Sheridan Illustration Program Review

I get a lot of traffic on my blog from people looking for more information about the Sheridan Illustration (BAA) program so I thought I would provide some for the people who are trying to decide whether this program is for them or not. Please note that there are two streams: interpretive and technical. I chose interpretive and thus can only speak to it. Also, I graduated in 2011, so some of my information may be outdated. This article reflects my own personal opinions and experiences.

Some Basic Information
There are 2 15 week semesters per year, including 2 reading weeks (break weeks). The first semester typically starts in September and runs 7 weeks, then a break week, then 7 more weeks and a Christmas break (usually 3 weeks although one year we had 4). This is repeated in January; 7 weeks, a break week, 7 weeks. Classes are always 3 hours each. Some are labs (such as life drawing) and some are lectures (art history). There are a couple field trips; The Royal Winter Fair and downtown Toronto to Kensington Market. Be prepared to sit at a lot of malls and sneakily draw people while they shop, eat and chat obliviously (and sometimes not too obliviously).

Third Year
At the end of third year you will be given an ‘assignment’ for the summer. You must come up with a thesis project for fourth year. Some people wrote and illustrated children’s books, some people illustrated their dreams and some people chose a theme and did illustrations based around it. Take your time and choose a project you will enjoy because you will spend the next year on them and it is likely that these illustrations will be the ones you display at your graduation show.

Internship
In your third year you will have to complete a ~400 hour internship which will be completed in the summer break between third and fourth year. Around January of your third year you will start meeting with the co-op coordinator to prepare you to apply. The vast majority of internships that were available in my year were unpaid (and even the ones that were, were often paid a small lump sum at the end of the internship). Some of the positions that were available were: being mentored by another illustrator, working at a video game company, working at a graphic design/advertising agency, working at a magazine publishers. You may also pursue a freelance internship but it requires you write a business plan and have it approved. Be prepared to have to commute into Toronto. Although the placements are all over Canada, most of them were in Toronto.

This internship program was one of my worst experiences with this program. We weren’t qualified for many of the jobs that were offered to us, as they required HTML/CSS/Javascript knowledge or advanced video editing skills and sometimes 3D modelling skills. Many of my friends would go to interviews only to find out that they didn’t know how to do the job. Also during this period I accumulated much more debt as I wasn’t able to work full time making money over the summer. I sincerely hope they have made improvements to this area.

My desk in the 4th year illustration workroom.

My desk in the 4th year illustration workroom.

Fourth Year
The focus of fourth year is to really develop your individual style as an illustrator and to create pieces for the year end grad show.  You will be given free rein to create your own illustration projects. All the fourth year illustration students get their own little drafting table workspace in a special room in this year. You will also be required to complete a project with an outside company (we worked with Rethink Communications) for a final project to advertise the Grad Show.

After Graduation
  For me, after graduation was a wake up call for the real world. I honestly thought that I would have no problem getting a full time 9-5 decent paying job in the field. Boy was I wrong.  I had a couple of people laugh at me and tell me my degree was useless. One guy even told me to go back to school. Graduating from this program isn’t the end… it’s really just the beginning of the real hard work.

This Program is Not For You if:
  – If you are not extremely self driven. The more you put into this program, the more you will get out. I always regretted not going to more extra life drawing classes and not being more involved.
  -If you want a program with a lot of digital skill building. In the first few years you will NOT be allowed to do any projects digitally. In fact, many of my professors had an open disdain for digital art.
-If you’re expecting to graduate and get a a 9-5 40k+ job the next day.  This is a highly competitive and very small field. Even worse, it seems that recently our skills have become devalued by crowd-sourcing sites and the notion that anyone can do it with the magic of Photoshop.  Taking the technical stream will increase the likelihood that you will get a full time job.
-If you’re looking to get into video game art/concept art I would instead recommend animation or a program elsewhere.

 

5 thoughts on “Sheridan Illustration Program Review

  1. Would you recommend the program? Did you enjoy the program and find you learned a lot in terms of practical skills (drawing, painting)?

    • Yes I absolutely enjoyed the program. It is great for the practical skills. There are tons of extra life drawing classes of varying pose length (300 seconds all the way to a 3 hour pose). They are free too, I’ve heard you have to pay at OCAD. The animation program is also excellent for practical drawing skills. If you want to be a freelance illustrator then yes I would certainly recommend the program, but be prepared for a tough road ahead. Illustration isn’t an easy career choice.

  2. Interesting post. The way I summarize the program usually is this. First year is here’s a bag, they put it in front of you and tell you to draw and paint it. Second year is what’s a bag, drawing and painting bags while questioning what a bag is. Third year is what’s your bag: figuring out if you had a bag of your own what would it be. Fourth year, Go make your bag!: do what you need to do to make it happen.

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