Students working in different mediums on studio art projects.

Whether you’re a curious fan or an aspiring Eisner Award winner, NYU has a place for you to pursue your love of all things graphic novels and comics. As graphic novels gain increasing attention as valid forms of art and literature, NYU offers a number of classes to pursue your interest. At NYU Shanghai, students create their own short graphic novels while studying several works. Meanwhile, NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development students hone their painting skills through the interdisciplinary lens of the graphic novel.

“Comics and graphic novels are special media. They lie between yet possess the advantages of both literature and animation,” says Jiapei Yao. She took Professor Monika Lin’s The Graphic Novel course at NYU Shanghai. “So they can deliver detailed information and convey deep messages like literature while providing visual and accessible experiences like cartoons,” Jiapei continues. “They give more room for imagination and creativity.”

A student sketching on paper.

Tell Stories Like an Artist at NYU Shanghai

“I enrolled in The Graphic Novel because I dreamed of becoming a comic artist when I was in middle school,” says Jiapei. She’s an Interactive Media Arts (IMA) major and a Social Science minor. In the course students read and analyze existing works, take short lessons in drawing, and then create their own 12-page graphic story. “I want students to find a new appreciation for the art form,” says Lin. “At the same time, I want them to tell stories, either personally or politically, with a visual component. There’s something very significant about visual language that says things that textual or verbal language cannot.”

The elective course counts toward the Creative Writing minor and Interactive Media Arts major, attracting students from a range of backgrounds. “That mix of interests is really helpful because students can support one another and share their experiences from whatever world they’re coming from,” adds Lin. While knowing how to draw is not a prerequisite, Jiapei recalls copying images from Chinese comics as a child. Her graphic novel explores more mature themes. It aims to “give voice to incidents concerning women’s rights in China,” she shares. Lin says, “In addition to the theory, the analysis, and the making, the course is very much a way for students to talk about their own identities and their own belief systems. It gives them an opportunity to be self-reflective.”

Two pages of a sketchbook filled with illustrations for a graphic novel.
Sketchbook pages by studio art student Grace Ezzati.

Bridge Painting and Comics at NYU Steinhardt

Professor Peter Rostovsky grew up in the former Soviet Union where no one had access to comics. “They were my first love,” he reflects. “In many ways I learned the language and American culture through comics.” In 2017 he began developing a short story into a graphic novel. Now he teaches Painting Methods and Materials: The Graphic Novel at NYU Steinhardt. “The course connects painting with the craft of making comics. It asks students to braid these two disciplines together both conceptually and technically,” he explains. “I’m passionate about these disciplines, so it’s something I wanted to share. In the class I ask students to develop the bridge between painting and comics further through their own projects. Both these disciplines offer illuminating ways of seeing the world—if not, on some modest level, changing it.”

Grace Ezzati, a Studio Art major, signed up for the class to challenge herself as an artist. “I think the whole idea of second year is to try new things and really push yourself out of your comfort zone,” she says. “I’d never worked with graphic novels before, even though I’d always had an interest.” While students in the course created a range of projects, Grace made a goal for herself: create a full graphic novel in one semester. So she started working on her first graphic story: Space Cadet. Today, the comic has a large social media following. “I got so into it and wanted to share it with a lot of people. It spiraled into a really big thing!” she exclaims. “In fact, it’s still going. I’m on the second volume now.”