Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cartooning class #2 "It says in the Torah to find thyself a teacher. This I have done." --Avram Belinski in the Frisco Kid

2. Get your mind blown as often as possible.
I have a little bit of experience with the Suzuki teaching method. Among many of the brilliant ideas it espouses, one of them is that every musician that one actively listens to, studies and appreciates becomes one's teacher.

Looking back I find that I did this HEAVILY as a teenager. My teachers were Sam Keith and Todd McFarlane mixed in with a generous amount of Bill Watterson. After I got into college, my scope widened. I accepted the angularity of Mike Mignola's work and was able to see him for the genius he was (and is). I got into George Herriman's Krazy Kat big time. Winsor McCay too. After I graduated college, I picked up a couple of Benito Jacovitti's books. Add to that guys like William Heath Robinson, Robert Wilson, Sergio Toppi, Jeff Smith, Honore Daumier, Lionel Feininger and Heinrich Kley and you get a fair picture of my post college aesthetic.

Each artist that you appreciate and study is like an ingredient in the soup of your style and how you visually express your ideas.

I learned different ways of composing a comic strip from the people who did it best.

I learned how to draw hands from a number of sources. Every time I saw a cool hand, I'd mark it in my memory and return to it as necessary.

I'd never really copy another drawing. What I would do is mimic a style. It became another way I could express an idea that I had in a way that was more exiting than what I could do by myself. As I did this, my various influences mixed together more and more, and I had a manner of doing things that was all my own, yet totally dependent on the artists I chose to be my influences.

As time has passed, I've collected more and more teachers. Scott C., James Jean, Skottie Young, Earnest Shepard, A.B. Frost, Graham Annable and I'd better stop there because I'm going to leave a lot of people out. I've never stopped. I'm always looking for something out there to blow my mind. Thanks to the internet, dang near every one who has something that's worth looking at has put it out there for everyone to experience. For YOU to experience.

The most important thing is to think outside of the bookstore. Sometimes you can find good stuff there, but it's not too often. Recently comics have been largely disappointing. I'm pretty picky, though. Never followed comic book stories too much. I've always been into them for the art. What I'm on the lookout for is quirkiness. I'm looking for stuff that surprises me. I'm looking for someone who has found a different way of seeing and expressing things rather than just recycling the same ideas. I take that experience that they share and add it to mine and TRY to take what I'm doing to that next level-- just a little bit farther than anyone else has ever seen before. Notice the emphasis on the "try".

I've gotta leave a quick note for the Manga fan boys and girls out there. I'm not going to knock it, but artistically I think you need to keep moving. There are thousands of people drawing that way. Probably millions. Do you want to be one AMONG millions or one IN a million?

You are unique. Let your artistic expression reflect your uniqueness. You didn't figure out math by yourself. Someone taught it to you. Likewise learn to solve the problems you encounter artistically with help from wherever you can finagle it. Broaden your horizons and your experience by engaging in the pursuit of the host of teachers that are available to you.

I really can't stress enough how important this is. It's like the fuel inside your creative engine.

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