The number of colleges and universities teaching comic books as a profession is blossoming, and one of the most preeminent programs is with the Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD). Their Sequential Art program is available at three campuses - Savannah, Georgia; Atlanta, Georgia; and Hong Kong - and features notable instructors and alumni.
Cartoonist Pat Quinn is in charge of SCAD-Atlanta's Sequential Art program. As Associate Chair, he mentors students, teaches classes, and participates in various outreach programs to communicate the opportunities at the college as well as bring real-life industry experience to his students to learn.
Newsarama spoke to Quinn following the annual Editor's Day event, in which editors from the leading comic book publishers come on campus for 1-on-1 interaction and portfolio reviews with students.
Newsarama: Pat, tell us what you do at SCAD.
Patrick Quinn: I help to organize the day-to-day functions of the Sequential Art department on SCAD’s Atlanta campus, which means doing all the “desk job” items that implies. The most important part of that is trying to create a positive engaging environment, alongside faculty, for talented students to create their dream careers of working in comics, storyboarding, concept art or other fields. I also teach a handful of classes each quarter.
Nrama: How'd you end up teaching comics at a college level like this?
Quinn: My undergrad degree is in Art Education, which was suggested by mom, who was an elementary school art teacher when I was really young. When I finished my undergrad degree and tried to break into comics, I discovered that I was terrible at comics and had no idea how to get where I needed to be. I spent about five years teaching myself and going through the “school of hard-knocks” while being a substitute teacher in public schools. That allowed me the flexibility to make money, but also hone my craft and make time to go to cons.
Eventually my friend Shawn Crystal told me about SCAD’s MFA degree program, and I just thought it was an amazing opportunity to earn an advanced degree and have the chance to teach at the college level.
Nrama: Can you tell us what your specific program there offers?
Quinn: The curriculum that our department offers is the same on every campus and we have comparable tools everywhere.
In a nutshell, every student has to go through Foundations courses which teach them basic drawing and design skills, then when they enter the major where each class takes them through different aspects of creating comics. Students can use electives to explore related career paths or do a deeper dive into a specific area. Our aim is teach students how to be the complete cartoonist, but also allow them to specialize in an area of production if that is their goal.
In Atlanta, the vibe is a little different from Savannah. A lot of which is due to the location, naturally. Because of the location we have access to different types of employers and artists.
Over the years we’ve been fortunate to have amazing faculty like Shawn, Chris Schweizer, Jackie Lewis, Nolan Woodard, and we currently have Chris Staros, June Brigman and Chris Brunner…which is awesome.
Nrama: Who would you say are the notable graduates since you've been there?
Quinn: Dominike “Domo” Stanton, Irene Strychalski, Cara McGee, Chris Schweizer, Doug Dabbs, Jackie Lewis, Wook Jin Hunter Clark (Savannah and Atlanta), Justin Wagner (Savannah and Atlanta), Chris Brunner, Julie Godwin, Falynn Koch (Savannah and Atlanta), Emmett Helen, Clara Meath, Sage Coffey, Liz Enright, Em Erdman …that’s just Atlanta and I know that I’m missing a bunch. Should I keep going?
Nrama: [Laughs] Like a proud papa, it seems…
Quinn: There are a lot of rock stars in the industry that graduated from Savannah over the years too like Jarrett Williams, Kevin, Burkhalter, Nick Dragotta, Nick Filardi, Matt Wilson, Tradd Moore and tons more.
These days you can’t go to a comic convention without running into someone that went to SCAD. Keep an eye out for the next wave, people like Anderson Carman, Hannah Schroy, Rae Ramoutar, Kevin, Lennertz, Hank Jones, Darrin Chavis, Julia Hagerty, Salem Powell, Brittani Andrews, Steph Pai, Aaron Tucker, Mittie Paul, Cullen Gardepe, Nancy Olivo, Jorge Santiago Jr., Max Currie, Liz Enright, and waaay more…I can keep going…
Nrama: And what do you feel now is the strengths of a SCAD education in sequential art?
Quinn: Well, there’s definitely a lot of the same camaraderie as I just mentioned, with the current students, which is great. We’ve also expanded our professional networks, we continue to offer events like Comic Art Forum where we bring in pros for workshops and portfolio reviews, we still have Editor’s Day where we bring in editors from comics publishers for portfolio reviews, but most importantly we’ve continued to keep up with the industry – integrating new software and hardware, considering different approaches to comics formats based on platforms, promotion via social media and integrating more business oriented components to the courses. It’s about exploring the medium, honing craft and understanding the business.
Nrama: Bringing it full circle, you yourself are a graduate of SCAD. What did the program do for you as someone wanting to draw comics?
Quinn: I went for the MFA program which is about two years, plus or minus. I looked at that period of time as a way to make comics full-time, so that’s all I did. I was also fortunate to have great peers like Shawn Crystal, Lafe Smith, Elio Guevara, John Lowe, Ray Goto, Jay Potts, Anthony Summey, Phil Craven and a lot more. When you have peers like that, all you do is spend time pushing each other to be better and better at what you do…but mostly you push yourself, ‘cause you don’t want to look like you’re slacking…That’s one of the greatest things about this type of program; finding your community of peers.
The faculty (at the time), James Sturm, Durwin Talon, Mark Kneece, also opened my eyes to really consider how I work, the choices I make in the work and even introducing me to things like Photoshop…remember this was ’99-’01.
Like all the other students from then and now, I was also able to meet many professional creators, editors and publishers. That was especially beneficial since I was going to conventions before and during that time in Savannah.
Even being able to spend time with Lee Loughridge at Zylonol when he was in Savannah was an incredible asset.
Nrama: The 2017-2018 year has wound down. What did you students do in the final months of the school year?
Quinn: Aside from trying not to freak out? Just kidding…For the seniors and grad students that are finishing up, they are really just buckling down and trying to crank out the best work that they can moving forward as well as continuing to develop their brand identities. Our Editor’s Day is usually in spring and our campus hosts another event called “Out To Launch” which is like a senior showcase and employers are invited from all over the United States to see the students. So, there’s a lot of excitement right at the end of the year.
Nrama: We came to know each other through your predecessor, Shawn Crystal, and I took part in an annual editor's day you had with industry editors who hire creators and- well, me. What kind of interaction to you give your students with working comic artists?
Quinn: SCAD is known for connecting students and professionals on a regular basis. If we can’t bring them to campus then we set up some video chats so students can gain insights from other pros. I’ve had my classes speak with comics pros like Walden Wong and Jai Nitz as well as people that can speak to working in two worlds like Ben Raab who does comics and television.
We also encourage out students to participate in conventions as early as possible so they get to know more pros and see more of the industry. Which was one of the reasons that you were at that event, so students can get insights from other people within the industry and see other job opportunities in the industry.
Nrama: If someone is interested in the SCAD sequential art program, is there a way they can get a hands-on experience of what it’s like?
Quinn: Yes, SCAD has two different summer programs for high school students, the Summer Seminars and the Rising Star programs. We also have Information Sessions all over the country and host SCAD Days (an open house) on every campus. All of which can be found at scad.edu.