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The Visual Narrative Thesis Projects: Craig Coss

Craig Coss is one of those artists who will try anything. Project after project he pushes his comfort level over the cliff and waves as it falls to its death. His projects include the incredible comic book Fairy Rings. We asked Craig a few things about his thesis project, his mentor and how things are going at MFAVN.

Tell us something about your mentor.

I’ve been working with the legendary San Francisco artist, illustrator, and storyteller Barron Storey, who has been a treasure trove of ideas and approaches to art making. Storey has already shared with me approaches to composition, narrative pacing, and closure that have given me a fresh perspective on my work. I feel grateful to have a mentor who understands, honors, and defends the deep mystery of the creative process itself.

What does visual storytelling mean to you?

Visual storytelling is ancient—prehistoric. In my life and work, visual narrative takes many forms. I’m learning how great visual storytelling, whether through film, graphic novels, or whatever medium, involves a certain way of framing reality and communicating so that others can immerse themselves in a new world. Even oral storytelling becomes a visual narrative art form when it incorporates dramatic movement, gesture, facial expressions, or puppetry. Comics and narrative painting are only two of the several new frontiers that I’ve been exploring while at SVA.

I chose to attend SVA’s MFAVN program because as a visual artist and storyteller, I’m passionate about exploring means of bringing my skills together in new forms, while honoring traditions in the visual arts and storytelling. At SVA, I saw that I had the greatest opportunity to learn and practice something new that would push me outside of creative territory I had already explored and felt comfortable in. And I am being stretched here! I already feel fairly confident telling traditional tales and biographical stories, but writing original fiction involves working a new set of creative muscles. The professional writers, illustrators, and auteurs who instruct our classes here at SVA have helped me feel safe to flex those muscles, and my fellow students in our program are, frankly, the greatest creative team I have ever worked with. I’m grateful for the collaborations and idea-bouncing I’ve been able to do with these peers of mine. They’ve been a tremendous source of critical insight and encouragement.

What’s next for you?

I am interested in teaching post-secondary arts education, so I’m always seeking ways to expand my skill set so that I can be a more versatile instructor. If my students want to explore making their own ink and paint, I can show them; if they want to do digital work, I can teach them that too. For me, being the best art teacher I can be involves broadening and deepening, experimenting in my work so that I can help preserve art traditions for subsequent generations. Now, if my students will want to do narrative work such as comics or animation, I can help them in those pursuits as well.

Craig resides in Petaluma, California, with heavy layovers in San Francisco, CA and New York City, NY.

Check out his website here:

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