SOME PEOPLE SCOFF at the idea that within our minds,, we contain the ability to harness supernatural abilities, and dare I say even access a different realm. Yet there are savants, like Henriett Seth F. When she was in high school, she created prize-winning artwork featured in galleries. Then the exceptional, like Stephen Wiltshire who is able to draw an entire city landscape across five yards of paper; each meticulous detail is drawn in, after only a forty-five minute helicopter ride.
Yes there are others like him like Richard Wawro, who recalled outdoor scenes perfectly and painted them in great detail using wax crayons. Another by the name of Christophe Pillault, who was incapable of walking, talking, or even feeding himself, found a way to communicate and express himself through the use of extraordinary paintings. Chris’s work has been exhibited throughout the world.
What makes these people special is not only their ability to create such amazingly accurate and wonderful works of art, but their ability to access the part of their brain that allows them to do so. This begs the question, can we harness that ability if we dedicated ourselves to perfecting our art? How do we access this part of our brains?
Reality may slap us in the face and tell us that maybe we will never be able to draw entire landscape from memory. However, this does not mean that we are not capable of an incredible gift when it comes to creating art for comics. Would we suffice with achieving a level that is unsurpassed by by even what we believed our talents could achieve? What would it take to get to this level? Should we go and learn all the secrets that artist A or B has to offer?
BREAKING THE MOLD
Artist A or B may have great things to teach you when you purchase their $600 course, especially when it comes to the basics such as storytelling structure, and human proportions; the fundamentals so to speak. However after we have driven past all the basics, we may seriously want to take a step back and watch the universe of comics as a wholes; perhaps then we will see a trend. Simply put that every artist from “B – Z” is simply a carbon copy of artist “A.” Maybe they want their success story, or maybe they just admire artist “A” so much that the would prefer to mimic their every brush stroke.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t any exceptions, When we think about how comics started we may be surprised to know that they weren’t always about superheros and Sunday Funnies. They were serious, and they were a way to break the mold in telling a story besides its written form.
Lets take one early example from an English chap by the name of William Hogarth, who was very famous for a set of eight beautiful paintings in the year of 1733. Now these weren’t just any set of paintings, they would later be engraved and published in its print iteration by the year 1734, to tell a very unique story. Well what kind of story would be produced in the silly ol’ British times of the 18th century you might ask? Well these series of eight paintings walks you through the life of Tom Rakewell, who by the way is the heir of a rich merchant. Now Tom decides, I’ve got lots of money lets go to London, and waste it all on luxurious things like, prostitution and gambling, and as a result of it all, gets imprisoned. Hmm, sounds eerily familiar, right? Like Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man movie, perhaps. Anyway, what makes this even more fabulous is the fact that this is essentially an early version for a comic. One by the way that remains a British masterpiece to this very day in Sir John Soane’s Museum in London.
William Hogarth – A Rake’s Progress (1733)
Lets consider example two on my checklist, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, written by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill in 1999 (Vol 1). This one can barely be considered an early example, as it was written well toward the end of the 90’s boom of comics. However in many ways it well resembles an instant cult classic among our British neighbors. Although the series has since lost its appeal after the first two volumes, it comes to display a varied use of bright and playfully imagery that does not take itself too seriously. Where it shines brightly is its imaginative use of old myth and folklore. It borrows characters from tales such as Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Solomon’s Mines, and has added on a flare of steampunk fantasy to create its own version of the Justice league. Here the use of great storytelling is where this novel shines, and has made it a multiple award winning novel. A few of the awards that it has won is: 2000, and 2003 Bram Stoker Award for Best Illustrated Narrative, 2003 Eisner Award for Best Finite Series/Limited Series, Time Magazine listed Volume II as the 9th best comic of 2003, 2005 edition of The Year’s Best Graphic Novels, Comics, & Manga.
Lets move on the our last example on our list, Jeremy Han’s critically acclaimed comic titled, Beauty. In this world, a new kind of STD infection beautifies its many victims. If Hollywood’s infection of what beauty should look like doesn’t creep you out, how about flipping this infection into something real? Jeremy turns this very real social fad into a horror story, where the victims eventually become an artistic masterpiece as they arrive to their corporal, hollowed out death. Here in this last example, Han takes something that is very real in our society and that affects our image of what beauty really is all about and masterfully applies a creative twist and plot that is unexpected for our audiences; one that does indeed make us question.
Comics may be under-appreciated as a whole by many hardcore readers and writers, as a means of storytelling. Yet the fact remains, that comics are a medium like none other, that has the ability to more accurately interpret the authors ideas into imagery. However, when we only limit our work to look and sound exactly like artist “A,” then we limit our true potential in what our minds and hands could actually accomplish. Although it can even be crucial to build upon the knowledge that others have laid out before us, it is even more crucial to find your voice in it all. Only then can it be heard loud and clear.