A Day in the Life of Sequential Arts Teacher

– Mike Gagnon

When I tell people that I work in comics, most people respond with “Wow! That must be awesome!” (The few that don’t, ask if that is a financially viable career, to which I give varying answers, depending on my mood. They may get a middle finger in their face. I’m an emotional creature.) When I tell people that I also teach some of the basic and advanced work techniques of comic book creation, they will often ask, “What’s that like?” So I thought I’d take you through what my average Thursday is like.

4:00 AM – My alarm goes off. I grab myself by the hair and pull myself out of bed. When I hit the floor I spring up, alert and ready to go, excited for the day. I chop some vegetables, toss them in a frying pan with some olive oil and when they are sautéed I crack half a dozen eggs over them and scramble them up. I leave half for my roommate and fellow creative professional, who will not crawl out of his room for several more hours. I down a coffee or two while I eat, and grab a quick shower, dress and grab the messenger bag with my papers, attendance sheets and tablet.

5:00 – I step out the door and meet my cab, which takes me to my local GO Transit stop.

5:23 – I board the GO bus. I pull out my tablet and begin to read. My reading list varies. This week I felt like some fiction, so I load up George Orwell’s 1984, I classic that I’m embarrassed to say I never got around to reading before. Great book if you are looking for recommendations.

6:20 – I arrive at Burlington GO where I switch from bus to train. By this time I’ve put my tablet away and within minutes of boarding the train, messenger bag clutched to my lap, I fall soundly asleep. A full, deep sleep. Open mouthed snoring, much to the chagrin of those seated around me. I’m really quite sure from the looks I get during momentary fits of consciousness that my wonderfully deep, baby-like sleep bothers those around me. Words cannot express how much I don’t care, I still have a long day ahead of me.

I usually wake up just before the train hits Toronto’s Union Station, I ride the train one stop further and disembark at Danforth.

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8:00 – 4 hours after waking I arrive at Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art and Design, where I teach the next generation of comic book geniuses. MTM is a great school and a great place to work, it’s an honour and a privilege to work alongside some incredibly influential artists, whose work has inspired me in my career. People like Kent Burles and Dave Ross just to name a couple of the heavy hitters that I get the honour of working with. It amazes me, the quality of talent that comes through, the future stars of comics and pop culture that I get to see developing and help to direct in their chosen career path. Some of this stuff is just amazing. Raw talent is abundant at this school. Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art and Design is also the only career college in Canada to offer a Sequential Arts Diploma. MTM also has programs in Concept Design and Animation that are internationally recognized, and a host of continuing education workshops.

9:00 – My year three students enter the computer lab, where I’ll instruct them on digital media techniques. The class runs the gamut of digital illustration to print layout to modern publishing and self-publishing. Today’s class focuses on digital watercolor and painting techniques. The students who complete this course will be graduating with their own professionally self-published credit, a book available in print and eBook version. This program is the only one of its kind offering a book that helps launch your career upon graduation.

My day will continues with several more classes, a half hour break between each. I manage to fit in food and class prep within these short pauses.

The next class is my year 2 students, who are learning the skills of digital coloring and lettering. Today we examine the wonders of creating specialty balloons; like burst balloons and thought bubbles. As always, there is much discussion and practise on the art of “pulling tails”. (Creating those pointers that designate who is speaking.)

After that I move to the theatre, where I’ll see my year 2 group again, to teach the arts of scripting and storytelling. Today’s lesson focuses on the concept of genre and the definition of mainstream comics in North America along with an examination of the differences between those and mainstream comics in other parts of the world.

Later my year 3 class will be back, this time for graphic novel writing and illustration class. Today is a work period focusing on producing pages of pencilled art based on their completed scripting assignment from earlier in the year.

With each class running 2-3 hours in length, my final class concludes at 9:30.

9:30PM – I leave the school and head back to the train station.

9:57 – I board the train heading home and within a few minutes I am again wide-mouthed, snoring, asleep.

I generally wake up around Bronte station, giving me a couple of stops before I disembark at Burlington.

11:54 – I hop back on the bus and pull out my tablet. I manage to read to the end of Chapter 5 before the bus gets to my stop.

12:50 – I hop in one of the cabs that are often waiting near the bus stop.

1:00AM – I arrive home. I drop my bag of papers and tablet by the door. I check out what sort of left- overs, takeout or ready to eat food, often fruit, is available.

I think about my day. At this point I look back at the 21 hour day I’ve just put in since waking and I feel a great sense of joy an accomplishment. I wouldn’t change a thing. Although it’s a once a week event, I would be happy to do it several days a week, scheduling my own creative work for the off-days. I truly enjoy the act of teaching the skills I’ve developed to others, seeing those new artists grow and develop, and working with some of the most talented people in the industry. Of course I love my studio time as well, the creative outlet of expressing myself through my own projects, so I organize and schedule my work time to accommodate both of those passions.

I take my trove of discovered food upstairs to the loft floor that serves as a double work studio. My roommate is usually watching a movie of some pop cultural significance. We chat about our days, the music video he worked on, the projects I’ll be working on tomorrow, potential creative collaborations social things, then I leave him to his film and head back downstairs.

2:00 – Sweet, peaceful, open mouthed sleep.

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