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What I learned from Junior Review - March 27th, 2011, 12:01 pm

Well. As I've mentioned before on the news posts for the individual pages and via Twitter, I recently had my junior portfolio review at my school. The junior portfolio review exists to "look forward" to our senior show work- basically it's a discussion between the faculty and the student about the work we've done, and where we want it to go.

As you might imagine, I pitched Memoria for my senior show work. I've been working on this comic for 5+ years now; and it's taken a lot of different incarnations, twists, and turns, but I think I'm ready to start really taking the next step and promoting it properly. I want to start talking about it more and taking it even more seriously.

I said all this and more in my written statement at my review. I gave all the background details, showed all my pages, sketchbooks, and past versions; I even brought in a computer to show the "final" digital pages and the website.

And yet... I still didn't pass my review.

I'm still a little hurt about the whole thing. The review itself went very badly, in my opinion; the whole thing was very discouraging and disappointing. My particular art program doesn't have any kind of "comics/graphic novel/sequential art" class or professor, but I was hoping that my teachers would be able to look past some of that and give me some good advice anyway. There's a lot of wisdom to be had around there, from both the fine art and design disciplines, but I don't really feel I was the recipient of any of it during my review.

I felt very... attacked(?) the whole time. I mean, given, I'm a complete nervous wreck when I'm asked to talk about my comic (it's kind of like asked to talk about the deepest parts of yourself in front of a bunch of strangers for me). But I hoped to get a little mercy, as I mentioned this nervousness in my statement, explaining that Memoria was a way for me to communicate to others when my words fell short. I don't think that was the case though.

Now, I don't think that my professors weren't intentionally "hounding me" or trying to trip me up with weird questions. I think I may have gone a little out there with some of the stuff I talked about- Memoria is very personal, and perhaps that made them uncomfortable? I'm not sure. But they stuck very much with the formal aspects of the work- who were my exemplars, why don't I call this a graphic novel, etc. Which is fine. Those are okay questions. But not what I had hoped to focus on during my review. The questions just weren't pertinent- or rather, in my mind, they weren't pertinent enough to spend the entire hour on.

I would've loved to go into some of the details. I wanted them to look at my sketchbooks that I put out. Ask me questions about settings or characters. I really would have liked to talk about the color usage in Memoria. Or really anything besides what we did talk about.

Don't get me wrong. I think there is a definite value in the formal stuff- knowing the "greats", understanding the historical value of various art, etc. That's something I'm seeking to improve even now, reading the works of other comic published comic artists and blogging about them.

But I think the fact that I'm looking at comic-artists may have been part of the "problem" at my review.

Because I didn't list fine art exemplars, I got nit-picked for a while. And when I called Memoria a comic- not a "graphic novel"- there seemed to be a problem as well. It was never outright said, but I could feel a bit of a negative vibe in the room; like somehow because I'm a comic artist I'm not a "real" artist. (Which of course, freaked me out and made me shut down and become very quiet, which probably didn't do me any favors).

The thing is, and I wished I would've had the guts to say something at my review about this, but frankly, those things shouldn't matter. Or at least not as much as they were made out to. I gave a history lesson on the term "graphic novel", and why I didn't care for it. And I'm not doing fine art- it makes more sense for me to look at comic artists. I see the value in looking into fine artists; but frankly, I was under the impression that we were supposed to choose artists we genuinely liked and got excited about to study for our senior work.

I think the root of my whole problem is that I believed that my senior work was going to be MY senior work. That I was going to be allowed to do what I loved; and that I would get the opportunity to communicate my passion to others. And perhaps I may yet during my undergrad career. But after this review, I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth about the department and senior work.

And yet, while I could just leave the school, or act completely rude to the whole department, I find myself unable to really "blame" anyone for this. I'm angry and upset about my review, but no matter how hard I try I can't turn my professors into monsters or even "break ties" with them in my head. They're still good people; they've taught me alot, and I think they mean well.

...Which of course really just makes this whole thing much more frustrating. It would be a lot easier if I could just have an angry tirade and ragequit! the department.

I really love my school overall. I like to whine and complain sometimes, but I've had a really good experience in the art department thus far. But there's a duality to the departments teaching that is really frustrating and confusing to me; and this is not the first time the nasty side of it has come back to bite me in the butt. I wish it would make up it's mind- am I really free to do what I love, or am I not?

I'm having a meeting with my adviser and design professor on Monday, so I'm hoping perhaps he can provide some (positive!) insight into my review experience, and how I should approach it next time. Perhaps I didn't consider my audience well enough first time around.

Regardless, while I didn't really learn anything that related DIRECTLY to my physical work, I did learn something from this experience, and I think it's important enough to share.

If you have the opportunity to encourage someone, do it. I'm still working on this (and probably will be forever), but I'm starting to get how important it is. I don't always do this myself- it's a lot easier to ignore or be negative towards people or things I don't care for. But what's easier isn't always better. I could've pitched any number of ideas out at my review; I could've stuck with web design or client work, but I chose to take a leap of faith instead. Unfortunately, I feel like I was punished for it. But I certainly don't regret it- just the outcome and aftermath.

This doesn't mean the end of Memoria. This just means I put my nose to the grindstone and push on, regardless of what anyone thinks. I've gotten poor reviews before, online and elsewhere, and sometimes you just have to take it with a grain of salt and keep on keepin' on. I'm not going to give up on Memoria, because I love it. And I'm not going to give up on the art department, because for some reason, I still love it. I'm just going to have to work harder to show it.

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