In the world of comics publishing, very few artists write and draw for a living, too few, in fact. But in an effort to train young writers and animators to help fill out this present dearth of product, Pavel Sukhikh will embark on an interesting project at the post-secondary level. Pavel Sukhikh, a Moscow-born animator, comics author, and former magazine editor, will reportedly expand his talent for tutoring young artists to include a broader, semi-formal classroom setting. The Moscow University of Industry and Finance has announced a plan to integrate a new Department of Comics this coming autumn; Sukhikh is the head of the new department. The comics department will fall under the Faculty of Design college, which currently tracks students among bachelor and graduate courses in industrial design, environmental design, and graphic design.
Sukhikh, in a recent interview with the RIA Novosti news agency, admits the concept for the new department/program to be relatively simple: offer a comics masterclass to all who attend. The syllabus is thin with only five tenets -- Storytelling; Character Creation; Direction; Scenario; and Technical Study -- and will reportedly follow the "Western standards" of comics production, however defined
The post-Soviet years of Russian comics feature too few ("non-existent") comics and graphic novelists who pursue their work as a serious profession, he says, which is unfortunate given how recent product is more inclined to be children's entertainment than anything else.
It's time, Sukhikh notes, to pull cartoonists away from their satisfactory jobs in design and advertising and given them something to personal to hold on to.
Growing a substantial base of young and inspired artists is a struggle for several animation markets. Certainly, one program at one university will not solve Russia's problems; however, Sukhikh is certainly on to something. The Department of Comics, scheduled to go live September 2011, will invite professional writers, directors, and animators into the classroom to teach sessions on one or more of the previously noted course tenets. There are plans, for example, to bring in a professional cameraman, to help young artists with framing and composition; plans to bring in acclaimed book artists to help students with cover design, art direction, and overall aesthetics; plans to bring in a pencil art specialist, to show the importance of black-and-white value control/management; and so on. All of the guest speakers are from Russia, for now, Sukhikh says, as it is too early to consider bringing over artists from around the world (however, the new department head does mention a possible exchange program with Italy).
Pavel Sukhikh is a big proponent of the "story first" school of thought, and so plans to spend a great deal of each comics masterclass on story development and character development. How does one create "a beautiful story that will sell well," or characters with evolving habits or traits, or a scene with a visually addictive and indubitably memorable personal style? The first two or three weeks of the program, Sukhikh confidently acknowledges, will largely focus on helping students build a script.
The form of admission, or the test to be administered for admission, has yet to be determined.
Although, as mentioned before, there is no public policy in place to improve the financial mechanisms that might support the animation, comics, or even children's entertainment businesses in Russia, Sukhikh is hopeful that the Department of Comics will at least give young writers and artists the motivation to strike out on their own if need be.
Until then, however, Sukhikh will stay relatively busy, not merely with his own indie works, but also in his ongoing management of KomMissia, an international comics exhibition/festival. KomMissia 2011 just wrapped up, having run in the first two weeks of May 2011 at the Center for Contemporary Art ARTPLAY Design Center. The international festival celebrated its tenth installment this year. Sukhikh has previously lead masterclass instruction at the university on subjects such as the art of and history of comics, providing a spotlight on the drawing techniques of the U.S., Japan, France, and Russia, and their evolution to the present day.
(Sources: RIA Novosti, Moscow University of Industry and Finance, Russia Ministry of the Press, and the writings of Sergey Merinov)