Comics Vs. Illustration

Wed 2/28/2007

One of my instructors was subtly badmouthing Comics this morning and it spiraled me off into a bad mood for the rest of the day.

It is no secret that I have a very deep love of Comics. Lately I have been reworking that famous Osamu Tezuka line, saying that "If Comics is my wife, than Illustration is my mistress." And that's really what it felt like, as if this person was insulting my WIFE. It really got my blood boiling, but I couldn't exactly pick a fight with my teacher...

I guess this is part of the problem with Graphic Novels gaining more recognition; people start kicking the term around to sound hip or whatever, when really they have no idea what they are talking about. People think illustration is superior to Comics??? Give me a break!

Illustration is only a single image! Concept, composition, value, color, technique. PFFF! Try laying out a whole PAGE of images, in a panel structure while maintaining flow. And pacing. And narration (or dialogue). And balance. In a consistant style. Plus you have to know how to draw EVERYTHING IN THE ENTIRE WORLD and rotate and pose the human form into ANY POSTION. And that's just for ONE PAGE of an entire story (or UNIVERSE) that you are buliding. Illustrators have NOTHING on Cartoonists!

Sometimes my program just feels really frustrating because most of my teachers don't understand where I'm coming from. They see my line drawings and think it's "cute" or based off of "cartoons." I loaned my drawing teacher some good French comics a few weeks ago and in the following critique he said he finally understood why I draw the way I have been for the last TWO YEARS. (!!?!)

Anyways, as a silver lining, one of my other instructors JUST discovered Tintin last week and he's freaking out about Herge's amazing artistic talent. I'm going to bring him a stack of Tintin books on Friday that will blow his mind!

10 comments on this entry

Hey Alec, just curious - what made you choose Pratt over SVA or some other comics-friendly program? It seems odd that you chose to go to Pratt, which is notoriously unfriendly towards comics intermingling with their illustration program.

Liz Feb28

Well, I already have my undergrad degree, and I spend most of my free time exploring Comics, so I wasn't really interested in going to school to study Comics. I was strictly looking for intense illustration programs, so that I improve my drawing style and build up a foundation of technical skills (perspective, figure drawing, PAINTING, etc. all of which I had never learned about before).

While Pratt frustrates me on the Comics level, I am definitely feeling well prepared to head off into the world of illustration! (which has SOME chance of providing me with income, or starting a "career" whereas I do Comics "for the love" of them)

Alec Feb28

That's it. Fight the battles you can win!

Arlene Feb28

This a wonderful and clear demonstration of why Alec is well-regarded as a nice, sweet person and I am not. Alec's approach to dealing with an ignorant teacher spewing misinformation about his passion is to absorb it quietly, get into a bad mood, and discuss it with more receptive persons later on. My approach (which I will simultaneously and paradoxically admit is the wrong one, and yet there is now way I could resist doing it) would be to pick a fight, right in front of the rest of the class, which of course would embarass the teacher, making them less receptive to any information I may have, and making myself seem like a combative know it all attention seeking asshole.

(I might be able to prevent that- if I respected the teacher otherwise, if their aspersions weren't overt, or if I happened to be in a level-headed enough mood that day to approach them in a friendly manner after class and offer to loan them some comics so that thay might see my point of view. The point is, Alec a much better temper, one which it's probably wise for people such as myself to emulate. Here's looking up to you, Alec.)

Matt Feb28

Aw, thanks Matt! It should be noted however, that this experience put me in such a bad mood that in the following class I was extremely defensive during critique. When the teacher attacked the line weights of my ink drawing I got even MORE angry and spent the rest of the class muttering under my breath (or slightly above) about "what the hell do PAINTERS know about LINE WEIGHT" and "OBVIOUSLY never seen HERGE'S line" etc. etc. etc.

Alec Feb28

Duly noted sir. That would have been an entertaining internal momologue to hear I'm sure.

Matt Feb28

Man, I can SO empathize with you guys. The one silver lining here is the large degree to which the culture at large is really starting to embrace comics as a medium now. There are many examples to help validate your artistic choices nowadays. Who'd have thought we'd see the day when comics would be running weekly in the New York Times? Or a cartoonist would be one of the major exhibitors for the Whitney Biennial (and design the poster for it). When I was studying illustration in the early nineties, this comics movement was in its very early stages. The only thing on the horizon that indicated to me what might be coming was Art Spiegleman's Maus exhibit at MOMA (which blew my mind). I remember at the time I began my study in NY, I kept my love of comics pretty closeted, and my very first illustration critique was humiliating, as the instructor said "This looks like a CARTOON!", as though I had pooped on a canvas and brought it in or something. I didn't have that powerful inner sense of direction yet to follow through with my interests or passions, and so I went in an entirely different direction, pursuing painting and printmaking and a more "fine art" approach that would gain more approval from my instructors and peers. Guys like James Sturm and a handful of others were there at that time fighting some heavy battles to get comics to be seen as an acceptable form of art. I was too young and naive and unconfident in myself, or my choices. I think that's why I stopped doing illustration and moved into learning theater after that, because of a need to develop and show my skills as a storyteller rather than purely an image-maker. Years later I saw one of those same instructors at MoCCA and I asked him "What are YOU doing here?", and he gave me a look that said he knew what I meant and said, "I'm still learning". Now I believe he runs an entire department devoted to comics and comics artists. So yeah, I think it's a real challenge still to point out how valid comics are as a form of expression, but its getting easier. So much has changed and continues to do so. So I envy you guys a little bit. You've all got your heads screwed on right, you know what you want and the direction you want to move in. I'm still trying to play catch-up and make up for some lost time, but we all have our paths to follow... Don't let the man get you down. The same man who lectured me once for making "cartoons", when recently asked to talk about how illustration was "dying" then went on to comment that he thought the future of the field probably lay with the "artist as storyteller", like some of the modern graphic-novelists.

Cam Feb28

I'm in my every-sequential-professor-wants-to-know-why-it's-requirement-for-grad-students-ART-CRITICISM-class (luckily, my last non-useful class that I have to take), and the professor will not typically let us do ANYTHING involving comics OR illustration. She is interested in the current trend of "Magma-influenced fine art" (she means Manga).

I'm doing my research paper on Carl Barks, after much pushing, and do you know what finally swayed it in my favor? I pointed out that his paintings sold at Sotherbys for lots of money. Once it was clear that he did "real art," it was okay for me to write my paper on him.

Chris S. Mar05

UGH! As if 50 years of creating one of the most comprehensive Comics universes with a rich history and cast of dozens of memorable charaters, who will be drawn for centuries to come, all from his own imagination is not "REAL ART" !!!?! (Why do you think his paintings of Uncle Scrooge sold for $500,00??? Because people loved his Comics!)

Keep fighting the good fight Chris! And good luck with your Barks paper, I would love to read it when you are done!

Alec Mar05

"Hey look! It's on a wall!"

"Does it cost alot?"

"Why, yes! It's very expensive!"

"Well, it must be art then!"

Matt Mar05

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