Training for comic artists

‘Wondergirlie’, a scene from the magazine ‘Triebwerk’ by the Kassel School of Art
 © Kunsthochschule Kassel "Art is beautiful, but a lot of work", said one of the most famous German comic artists, Karl Valentin (1882–1948). This statement is especially true for the comics industry in Germany, because there is no special training programme for comic artists, nor can much money be made from this art.

The working day of a comic artist is stressful above all else. Many artists earn a living as graphic designers or illustrators. They create their comic stories in their spare time. For this reason, comic artists often work ten to twelve hour days, even at weekends. As freelancers, artists must insure themselves and take high financial risks. And although recent years have seen a rise in the number of publishers willing to risk taking on unusual projects and unknown authors, finding a publishing house takes a lot of effort.

Indirect training

The career path of a comic artist is often indirect. However, studying graphic design or illustration at a college, school of art or university is definitely helpful. Most schools of art have strict entry requirements: a portfolio with 30 to 40 samples of work must be submitted and there is also a practical aptitude test. Very often, tuition fees have to be paid for artistic courses of studies. Most colleges specialise in certain areas.

Comic illustrators at work © Colourbox

Kassel School of Art

The Kassel School of Art focuses heavily on illustration and the art of comics within its visual communication department. The comic artist Hendrik Dorgathen who teaches there considers comics to be the ideal medium for preparing for the present state of multimedia with internet, film, animation and computer games. The students' involvement with elements of comics such as typography, layout, timing, light, drawing and character development prepares them for working with these media too.

University of Applied Sciences, Hamburg – Academy of Design

‘Two Fast Colour’, magazine by the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences © HAW Hamburg The Academy of Design in Hamburg also offers a course in illustration in its design department. Over six semesters, the students here learn to develop storyboards for adverts, film animations and illustrations for the advertising industry. Comics and picture books is also part of the curriculum. The main aim of doing so is that the students develop their 'own artistic style'.

Hamburg University for Applied Sciences

The Hamburg University for Applied Sciences offers in his Department of Design the degree programme Illustration. Under the instruction of comic artist and professor Anke Feuchtenberger they learn about the theoretic and practical aspects of illustration and also practice techniques like silkscreen printing, lithography and digital animation.

The HfG Offenbach (Offenbach Academy of Art and Design)

At the HfG Offenbach, students are given practical and theoretical instruction in the 'Visual Communication' department. The course includes painting and drawing, film, photography and internet as well as scenery and costume design. The theory subjects teach the basics of media sociology and perception theory, typography and composition. Students work with paper in the workshops and learn the art of printing.

Augsburg University of Applied Sciences

Augsburg University of Applied Sciences offers students in the design faculty bachelor's degrees in 'Communication Design'. According to the university, the course appeals to students who want to work in the advertising or media industries as well as to future comic artists. The artist Mike Loos teaches here, among others. Students are taught theoretical basics in design history and law as well as practical and technical knowledge in layout or animation software. The course also includes a placement semester.

Scene from ‘Strichnin’, a magazine by the Augsburg University of Applied Sciences © FH Augsburg

Georg Simon Ohm University of Applied Sciences, Nuremberg

The Georg Simon Ohm University of Applied Sciences in Nuremberg offers a BA course in Design. During the orientation phase, the students initially study a variety of modules, including 'Film & animation', 'Graphic design', 'Typography' and 'Illustration'. They can then specialise and gain practical experience with their own design projects during the main part of the course.

Erlangen International Comic Salon

The Erlangen International Comic Salon offers training for comic artists. Around twenty people can take part in the seminar, which takes place once a year and is designed for comic artists with some experience. The participants work on their specific comic strips with help from professional comic artists from around the world, in 2014 for example Barbara Yelin and Mawil. The best work from the seminar is then presented at the Salon in Erlangen.
Rieke C. Harmsen
is an art historian and editor of the Evangelischer Pressedienst (epd) news agency in Munich.

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
October 2009
(updated: September 2014)
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