Sunday, February 11, 2018

To Jesse regarding his recent artistic conundrum

(or: sorry this isn’t actually a drawing, like I’d promised)

Jesse, I’m really proud of you for working so hard to make this comic you’ve been talking about forever! A major downfall of former art students on their way to being professional artists is that after school, they simply stop making art, but you have persisted! Recently you’ve been tweeting about the difficulty of making a comic that has setup shots when you aren’t comfortable drawing scenes that require skill with perspective. While this means you can’t write your comic the most straightforward way one would like to, I hope you can turn this stumbling block into an advantage. For one thing, it will give you the freedom to pare your art down to what’s absolutely necessary and simultaneously give your artistic strengths a chance to shine. Hopefully you can also create a cohesive style between everything in the comic, from set-up shot to intimate scenes. From an engineer to an artist, maybe this can shed some light, or at least another perspective, on your problem.

Focus on what’s necessary

Back at Dordt, a big part of my senior design class was focused on the essential thought processes in making a design. One lesson was we had to always keep in mind the actual problem and not let our imaginations get away from us and lead us down some pet project that might not actually meet the client’s needs. While you are following a more traditionally creative profession, that’s still sometimes a necessary line of thought. The various scenes in your comic will serve a function, but there are many ways to get that function without necessarily doing the conventional thing. Your issue is with three-dimensional looking establishing shots, and I can think of a number of things those shots do, but I imagine not all of them are necessary to what you’re trying to communicate. If it’s a sense of place, you can do that by drawing close-up scenes of the things on the walls or in the streets or whatever it is that you’re doing. If it’s to create a sense of grandeur, you could consider playing with the boundaries of whatever medium you intend to publish this comic in. For example, if you want it to be a printed book, you could include a fold-out page to say just how big the scene is. Whatever it is you need to do with a scene, focus on the function you need and results will follow.

Style: maximizing strengths

Remember, every artist’s style is just them dealing with what they can’t/don’t like to do by focusing on what they’re good at, and that’s the same for you. For example, Kit is best at people, poses, and color, so you’ll find all his paintings have that as the focus and the strength. 
A Moment of Quiet by Kit Drennon

At the same time, I have somewhat a difficult time with things other than landscapes that have any sense of body, plus I’m fascinated with abstract art, so when I’m doing my own thing, it results in this “storybook” sort of style.

Here is a landscape I drew after a long bus ride through SD
I’d love to be as good at drawing people as Kit is and I think Kit would love to make lineart as comfortably as I do, but when we maximize our own strengths, it results in us having a particular style. From what I’ve seen of your work, your style is well-established. Run with it!

The importance of cohesive style and repetition of elements

I’d discourage you from hiring out your more difficult scenes, as you’ve suggested, because it might dilute the style of your work. Especially since the way you were framing it in our conversation on Twitter made me think it really would be more “hiring out” and less collaboration. You know how Studio Ghibli films have this ...well, Studio Ghibli-ness to them? That’s them refusing to use 3D graphics in their films. And it’s so good. That doesn’t mean other, possibly completely different, styles of animations are bad, but a Ghibli film feels like a Ghibli film because they stick to their style. As you build up your comic with many shots that establish whatever is necessary to be established, that will be a foundational element to your style as it concerns [whatever topic]. It will be woven throughout the comic, rather than plopped on like a bookend (unless having things look bookended is your style). A bassist-turned-YouTuber, Adam Neely, has a great clip about how repetition creates legitimacy in your work. You could make a wonky scene once and then have the rest of the drawing be perfect and people will know you made a wonky scene, but if you do it over and over again then people accept it as a legitimate part of the work. So try a few different ways to establish whatever information you need to be establishing. Maybe don’t put too much effort into the first drafts, but do put enough in that what’s needed to be conveyed is communicated. Then, look back and see if the repetition of whatever technique you tried works for the comic as a whole.

I hope this helps, Jesse. I’m looking forward to seeing what you do!

Friday, January 22, 2016

7 Great Things You Can Do On a Saturday Morning in Sioux Center

Sioux Center life can be pretty dull on Saturday mornings. I would know. I spent almost 20 years of my life there, amounting to probably 900 Saturdays (assuming 45 Saturdays spent in town per 52 weeks over 20 years). Here is a list of things I’ve found are a great way to use my time on Saturday mornings:

1. Watching cartoons
When I was a kid, I would watch Bugs Bunny, Doug, Transformers, the list goes on. If those retro shows are not your thing, some modern classics I’ve found are Over the Garden Wall (a surreal cartoon with songs, mystery, and a strong vibe of Americana, available for streaming on Amazon Prime) and OnePunch Man (a parody of Japanese superhero comics, but I think your knowledge of American superhero comics will suffice).

2. Cleaning 
If watching cartoons is too relaxing for you (or you have a lot of stuff to get done), Saturday morning is a great time to do it. You can sleep in a little bit, but you still have most of the day ahead of you.

3. Cooking
Okay, I’ll admit that when I lived in Sioux Center I didn’t cook much on Saturday morning, but my mom did. If you’re having a big party on Sunday, a make-ahead meal really reduces your overall stress.

4. Fixing things
Saturday morning is a great time to fix little things that aren’t really urgent, but it sure would be nice if they worked right. Plus, Bomgaars is basically only open during regular hours, so this effectively gives you more time to run to the store for parts. You’re smart enough to read. I think you can do this.

5. Laundry
If you have a washer and dryer in your home, you can do laundry and some of the other things at the same time.

6. Listen to the radio 
I like to listen to NPR (KWIT FM 90.3 or KOJI FM 90.7 or online) on Saturday mornings. They’ve got a great news show, Weekend Edition at 7, Car talk at 9, Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me at 10, and This American Life at 11. After that is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is pleasant as well. Of course, you might have your own preference in radio.

7. Going to the bank
In Sioux Center, this can ONLY be done on weekdays during regular hours (or Wednesdays before 7pm) or on Saturday mornings. All the banks I know of are closed by noon or earlier on Saturdays.

Sioux Center is a small town, but these are some of the best things that you can do on a Saturday morning. They aren’t weather-dependent, and you can definitely do them tomorrow, January 23.