Tuesday, May 26, 2009
What a difference a year can make. About this time in 08, I was working through my first story, Guns and Gold and havin’ a hell of a time with it. I had figured out the beats of the story and was writing most of the dialogue as I was drawing the thing and it showed. The story is less than cohesive and the drawing is sub par. It was a painful, tedious process, and by the end of it I wasn’t all that proud of the product, I was only proud of myself for having powered through it and not given up.
I learned several things from it. One, I need to have the script on lock down by the time I start drawing. Figuring this shit out as I go is a horrible idea that leads to frustration and less than superior work. I also realized that when the script is written like a screenplay, with shot descriptions, framing, etc, my penciling time is cut almost in half. It becomes more like telegraphing what I see in my head.
The most important thing that I learned though was that I was a cartoonist. I dabbled with terms and titles borrowed from friends and those I looked up to, but I could never call myself a cartoonist. I felt like it didn’t describe what I was doing and that I was above it somehow. The truth is, I wasn’t cartooning, and that is why I failed. Unconsciously I sought a style that was sharp and messy, when what was natural was smooth and simple. If art really is a selective recreation of reality, I was unable to objectively see how my mind wanted to recreate it. Like a boat fighting against the current, I got nowhere and found myself stagnant and frustrated.
Then I decided I was going to draw a fight scene one day, something I had never done before. I selected my combatants without much deliberation, settling on a giant robot and a circus strongman, the strongman being the most basic archetypal hero I could think of. For days I worked through thumbnails, trying to wrangle the shapes and movements I felt in my mind’s eye, until one night at a coffee shop I stumbled upon it. It was shapes, shapes and three-dimensional space. I started drawing like a mad man, working through poses and movements just nailing them. THIS WAS IT, I thought to myself. This was what I had been looking for. It felt right and looked right. Then I looked at it and I realized what had happened. Everything was stripped down to its bare essentials. My lines showed only the detail that was necessary and I was relying on shape to show movement and girth. They were cartoons. As blatant as they could be, I had drawn cartoons and that was what I was marveling at.
This story is the result of that night; I am paying my respects to the creation that made believe I could be the creator, or more specifically, the cartoonist.