Teaching Philosophy

I offer private mentoring, community workshops, and provide curriculum assistance for schools and universities. Click here to learn more.

As an educator, I see comics as a vital and ascendant art form. My teaching is rooted in looking at comics composition through a semiotic framework, grounded by an intuitive commitment to the act of drawing.

In my teaching, I am keen to express the power of comics’ structural possibilities by inviting students to think of comics as the visual language of encoding and decoding realities. It is my belief that comics are uniquely equipped to allow readers to see the patterns of abstraction of makers in an unparalleled way in the arts. Comics allow readers to come closer to perceiving the world as others do.

I teach comics making and professional practices with a contextual awareness that recognizes that, as Dan Nadel wrote in the introduction of ‘Art Out of Time’, “comics comes from the awkward meeting of words, pictures, and commerce.” My comics classroom is a mix of studio practice, discussion, lecture, and professional development. I place an emphasis on self-publishing, contract writing and negotiation. I approach art-making with the same interdisciplinary style as I do my teaching. Although my work is primarily comics in nature, I explore and research concepts of aesthetics, ethics, semiotics, and applied cartooning through the writing of essays, performing interviews, organizing zine fairs and facilitating artist panels and lectures.

Whatever the subject I teach in comics, I always start with the prior knowledge and beliefs that students bring to class. From there, I help students build bridges linking new content and skills to their prior knowledge and draw out any misconceptions they may have about the topic in comics.

As a teacher, I strive for my students to synthesize and translate knowledge. Through active engagement in their visual culture, I push my students to become active and engaged creators of the world around them. Iteration is essential to this growth for students. I believe the best learning, when it comes to comics, comes from doing. As such, I offer exercises and assignments that offer focused attention on different parts of the comics making process. To ensure that students always have frequent opportunities to step back and reflect on the holistic processes they are undertaking in their comics making, I place an emphasis on short form work.

In my experience as an educator, I have found that the depiction and manipulation of time is a key mechanism to master in order to make effective comics. I have refined the teaching of this skill by using modular composition and editing techniques learned from Frank Santoro. Using these techniques, creative avenues open up for students to intuitively play with the architectures of time and space on equal footing.

As an artist educator, my goal is to foster an environment where my students can gain the necessary skills to become producing and publishing comics makers. Under my instruction, students are able to take in information through readings, lectures and exercises, process it, manipulate it and make it their own through their own comics production. My courses are student-centered with an emphasis on developing conceptual and well-crafted self-published work.

I have actively refined this philosophy throughout my professional career by earning my MFA in Comics from the Center for Cartoon Studies and by teaching all ages, in a wide range of environments at all school levels, at comics expos, and locally through community based education initiatives like the Pittsburgh Comics Salon. The diversity in my educational and professional background provides the skills necessary to create a rigorous yet nurturing environment, which enables art students to grow to their maximum ability.

If you're interested in working with me in any capacity, feel free to reach out. I'd love to help you on your journey with comics. You can reach me at fernandez.juan.j@gmail.com