Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Things to ponder...

I have become concerned of late about the quality of the artwork in my strip. I mean, I've always been concerned, but now there's a stronger element of dread to my musings. You see, on the one hand, I have had to accept that I am not a very good artist. I'm impatient, I take shortcuts, and I have difficulty keeping the proportions on my characters' features consistant. One of the reasons, in fact, that I decided to make the newest character, Persephone, so petite (about 4'10", 96 pounds, full B cups, etc.) was that I realized that I was not paying enough attention to perspective. Sometimes, Boritom (who's about 4'3" tall) would come up to Milo's belt line, other times, he comes up to his chest. At one point, earlier in the strip, I was drawing all of the humans to be about the same height. Very unlikely. If I were casting live action actors, Adam and Milo would be about 6' tall, Cliff would be 6'1" (just to piss Milo off), Mama Festerburger and Suzanne would be about 5'2", and so on. Even as recently as last fall, I kept drawing everybody at eye level with one another. I've tried to correct this here and there, but it's still inconsistant.

The overall drawing quality itself is still pretty sloppy, too. I mean, there are times where I get the style and the quality to really gel, but most times, I'm pretty unhappy with it.

Now, I acknowledge that most artists, regardless of the type of art, are their own worst critics (unless they are really arrogant, or they suck and are really deluded). Even Michelangelo was heard to look at the finished ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and mutter to himself, "Jeez... I really phoned that fucker in, didn't I?" Artists are a dichotic breed. On the one hand, they have this tremendous urge to create something wonderful, new, exciting, or just different. On the other, they're self conscious, self deprecating, and in some cases, wallow in self loathing (why else would Van Gogh have cut his own ear off?). One has to be careful not to allow themselves to go to the extreme, lest they end up looking like they just fought Mike Tyson.

I also realise that, while the basic character design is good, the strip would probably be better if I let someone else take over the actual drawing, and I concentrated on writing and promoting the strip. Of course, my fragile little ego won't permit that, so I'm stuck with the task of trying to refine my style, my technique, and trying to improve my work ethic at the same time. I'm a true slacker. Bob Dobbs has nothing on me.

I have been wanting to try to emulate some of my favorite artists in comics and cartoons, but they're so diverse, and if you go too far in any one direction, you find yourself getting dangerously close to artistic plagiarism. I want to lean in the direction of Chuck Jones in many respects, but the man was such a genius with subtle facial twitches, he had such finesse. I also sometimes want to go more for a Kricfalusi-like approach, but again, I lack the touch. As most of the characters stand now, they're in many ways almost generic Hanna-Barbera in look and feel. I'm not comfortable with that, but I still need to find what works as I refine the look.

It's a never ending process, of course. Charles M. Schultz is regarded as one of the most beloved strip artists, but his style was always changing. You can tell what decade a Peanuts strip was drawn, for instance, by the size of Snoopy's nose, the shape of his feet and ears, and the length of his legs. It was subtle, of course, but very noticeable over the long haul.

I have improved over the three years I've been seriously drawing Boritom. I don't deny that the strip looks better now than it did in 2003. I just wish it looked better to me than it does, and i wish it looked better to other people. A well written comic strip has to be well drawn, too, and at the moment, I actually feel that the look of the strip is distracting from the writing to a good extent. That, in turn, is giving me less confidence in the story, and I make odd mistakes (more about that another time).

I don't work as hard as Randy Millholland, James Grant or Jeff Darlington. I don't have near their following, either. Hopefully, one day, I'll have both the following, and the quality of artwork to justify it.

Until that day... bear with me.


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