CCAD Students Get Purr-fect Learning Experience
With a 135-year history, the Columbus College of Art & Design is one of the most respected private art schools in the U.S. and is also a Toon Boom Centre of Excellence. We recently spoke with Charlotte Belland, Chair & Associate Professor of Animation at CCAD, about the educational experience they offer to students.
Not every school brings in a live cheetah for figure drawing! How did that come about?
I have a strong connection to the Columbus Zoo, and since 2011, I have been coordinating a campus visit with animals at CCAD each semester. We get all sorts of different animals. Last semester, we had a cheetah, a penguin, a flamingo, a sloth, two baby servals, and an echidna named Edna.
The students love it, and it's a great way for them to practice sketching creatures in motion. Plus, the keepers enjoy seeing the drawings. That creative connection inspired the zoo to begin the first of yearly visits for cheetahs to our campus!
What makes CCAD such a special place to learn animation?
Columbus, Ohio, is a very special place where creativity crosses all areas of business and education. Our community is always opening new paths for students to discover that animation and illustration are found in virtually every industry.
Part of this ability to connect is a result of CCAD's nimble nature. If a burgeoning start-up company approaches us for interns or help with a project, we can move quickly to match them with the right combination of student and faculty talent.
Our Animation Student Collective is CCAD's oldest, student-founded group. They meet every week, and they run their own programming of drawing workshops, technical demos, and visiting artists. This group is core to the foundation of our students' creative network — their strong bond reaches out to the local, national, and world animation and illustration communities.
Plus, Columbus has a thriving creative economy, and the city is quickly becoming known as the hub of the comics universe — with a new Comics & Narrative Practice major here at CCAD, the world's largest collection of materials related to cartoons and comics at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum, and the annual Cartoon Crossroads Columbus festival (basically the SXSW of the comic world).
Please tell us what the lab is like in the Animation Department.
Our animation and illustration labs with Toon Boom software are located in three buildings on the CCAD campus. We support a digital drawing pipeline with 140 Cintiq workstations (we run MAC and PC). There's also a gathering place for students called The Sandbox and we are always "up" for a 24-hour animation challenge!
Does the use of Storyboard Pro and Harmony at CCAD extend beyond the Animation Department?
Absolutely! The Cinematic Arts and Industrial Design Departments use Storyboard Pro to make storyboards for film and for proof-of-product projects. Our Illustration Department encourages the use of Harmony by students as they prepare their senior thesis.
When seniors work on their senior thesis, do you encourage students to work on teams or as individuals?
Both! Students are required to complete a 30-week (two semester) senior thesis. The first semester concentrates on building their idea and devising the pipeline for completing it. The second semester is devoted to actual production.
Each student is also required to join a 16-week Studio Simulator (one semester). Students work in a team as they apply for production roles, pitch proposals, establish a pipeline, and produce a short film.
What is the new major in Comics & Narrative Practice?
CCAD is launching a new major, called Comics & Narrative Practice, in Fall 2017. Students will work with comics professionals to learn how to write, illustrate, and publish their own sequential art, including original comics and graphic novels. This will include robust business content so the students that come out of the program will have a good understanding of the comics industry today and the skills and strategies they need to participate in it.
How do you prepare your animation students for work after graduation?
We foster the idea that a student's success is tied to two evenly weighted criteria: portfolio and networking. Both have equal value. Our department is constantly asking students about their network. We mentor students to connect with the high visibility folks but to also look for those unexpected connections. CCAD graduates go on to successful jobs in companies including Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.
How can students benefit from your strong Alumni program at CCAD?
CCAD has a very strong alumni network, with graduates working in big-name companies and running their own business all over the globe. Our alumni are well connected in industries ranging from animation to photography, and our graduates are constantly helping current students.
We host a yearly alumni reunion at the Story Tavern in Burbank, California, during CTNx. Our latest gathering included alumni from Disney Feature and Bento Box.
See how CCAD student Allie Vanaman used Toon Boom software in her Senior Thesis Pipeline: