Wednesday, September 7, 2011


There's always a bunch of doodles in the sketchbook that when culling time comes tend to get routinely pushed deeper into the mulch-pile. A lot of the time it's because they aren't  or "right" or "ripe" enough: the dreaded morning-after for cartoonists ("it seemed funny last night").
(More mullings below the fold)
But there a few that if I am honest to myself, I must admit to being simply too hard to draw. By that I mean not so much intimidating, but basically just a pain in the ass, like figuring out complex (compared to the average panel) compositions, and/or ones that require a lot of reference sketching.

First pass: three-hundred-yard penalty... back to the drawing board

Ideally a cartoon has a hallmark simplicity to it, an economy of line, a gestural quality that belies the content - cartoonists take a lot of visual shortcuts. Takes a lot of work to make something look so simple and easy, and I'll bet most folks would be surprised at both how quick a cartoonist can bang out a drawing, and also how much time and effort gets initially invested long before it ever gets to that stage of accomplishment and ease. That's be one debatable distinction of the fuzzy gray area between what makes a good cartoon versus, say, a bad drawing. I tend to fall back a lot on what passes for cartoon shorthand - for example habitual expressions and routine characters, and usually this is also due to the additional factor of a deadline, when speed is of the essence.

 Case in point being all the aborted effort that went into this concept: it is frustrating to work away at it and in the end have it be painfully obvious how forced or stilted the unfamiliar parts appear. I never pay much attention at all to organized, professional sports, much less football, and so the poses and uniforms etc. are all completely foreign worlds to explore.
So being confronted by a scene which calls for tackling a subject matter or situation that I've never done before, like the posted scrimmage line, I'll quite often opt instead for doing the easier ideas first, and then these ideas keep getting left for "another day," whenever the hell that comes. But somehow something funnier always seems to come along, or at least easier to draw.

At times these little creative speed-bumps serve to dutifully remind me of the never-ending, constant need to always be bettering oneself, to stay fresh and keep challenging oneself by pushing the boundaries and trying out new things. It's easy to plateau and coast along doing what you are most comfortable with, have a lot of experience or are good at doing.
Or failing all that, just getting off your artistic ass and getting to work.
Because sure enough, to my horror, I will hear the echoes of the former students who would always whine on critique day that they didn't have the time to finish the assignment (funny how it's seems to only be the best and the worst examples as a teacher that seem to stick with you years afterward). In no small part does teaching reward both parties, as it always works both ways: I will wind up eating my own words. The flip side is the nagging doubt around grading time that you are maybe projecting your personal deficiencies in motivation or ability, and might be biased because a student actually reflects your own limitations or failures as an artist. One of the reasons I never ask a class to do what I can't do myself (which also makes for much better demos I might add).

Trivia: originally it was supposed to be a Musk-Ox

This is all one way to get the ink flowing: thinking about such things whenever I feel that lazy tug on the mental leash that wants to take the easy way out. It's good to shake the bushes every so often just to see what weirdness falls out, and the reward is more often than not 

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