School of Art Thesis: Graphic Novel

“Passages”
Final Thesis for School of Art, University of Manitoba

I’ve recently been looking back at some of my older work. Presented here (and as a new gallery) is my final project in my last year of Fine Arts at the University of Manitoba. Passages was an idea I had been toying with for a number of years (like the Books of Era). This world was especially influenced by mythology and magic in the modern world. Inspirations include Hellboy, The Sandman, and Dave McKeen. It was my world where I explored topics to angels, demons, magic and how it fits in a modern world. I tried to understand my own beliefs about the supernatural and the unknown. The main character, Aaron Tazarien, is also searching the supernatural world for his place in it. He encounters a temptress, a rival sorcerer and an Adversary, who may or may not have been the Devil.

The School of Art was great for many things, as it exposed me to new ideas and the very nature of the programs allowed for and encouraged experimentation, as opposed to a technical school, where there is more of a focus on technical skills. Fine Arts of course taught practical skills as well, but there was a greater focus on the theory of art, the ideas behind the art. It was not a program you took if you wanted a job in the end. Sure, many have found jobs outside of Fine Arts, but it isn’t like an advertising course at some community colleges where the purpose of the course is train you for a job in the end. I now wonder how many of my peers actually still pursue their art afterwards, or made a career of it?

However, while the School of Art may seem like a utopia of free spirited visual trailblazers, where all ideas are treated equally, it too had ingrained biases, and elitism. It was not really palace that encouraged comics, not as much as painting, sculpture, ceramics and performance art. Out of maybe nine or so people that entered that we’re interested in comics (when I entered the school), I think only two or three actually made it to the end. Perhaps they just weren’t dedicated enough, or not skilled enough, but comics (as well as established programs, like Graphic Design) had to fight for acceptance and a place within the school. And if you wanted to do anything mainstream like Batman, (without a satirical, editorial twist/social commentary) then you were now that poor misunderstood outcast among outcasts.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Fine Arts, and I would still encourage it to this day (though I’ve heard of some radical changes since my time there…I have an impression of even less of a place for comics. Though, Scott A Ford, who self published Romulus + Remus, is an exception). Two of my professors from there I still try to keep in contact with.

On a technical level, I think I’ve significantly improved since working on Passages. I would never do lettering by hand (at the time I had an aversion to using the computers for art, it had to be done by hand….poor, foolish me!). I’m not one for the rough, less defines line art. These were done about 13-14 years ago, so I sincerely hope I would have improved in that time.

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