Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Pick Your Tree" (Demo)

I don't get many chances to interject Serious Philosophical Observations, but after several weeks of introspective reflection on some seriously bummer Monday mornings, this panel just about sums it all up. Plus I really almost did run into a moose's butt one bleary morning while shuffling outside the cabin for the morning constitution. Better than a cuppa coffee as far as a wake-up.

 As one of the two demonstrations for pen & ink technique for the drawing class, I picked something that could illustrate the wide range of mark-making for textures. Also they got to see the evolution from idea to thumbnailed doodle to rough, and all the refining that goes into the final composition. The first sketch didn't reveal quite as much of what was really going on (see doodles below), so I pulled the camera out a bit more, but not too much. As with many other panels I try and take it as far as possible using traditional tools before scanning and finishing digitally - relying primarily on line weights and a range of different textures to impart value before shading with halftones (the original drawing then gets treated with wash afterwards so as to wind up with a finished piece). Plus there's the added bonus of seeing the work appear in print shortly after completion as a meta-lesson in producing pieces that have some commercial application outside of the classroom: I submit it to the paper ASAP and try to bump it up in the queue.

One of the biggest challenges with cartooning is the overlooked skill at writing captions: especially with a single-panel it becomes crucial to find a balance between editing and explanation. Paring everything down and rearranging until you get something that hopefully approaches brevity, if not wit. 
So this passage went from "It's important in Life to not only know when to pick your battles but also how to pick your tree" to "In Life, it's just as important to not only pick your battles but also to pick the right tree" to "Not only is it important in Life to pick your battles but one must also always know how to pick your tree" and "It's equally important in Life to not only know when to pick your battles but also where to pick the right tree" etc. etc. The additional factor of which particular words get "bolded" for slight emphasis further complicates things, and pretty soon as the endless stream of possibilities begins to cascade across the brain resulting in that peculiar vacant expression that comes over the artist's face which means "I'm working."

"If you tell a joke in the forest, but nobody laughs, was it a joke?" - Steven Wright

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