Monday, June 07, 2010

Cartooning is fiddling in the world of art

The world of fiddling includes hot players with extensive classical training and highly regarded performers with little or no formalized training. Likewise the ranks of cartooning include many who attended or even finished art school. Others have acquired skills mostly on their own to bring their ideas to paper.

Ultimately, the result is what matters. The formally trained practitioner in either art or music may have a bigger toolbox or a deeper understanding of the few tools applied in a given circumstance. I won't argue against a proper education. But as one who has evaded a full formal education I have to hope for the outsider as well.

Fiddling is music of the people. Cartooning is art of the people. I'm sure the first cartoon was an unflattering depiction of the tribal chief that led directly to the first commandment forbidding graven images and the first cartoonist to get stoned. Before Art was invented, people just tried to get a point across with pictures. You need me to draw you a picture? As art has developed, certain artistic people have collected advanced techniques to help them make a picture they find more satisfactory. At the same time, scribbling miscreants all over the world are doing crude renderings and eliciting huge laughs from their audience. I remember a few times in school when my friends and I could not inhale because we were trying to control our laughter during a class when someone had made or found a scribbled cartoon.

One of the best art teachers I've met was a fellow student at the first and only Center for Cartoon Studies gag cartooning workshop in 2006. I hope I would feel the same way if I encountered him as an undergraduate properly enrolled in one of his classes. All I can say is that right now what he says resonates with me.

Jamie Smith posts items about his teaching and cartooning endeavors at his blog, Ink & Snow. Here is a link to his profile information. If you wonder how it's done and how you might do some yourself, scroll through his articles. If you just want to laugh at his cartoons you can find links to take you to a bunch of them.

He did not get a college art education. But he is hardly uneducated.

One thing unifies successful people: they identify their core interest and refuse to be dislodged from it. The same quality afflicts many unsuccessful people who for various reasons fail to make it, but you seldom find a successful person who got there without trying.

I am a fiddler by temperament. I never took well to formal education even though I remained institutionalized for 17 years. I did not have the drive and the need to break out when I could remain subsidized and still pay attention only to what interested me in my immediate vicinity. My major regret is that I did not take more advantage of what I could have sniffed out. I don't really regret any lack of attention in the actual classes for which I registered.

Live and learn, the saying goes. Of course it's easy to pick alternate choices looking back. It really doesn't get any easier looking forward. You can make more rational choices but you can't control what comes from outside. You can only continue to follow your interests in the style that suits you.

When I started cartooning in seventh grade, I did not study it exhaustively. I did not understand the difficulty of the drawing process. Words and ideas came easily. They still do. The drawing comes as hard to me as prying notes off a page and hammering them one at a time like nails into my skull so that I can twiddle through 45 seconds of music. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but I can come up with a thousand words far more quickly than I can produce a professional quality drawing to depict them. After looking at some of the cartooning blogs on the glorious Interweb, I'm not sure I have ever produced a professional quality drawing, regardless of what has gotten published, even though I got paid for some of it. There is some serious damn' art out there.

I scribble on.

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