Cartoon and Illustration

Struggles in Art

I have not posted in a very long time.  My apologies for this, but I have been very busy trying to get caught up on all the artwork that went by the wayside while I was ill.

I’m feeling a lot better now, thanks.  Still not 100% but much better.

Today I’m going to post about struggling with art, because I am.  Not with ART, but with art–the “material cause” and “efficient cause” (in philosophical terms).  What I’ve been struggling with lately is coloring an entire 18 page story.

I’ve been doing comics art professionally since 1983 and have never colored a project of this scope on my own before (cover images have been the bulk of my coloring work).  The main thrust has always been about storytelling, expressed through the black and white linework that defines comics.

Admittedly, I came close on the children’s book Abraham’s Journey a few years back.  Before that I did a promotional packaging project for Jones Soda and the Seattle Seahawks.  More recently I’ve been working on a huge program for Schiele Museum of Natural History (more on that soon).  But in every case I have relied on help in getting the colors either started or finished.

But this time, I decided I wanted to do the whole thing myself.  I just finished page 13 colors a few minutes ago and wanted to take a short break before going on to page 14.  Because it drives me a little nuts going straight from one to the other–like I did all of last week!  To the point that I simply had to take the whole weekend off and get away from the project.

This is the sort of struggles people wish they had, right?

To quote The Dire Straits:  “Maybe get a blister on your little finger, maybe get a blister on your thumb.”

I’ll admit that is is not back-breaking work.  It’s not digging ditches, nor even doing yard work (which, due to the impending deadline, I’ve been letting go to the point that the yard is a veritable jungle).  Nevertheless, this is a challenging task.  I want to keep things fresh and lively in the artwork and the colors are a very important part of that process.  I want to use the colors to help drive the emotional content of the story.  Add to that the fact that this is 19 sequential pages of artwork featuring the same characters in various situations which have to flow logically from one scene to the next.

I didn’t imagine it was going to be this complicated going in.   The job I’ve been doing for Schiele Museum gave me the courage to attempt this full story–but the Schiele job is a series of vignettes–moving the characters from place to place over decades of time.  Whereas this present job (did I mention it is the third issue of a comic called Spark for a public service group out of Nashville?)–anyway, this present job has a story that takes place over a period of about 36 hours.  So I feel like I need to be tighter in my color/storytelling.

I fully realize this dilemma is primarily in my own head.  But this is the sort of thing that sequential artists have to deal with–at least this one does.

This situation is not unlike the one I found myself in back in 1983 when I drew my very first professional comic, Escape to the Stars.  (“Professional” defined here as actually getting paid for the artwork–the results were pretty amateur by most standards, but I got better!)

Back in the early 1980s my whole focus had been on “getting a job in comics”.  So when I signed on to do ETTS it was a big accomplishment for me.  One goal down, then the paradigm shift to “Oh no!  Now I have to draw this whole book!”  Spring of ’83 turned to Summer as I struggled to learn all the stuff that I needed to make this book happen.  By the time August rolled around (and I had slogged through 20 pages of pencils and a dozen or so pages of inks) I was about ready to give up.

What I actually did was call in a friend to help out on the inks for the last few pages.  The results were not exactly what I’d imagined, but then again, the results of my own inks on the previous pages fell far short of what I’d envisioned.  So the book was “put to bed” and then I realized, “Oh no!  Now I have to draw issue 2!”

That same feeling is back.  So I’m slogging through the last few pages of colors for Spark #3, trying really hard to keep it fresh.  I’m determined to succeed, but it’s going to take some hard mental work to make it happen.

So, back to work.