Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Work in progress, of course. Click for bigger.
I get a real zen effect from inking, especially over tight pencils that don't leave much to improvisation. There's still artistic choices to make but they're few and far apart, mostly it's minute decisions about how to represent a texture or a surface and most of that's down to practice and subconscious whim. I can let my mind wonder and sort stuff out (and there's been some stuff to sort out the past week) while my hands keep active. It's good therapy. I've missed inking by hand.
I won't be erasing the pencil work beneath this after I'm done inking. It's very rarely that I let both hang together but for this piece I think it'll suit it. Usually I prefer to clean erase the final inks so that I can look at my professional and sharply inked result and pat myself on the back. But as I said there's been stuff I had to sort out in my mind the last few days and I think it's fitting that I let everything show this time. Art should reflect the emotional context around its creation. A sacrifice's not exactly something to be neat about anyway, right?
Look at the marble stone surface, that textural embellishment, one could say, is meaningless and for a comic artist that must give priority to storytelling structure and composition foremost, perhaps even superfluous (as it it might distract the eye from the relevant action). Resting in an uneasy place between fine art pretension and nitty-gritty comic craftsmanship, that sort of inking flourish has come to define my approach. It's a representation of my inner workings I suspect, every time I try to simplify my linework I feel empty inside. Every time I try to go the extra step and do proper chiaroscuro I feel inadequate and as if I'll never finish a single drawing, ever. Sometimes friends and readers comment on all the little crosshatching stuff that's going on in my drawings and remark to the effect that they'd never have the patience to do that themselves. At those times all I can think about is some other people I'm aware of who do more with simple black and white than I could ever hope to. There's degrees of patience, guys.
Some people are blessed with great determination. I've met artists who have been honing their draftsmanship with the drive of a single-cell organism. For as long as they remember being alive, they've been drawing. There's seventeen year olds on deviantart that can represent reality in their drawings ten times better than I ever could hope to. Going around on the internet browsing fine art sites is a humbling experience for most people hovering in that middle space between confident abstraction and full-on rendering mastery.
Comic artists often excuse their shortcomings by saying they focus on storytelling and/or characterization and perhaps that's true some of the time. For me, if I were to be frank, I never had the patience to be a fine artist. I've never spent more than twenty hours on a single piece of art (more like ten hours on average) and I can't see myself changing in the future. I didn't choose comics as a medium because they serve my strengths, comics chose me because it's the only thing I was capable of doing with my talents, peculiarities and temperament.
Sure, I can spend a year making a comic (I just did. It took about 900 hours of work, that's about three solid hours of drawing per day) but it's a variable loop: Idea, rough pencils, tighter pencils, inking, lettering, attachment to the storyline, go at the beginning and repeat until done. It suits me because I'm never stuck doing the exact same thing for longer than 10 hours or so. I record music in the same way, I'll compose rough segments, put down some guitar tracks, then do some drum sequencing, then some orchestration and keyboard work, then some guitars again, then some vocals, then add or change a compositional part, then pester other members to do their vocals or bass lines or whatnot, it's never a grind.
As I grow older and thankfully advance in my effort to accept myself for what I am, I'm more and more okay with that I'll never be a real fine artist and that I'll need to keep rotating my efforts in my various areas of interest if I want to get things done. I'm frankly not exactly sure how that'll pan out in my professional life, but at least in my own head I feel more and more comfortable being a jack of all trades and master of none. Society constantly pressures for specialization. An artist I knew once said 'specialization is for ants'. Perhaps that's too harsh but I'll take from that that specialization doesn't have to be for everyone.
What do you do, reader? How does it reflect on your attention span? Does it fulfill your desires or have you come to terms it never will completely? Do you spend more than ten hours a day toiling at a particular thing regularly? How's that like? Which are the zen aspects of your craft or work and which are the brain-hurty ones?
Posted by Helm at 8:00 AM