Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Between Illegible and Insipid

I hate my drawing style. Between the scribbled sketch and the formal rendering, the drawings almost always seem to go flat. I draw like I'm folding my shirts.

Someone suggested I work directly in ink with no preliminary pencil sketch at all. That didn't work, because a lot of the time I need some sort of composition diagram when I'm working at a large enough size to draw details that will take reduction. Even if I do a lot of studies beforehand, I also need a good idea how I plan to render unfamiliar objects I may need to include to make the gag work.

The answer will not come from someone else's advice. It will come with drawing after drawing. You'd think by this point in life I would have gotten completely comfortable, but I'm sure I fall short of the ten thousand bad drawings Wallace Tripp suggests every illustrator needs to get through.

I'm sure some illustrators think of the image first. I think of the idea, usually verbally. Other cartooning teachers have said that writing is the basis for gags and that drawing can follow, so I don't feel out of line there. But some artists use a gag as an excuse for a drawing, whereas I have always considered a drawing as a vehicle for a gag. So filling the frame is a bit like packing a rucksack. You only want what you need, but not less than you need, and you want to have access to the most important bits instantly. Because you have to carry it yourself, you don't want a lot of extra clutter.

There are, of course, detail freaks who love to throw in extra clutter. Sometimes the result is impressive and enjoyable. Other times it makes the cartoon as intimidating and fatiguing as a credit card agreement to wade through. I've never seen the need to become good at it.

Back to the old drawing board. My latest assignment won't draw itself any more than my shirts will miraculously assume a flat, neat shape without me.

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