Artists. We’re a weird lot, aren’t we?
Sometimes, that weirdness can surprise even us. In this instance, I’m referring to something that’s been going through my mind for a few weeks, but has grown from seeds planted many a year ago.
Let’s go into some background, so the chances of you understanding what I’m rambling about will increase. (One can dream, right?)
I’ve always loved to draw. As a little kid, I’d try and “finish” my older brother’s sketches. You can imagine how well this went over. Still, I kept drawing. At one point, he graciously handed over his copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and I was doomed to a life of scribbles.
Drawing was something I did for fun, recreation. Even as I grew into adulthood, I kept drawing every day. Directionless, I was clued-in to the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art, Inc. by a co-worker at Toys “R” Us who shared my love of comics/drawing. Years later, I finally got the chance to go. I’ll elaborate on what that experience was like in another post, but for now, realize that I spent three years with some insanely talented folk honing my skills and practicing way more than is healthy.
During this period, I became more and more aware of “style” with regard to drawing. Style is the particular spin that an illustrator puts on his art. For example, people generally all look like people, but no two artists will render them in the same way. There are as many styles as there are artists, but general trends emerge; cartoony, manga, realistic, comic-book standard, etc. We used to obsess a bit over our own styles, and whether-or-not they were any “good”. We also, for better or ill, used to judge the shit outta other peoples’ styles!
As time went on, something began to happen that I don’t think I’d ever been aware of until recently.
I’d tricked myself into thinking that in order to be considered a “good” or “legitimate” artist, I had to draw in a manner that was generally accepted by the comic book community. Meaning, I needed to draw in a style similar to comics; generally realistic, with exaggerated poses, musculature, etc. And I trained myself to draw this way. What I didn’t really realize, is that I didn’t want to draw this way.
If you’re not an artist, this may sound like malarkey, and to an extent, it is. I said we are weird, didn’t I?
What’s worse is, I have friends that have gone through this already, and I remember offering my “advice” to them during school. Guys that had GREAT styles; cartoony, expressive, ALIVE, and yet were plagued with doubts because DC or Marvel didn’t hire guys that drew that way. I’d say, “Yeah, but your stuff is so awesome and different from anything that’s out there! People are bound to notice and will LOVE IT. Keep at it!”
Funny how one can give all the advice in the world, and then not apply it to oneself, no?
That’s the jist of how I’ve come to this point. I’ve realized that I’ve been making art in a way that restrains me. I draw how I think that I’m supposed to draw, so that I can be seen as a legit artist, when I really want to make art that I love. I’ve allowed myself to somehow get into a space where that doesn’t happen, and it’s unacceptable.
So this is the beginning of what I hope will be an interesting and fulfilling journey. I’m going to be taking my art in a different direction, one that will be more satisfying for me. Of course, the change will be gradual, and may not seem all that great a change to many of you. I suppose it’s entirely a self-indulgent exercise, but I wanted to share it in the off chance it might help someone else struggling with the same issues.
I’ll be posting here (semi)regularly, offering thoughts, artwork, and ideas for discussion. It’ll be great to look back in a year’s time to see the progress.
At least, I hope it will!
Please, drop some comments below and add to the discussion! I’m absolutely sure that I’m not the only one that thinks about these things, and I’d love to hear your experiences.
Until next time…