Majoring in Comics: The BFA degree in Sequential Art

--> This page exists as an informal introduction to the Sequential Art major of the Savannah College of Art and Design's Atlanta campus (where I teach) and is an extension of the Frequently Asked Questions page on my website, croganadventures.comIt is in no way affiliated with the school itself, and is merely a means by which to explain the details of the program as I see them to the folks who have asked about it.  If you are looking for the official SCAD website's information on its Sequential Art program, please click here, and you will be redirected.

SCAD is an accredited four-year college, so you’ll be taking lots of non-comics related courses: English, Sociology, Public Speaking, Science, all the things you need to make you a well-rounded individual.  It’s a bit light on the literature (0) and heavy on the art history (5) requirements for anyone studying to be a visual storyteller, but you have plenty of opportunities to take Lit electives from a couple of incredibly talented English professors should you wish to do so.  So this is by no means a full list of the catalog requirements, just a breakdown of the SEQA major courses.
SEQA 100: Introduction to Sequential Art
This is comics boot camp.  We cover a little of everything in here, and do so as early in your academic career as possible.  That way, you’ll be able to build on your entire skill set as you go along.  Our textbook is Scott McCloud’s Making Comics.  It’s the industry standard, and although there are a lot of great books out there on the subject, it’s the most accessible place to start.  If you’re interested in pursuing this field of study, I’d suggest reading it on your own.
DRAW 206: Drawing for Storyboarding
Though the end goal of this class is to be able to storyboard (a valuable skill with which to supplement one’s income during his or her education), the purpose of it so far as the curriculum goes is to teach you the fundamentals of perspective and figure placement in an environment.
SEQA 202: Drawing for Sequential Art
Whereas Drawing for Storyboarding teaches you perspective and some of the more technical aspects of drawing, Drawing for Sequential focuses primarily on anatomy, teaching you how to draw the human figure, how to understand it academically, and how to translate that understanding into being able to draw believable and lively figures from your imagination.  Lots of emphasis on gesture drawing, life drawing, and composition.
SEQA 205: Survey of Sequential Art
Comics history.  You’d be amazed by how much great work has been done that you may have never heard of, and how much of it will inspire your own.
SEQA 215: Materials and Techniques for Sequential Art
This course teaches you the many tools you’ll need as a cartoonist – pencils, pens, quills, brushes, and Cintiqs – as well as how to use them.  You’ll run through a ton of different production methods – both traditional and digital (using programs like Sketchup and Manga Studio).  By forcing yourself to try everything, you’ll find what works best for your personal style, rather than doing what’s comfortable for you but which might be preventing you from reaching your potential.
SEQA 224: Character Design and Storyboarding for Animation
This is one of a number of classes that, while certainly applicable to comics, are geared towards preparing you for work on the preproduction side of animation and film, the sort of stuff you see in those “Art of” books that Disney, Dreamworks, and Pixar put out whenever they do an animated feature.  In this class we learn how to design characters that not only work logistically, are unique, and are visually arresting, but which also serve first and foremost as storytelling tools.  We also learn the fundamentals of storyboarding for animation.  If you’re trying to convince your parents that you CAN find a job doing comics, this is the job that is the easiest for non-comics people to wrap their heads around.  Many of the development people at the big animation studios are, or were comic artists.
SEQA 244: Comic Book Scripting
This course teaches you basic narrative structure and literary theory as it applies to storytelling.  We focus mostly on short-form work, as it’s through doing shorter pieces that you refine your skills and prove your mettle to potential employers and publishers.
SEQA 277: Digital Coloring and Lettering Applications for Comics
This course teaches you how to color comics digitally – not only the technical side, but how to really draw with color and how to use color as a storytelling element.  You also learn digital lettering.  Bad lettering is the easiest way for an editor to spot amateurish work, and this course will help you avoid that stumbling block.
SEQA 325: Environments, Props, and Structures
This course is kind of like character design, but for everything that’s not a character.  Again, making sure that absolutely everything helps to make the story as efficient and captivating as possible is the goal.  This course also teaches you how to do the research necessary for just about any project that one hopes to undertake.
SEQA 382: Visual Storytelling 1
The first of the gauntlet classes.  This class chews you up and spits you out.  It’s about approaching the page formally, learning how to guide the reader through the page and controlling every aspect of that reading experience.  This is the class where everything you’ve learned is synthesized into one art form.
SEQA 405: Visual Storytelling 2
Just like Visual Storytelling 1, only a lot more intense.  This is the class where you become whatever the comics equivalent of a Navy Seal is.  It’s brutal, and you come out really knowing your business.
SEQA 410: Sequential Art Senior Project
In addition to all the businessy stuff (getting your web site up and going, understanding contracts and taxes, convention stuff, all that jazz), this is the course where you take the first real step towards your chosen career (if, that is, you’re not already working professionally well before you graduate, which is our goal).  You want to do a graphic novel?  This is the class where you put together your pitch.  You want to work as a production artist for games?  This is where you build your portfolio.  That sort of thing.
You also have six electives.  Three of these have to be SEQA classes, and there are plenty to choose from: Animal Anatomy, Conceptual Illustration, Mini-Comics, Web-Comics, Advanced Writing, Inking, or Storyboarding classes… you can see the whole shebang on the SCAD catalog site.  The other three COULD be SEQA classes, but since they can be anything, we recommend that you broaden your horizons.  Take an Action Analysis class in the animation department.  Take a Watercolor class in the illustration department.  Take a Genre Fiction class in the English Department.  The entire catalog is your proverbial oyster.
The BFA program is rigorous, and rewarding.  If you’re driven and serious about becoming a comic artist, we will do our darndest to ensure that this is the best means by which you can reach that end.  We bring in editors to meet you and see your stuff, we bring in artists to do workshops and networking, and we help you with your personal projects.  But whether you succeed is entirely up to you.  Being an artist means putting in two or three times as many hours as someone with a “regular” job, often for much less money.  The program reflects this.  You will have assignments that take tons of time on top of the personal and professional projects that we encourage you to undertake.  But if this is what you want to do, I genuinely believe that this program will help you more than anything else.