Saturday, February 17, 2018

Thoughts On Throwback Thursdays

Every so often over in Facebook land I participate in the "Throwback Thursday" thing, but instead of posting nostalgic photos I scan + clean up old cartoons from the Freeze-Frame era.
More below the fold...

There are times when somebody will make a comment to me about how hard it must be to come up with something new every week. Of course, this is nowhere near the challenge faced by a cartoonist who does their own material for a daily feature, but over the years as the panels start to pile up behind you, it does seem to take on an impressive presence all on its own. One can allow the fleeting feeling of accomplishment in the volume alone, before the constant call to keep producing. The well hasn't ever run dry, and even during temporary freeze-ups, there's always more than enough stores laid aside to see you through any drought.

This necessitates some digital tweaking as it deals with the old-school halftone screens, one of the signs that the artwork is from a time back when ones skills utilizing an Xacto knife with dexterity and speed was equivalent to operating a mouse these days.

The other characteristic marking the cartoons would be the aesthetics of the drawings themselves. Such historical exhumations of the archives evoke presumably the same dissatisfaction and critical appraisal that any artist in any media would feel.

That's like asking a musician to sit down and listen to their first album made almost thirty years ago, or any writer, actor and so on. Probably painful, if not at least worth a laugh (more on that latter point in a little bit here).

The flip side would be at least knowing how much you've - hopefully - grown and changed stylistically speaking. I mean, when the evidence is laid out right there before your very eyes and you can literally see the difference it helps quiet the inner critic that yeah, you can in fact draw.
Which, mind you, is much different than any maturation of content.

Which brings me to the observation that none of what matters most to me as an artist today matters at all when it comes to applying the benchmarks from what constitutes a "good cartoon."

What really counts is whether or not it's funny, and in fact any overcompensation with artistic trappings (my oft-repeated factors such as composition, emphasis on linear perspective (or lack thereof), value, linework, color  etc.) might impede or overshadow the core aspect. As they say, a good joke will sell a bad drawing, and conversely, even if it's an artistic masterpiece, if it ain't funny then it fails.

So this perspective on my own work really helps to inform my judicious appraisal of student work, and invariably brings up that annoying contradictory message of objectively taking it for what its worth, regardless of your evolving standards, while simultaneously acknowledging the incessant drive to continue to get better.

That inherent incongruity is behind what constitutes a very large part of what it means to be an artist. Money, recognition from peers, popularity, addressing social issues, and so on, might be motivations for many, and be a part of the ultimate mix for motivation, but at the heart of it, when you sit by yourself at the drawing table alone with just your inner thoughts, questioning  how + why is more often than not the difference between pursuing the arts versus many, if not most other jobs.

In fact one can only wonder what would happen if some occupations, like say politicians, for example would routinely subject themselves to such introspective musings. On the other hand, if every auto mechanic or line cook were to ponder the big picture while at work, it might slow things down quite a bit.

And regular readers will certainly note how much over the years I have explored that same continuum as it manifests in the arts, particularly when it comes to putting the work in art-work. The "clock-in-and-be-creative" approach might be considered by many free-spirited artsy-fartsy folks to be anathema to creativity itself, but I still maintain it's an amalgamation.

Sometimes I look back over the decades and think to myself “Man, how is it that you got away with such stupid gags + bad drawings way back in the day?” And then I look at what’s on my drawing table today and laugh. Not that that's anything unusual in itself, though it does tend to draw looks when sketching out in public.

One could argue (as I do with myself) that this blog itself is an extension of all those concerns, but how ling can you go on saying the same thing in different ways? And after years of experimentation it becomes more and more apparent that I write about as well as I draw. But, as per the above-mentioned foundation is concerned, it gets the point across, and meaning is made clear.
Can always get better though...

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