Ok, I was part of the Middle discussion (Art) on Saturday 6th February 2016, at this event. I was delighted to have been invited, despite nerves about the public speaking aspect, which, it turns out, I was right to have, because I was afflicted with a massive tension headache throughout, meaning that my contributions to the thing were, shall we say, … compromised. Seemed to go alright, despite my shonkiness. I’m not about to watch this video link out of fear that my perception is woefully misguided:
And here are the notes for the spiel that I made a pigs ear of delivering at the beginning of the thing:
Notes on Art
An asinine debate bubbles up repeatedly on certain message boards of that there internet, like the results of some ghastly gastro-intestinal disorder: which is more important in comics, the writing or the artwork? Why is it asinine?
Consider this; you’re drawing a graphic novel from a script, it’s a rags to riches affair, about an artist who gains the world but loses his soul. Bit clichéd I know, but hell, you need the money. Who doesn’t in this economy?
Somewhere in act one there’s a scene where the artist, as a young student, chats to a friend in a café, in the last act, there’s a scene where, much older he talks to the same friend, in a restaurant. In both scenes they are talking about a third person, maybe the artists muse and would be lover. I don’t know. It doesn’t exist. Apart from the dialogue, the script gives you nothing.
But you, as an artist, and knowing the story’s shape, decide to emphasise certain things. You might make the café a real greasy spoon job, all chipped mugs and formica tables. You might surround your two characters with workmen and little old ladies and a couple with a pram on the verge of a nasty argument. You decide that the artist and his mate have been nursing two cups of tea, because they can’t afford the full English.
With the later scene you decide that the restaurant is as exclusive as possible, maybe the artist has a regular table, maybe it’s actually separated from other diners by a velvet rope. The food comes in tiny, beautifully laid out portions on huge plates. It is largely ignored, as are the staff, whom the artist never acknowledges.
In short in the first scene you do everything you can to emphasise the artists poverty and place amongst the common people, and everything you can to get over his alienation and aloofness in the second. You consider body language and clothing, placement: the first scene has our two characters squeezed in almost nose to nose, the second has them separated by an acre of tablespace. The first scene is all balanced compositions and cheerful colours, the second all dutch angles and desaturation. Maybe the café scene is a breezy six panel Kirby grid, and the restaurant scene takes place in a gazillion cramped little Chris ware boxes. And so on, and so on…
Here’s the thing: how much of that drawing could actually be considered writing? How much of that ink on paper is doing the same job that a novelist does in a prose novel? How much would the book lose if the cartoonist involved said bollocks to all that detail and just drew the figures and the table? The bare minimum required to get across the scene?
The internet argument is asinine because in comics, the artwork is the writing. The page design is the syntax. Everything on that page, from panel progression to balloon placement and lettering font is going to affect how the reader perceives the story. This much is bloody obvious to anybody who creates the damned things.
In short, the internet is a fucking idiot.
Getting philosophical about the art of comics. Three subjects. Three panels. Informal chat – followed by a discussion with the audience.