibit handmade products, and a general appreciation for DIY culture,” says Ms. Andronyk, whose Andronyk Jewelry brand is based in Shaunavon, Sask.

George Brown has 170 students enrolled full-time in its jewellery division. That number is growing.

“We are seeing our international student population rising,” Mr. McClure says.
“We now have a 25-per-cent international student body, with students coming as far away as Britain, China, India and other points across east Asia.”

Participants have a choice between a one-year certificate program, a two-year diploma or a three-year advanced degree. The latter involves hands-on experience with established professionals, such as the Toronto luxury jeweller Myles Mindham.

Mindham Fine Jewellery Inc. has mentored six George Brown students since it started working with the college three years ago.

The mentorship program invites third-year students to visit the company’s production shop to review their final projects with regard to the practicality and feasibility of what they have designed. Some go on to be full-time employees, among them Gillian Lee and Vanessa Wray.

The aim, says Mr. Mindham, is to give students “a professional outside opinion of the direction they are taking.”

The mentorship program has been so successful that George Brown is now in the process of developing an internship program that would continue to involve Mr. Mindham.

“It’s no secret that the North American mass production jewellery industry is in contraction, with local manufacturing companies closing over the last decade due to offshore manufacturing’s competitive edge,” Mr. Mindham says.

“But the good news is that the higher-end, more skillfully crafted local goods market is still on the rise. As we have expanded, the need for well trained and skilled people has grown.”

This is good news for Mr. Kinsley, who plans to build on what he learned in college to build his jewellery brand.

“My current status is as a jewellery artist/designer, which is exactly what I was hoping to get out of the program,” he says.

“Going forward, I aim to attend more craft shows and begin a circuit I can do yearly and find more places to take my work, either on consignment or wholesale. I also want to apply to international contemporary craft galleries with my larger, one-of-a-kind pieces.”

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