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johncomic: (Uncle Old Guy)
receiving good solid advice, which even at my advanced age and development I can still use

johncomic: (roundhead cartoon self-portrait)
Chris Samnee -- one of very few artists keeping the spirit of Alex Toth alive in today's mainstream comics

Chris Samnee
johncomic: (SK BW)
the feeling, while pulling together various sparks from various old sources of inspiration newly revisited, that I am on the verge of a fresh new creative breakthrough

(there might not actually be any such breakthrough, but I still enjoy this feeling of being on the verge!)

johncomic: (SK BW)
I've seen this idea bandied about in a few places over the years, but one of the clearest quotes I am able to find as an example is in this book:

"The creators of a comic can control [the reader's] reading speed by altering the levels of information in each panel --- the more detailed the art or the more dialogue it contains, generally, the longer it takes to read. Many comic creators fail to recognise, for example, that a fast-moving fight scene will be slowed down if the antagonists are making lengthy speeches to each other."

I couldn't help thinking of this recently when I saw someone post this page fragment from a 1968 issue of Avengers:

I can easily recognize that this is a good example of action art -- penciller John Buscema is an acknowledged giant of the field. But I also couldn't help noticing that, not only is everyone saying more than they could possibly have time to say in these circumstances, but they are also saying things that no one would say. Think them, maybe -- say them out loud, no. This dialogue not only slows the rendered action to a crawl by its sheer volume, it strains the reader's credulity as well. Yet the comic books from this era are routinely lauded as classics by old-timer fans such as myself.

All I can say is, times, tastes, and techniques have certainly changed.
johncomic: (SK BW)
"I try to draw so convincingly that the reader won't notice."
-- Hank Ketcham, The Merchant of Dennis

I read this statement in Ketcham's autobiography years ago, and it stuck with me hard ever since. Over time, it shaped the way I view the comics medium and my own work within it.

My paraphrase of how he described the process is this: if something is drawn badly, so that it doesn't look right, it pulls the reader's attention away from the story and interrupts the flow. The story world ceases to be a convincing, immersive experience. However, as I thought about this, I took it further... and came to believe that if things in a comic are drawn too well, they have the same effect. The reader stops to admire the expertise of the rendering, and focuses their attention on the drawing as a drawing. Once again, they are pulled out of the story world at that point.

As I became devoted to the idea of telling the story as the prime goal of a comic, I grew toward the idea of drawing down the middle -- drawing well enough. That became my ideal. And I gained a deeper appreciation for artists who seemed to me to embody that ideal. The ones who draw well but don't overdraw. These are the artists I study today and strive to learn from. (For me, Tonči Zonjić is the prime exponent of this approach still working today -- I admire his work so much.)

Recently, though, I have grown aware of a strange dynamic involved in my studies. I find such comic art difficult to study fruitfully, because: by its very nature, this art is designed to propel you through the story rather than have you stop and pay attention to it -- so, when I try to study the techniques of this art, I keep getting sucked back into the story and re-reading the comic instead! It's really surprising how much intense focus it takes me to resist the lure of the story world! That's exactly the kind of power I want to harness in my own work... but I can see that it is going to be a struggle!

johncomic: (SK BW)
the arrival of the latest volume of Valérian and Laureline

johncomic: (SK BW)
making a couple of drawings this morning that I liked
johncomic: (SK BW)
the pleasure I find in the mere process of cartooning, even when the end result is less than ideal or not yet in view
johncomic: (SK BW)
getting a page inked right after breakfast
johncomic: (BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad)
 new creative discoveries
johncomic: (SK BW)
Back in 2010 I created Influence Maps to show the various influences on my comic creating over the years. I decided it was time to update that, since new influences have come onto my radar, others have grown or faded, etc.... so here is my current Influence Map. The difference here is that these show the influences I am consciously aware of today: the ones I can feel active in me while I work now... whereas the earlier ones included influences in every stage of my life.


The largest one, in the upper left, is Alex Toth.

To his right: Roy Crane, Noel Sickles, Leonard Starr, Dik Browne.

The row below Toth: Osamu Tezuka, Jean-Claude Mézières, Jaime Hernandez, Mitsuru Adachi, Bill Watterson.

Bottom row: Scott McCloud, Ben Caldwell, Tonči Zonjić.
johncomic: (Uncle Old Guy)
On FB I am Friends with a large number of cartoonists, so for a few days now my feed has been filled with tributes and remembrances of Bernie Wrightson, who passed on the weekend. Much as happened with Darwyn Cooke last year, all these folks are remarking on not just what a great comic artist the guy was, but what a wonderful person and good friend.

And for some reason I find that I keep thinking about what these people are going to say when I go.

I am nowhere near the major figure [commercially or artistically] that Wrightson or Cooke are, so there isn't much reason for anyone to talk about how I was one of The Great Comic Artists. And these people barely know me, so they won't be talking about what a Good Guy I was either.

I find myself wondering if I ought to be more gregarious and outgoing, so that people will know me better and hopefully think of me as a friend. But then that strikes me as being fake and manipulative. It took me a long time to figure out who I really am, and I feel like I owe it to myself to be that person, even if I am in many ways not as good at human-ing as a lot of others are.

Besides, I have always told myself that I don't really care what people say about me when I'm gone, because I won't be here and I'll never know. What I mostly hope for is that someone will read my work after I go. But again, I'll never know whether they do or not, will I.

Not really sure what I'm getting at here, other than "I yam what I yam", for both good and ill, I guess.
johncomic: (Booth)
a challenging but enjoyable creative task
johncomic: (SK BW)
the arrival of the latest volume of Valérian and Laureline

johncomic: (SK BW)
getting back into drawing Space Kid! pages after a hiatus of literally months!
johncomic: (Face of Boe)
can't decide among several so I will toss them all in!

1) long ago, Sharon taught me that, if the name of the month contains an R, it is good luck for the first word you say upon waking on the first of that month to be “rabbit”. And yesterday I learned that the Japanese consider it good luck to watch the sun rise on January 1. Today I did both, so my luck is all sewn up!

2) this year, for the first time I can remember, I didn't gain any weight between Christmas and New Year's.

3) The Mighty Chris turns 45 today - I am grateful to have him and his work here.

4) I found some new faces to tackle for my Ink Studies and I am excited about getting to them.

5) my family is happy and healthy.

6) today is beautiful and sunny for the first time in what seems like weeks.
johncomic: (SK BW)
getting comfy with a new pen

ink study Toth75

[also losing half a pound, but that's another story]
johncomic: (Moss)
quiet hours spent paging through works by a variety of inspirational artists
johncomic: (SK BW)
This has been one of my fave comics drawings since I first laid eyes on it 25+ years ago.

It is a panel from the March 17, 1945 installment of the Buz Sawyer newspaper strip by Roy Crane. I love its clean simplicity and, especially in Buz's face, the way it conveys so much depth and subtlety of expression, so much solid form... with so few lines, depending on the perfect placement and execution of each line. And yet it's a precision that doesn't feel tight or cramped -- it has give and life to it.

I still marvel anew every time I see this!

johncomic: (Sweets)
I just finished reading Meanwhile, a thick biography of comics legend Milton Caniff. (Well, finished but for the appendices, but I quibble.) In several places, Caniff was asked how he evaluated himself and his work in the Grander Scheme of Comics -- he has almost unfailingly been proclaimed one of The All-Time Greats by his audience, critics, and peers. He was willing to say things like “I am good at what I do. And, in some respects, I am the best at what I do.” And this got me thinking about how I would answer such a question....

I recall that, earlier this year, I was asked if I recognized that my work was good. And I said, “My work is okay. It will do.” But this book has got me thinking about the matter a bit farther:

I recognize that, over the last decade, I have deliberately focused on what are called storytelling skills. Meaning that I am more concerned with creating a clear and smooth reading experience than with dazzling people visually... and I realize that to some people this can give my work a modest appearance. Not to mention that there is some question about my ability to dazzle people visually if I chose to do so. And I'm okay with that. But tonight, this is how I see myself and my work in the Grander Scheme of Comics:

I still think my work is okay, that it will do -- but that's not nothing. That is an achievement of sorts.
I don't think my sutff is Great, certainly not Great Art. I don't think people come away from it with any profound insights into the human condition, and I will never be held up as an example of How Comics Are Done [as Caniff was and is]. But I do think that, now and even after I am gone, if people can find my work, and take it in the spirit it is offered, some of them will enjoy it.

I create work that some people enjoy. And tonight I realize that, really, that is all I ever wanted. So, in my heart of hearts, I feel that my work is a success.

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