As the shape of my personal project begins to reveal its form I find myself tackling bigger questions that I didn’t expect to cross paths with.
The story in itself had been such a long process. There were points that I just wanted to throw my computer on the ground and just give it up. Facing up to difficulties in illustration and figuring out what’s needed seems like such a more familiar beast than with writing. With writing, I need to figure out where the story is going, the psychology that comes with each character, convincing dialogue, making it flow, funneling in what I like and don’t like through every movie or book or TV show I’ve experienced. All of this while keeping out of my own head. Even as I write this, I’m frustrated! But I got it done.
All through the writing process and character designs, I’ve been toiling with how to marry together art and words in the back of my mind. Each has its own unique abilities and both are transitional elements that change from objective to subjective. I always think that one of the best (best, maybe because of how recognizable the piece) examples of this is Magritte’s The Treachery of Images, aka “Ceci n’est pas une pipe/This is not a pipe”.
It is objectively an oil painting painted between 1928 and 1929 by René Magritte. Objectively it depicts a simple profile of a tobacco pipe with words written in French underneath, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”. Subjectively, we the viewer cognitively computes the image as a pipe, even though it is not a pipe* (source: Cpt. Obvious). It is, after all a series of methodically smeared oil dirt, and that is all. Isn’t this the essence of storytelling, creating an illusion for a viewer to experience? In this case, both words and images combine to create an entire cognitive dialogue. Each cannot exist without the other, it is a symbiotic relationship. If it were simply a painting depicting a pipe, it would end there. The viewer would understand that the artist might have some ulterior motives, but would not be quite sure at what it was. There would only be a decent painting of a pipe, nothing to write home about. On the other side of that, If it were simply written words, the viewer might wonder what the hell pipe they were talking about. After all, there is no pipe (“Wohhh”- K. Reeves).
Paul Pope, aside from an insanely talented artist, is an amazingly aware and concise writer, especially in regards to all things connected to art. He came out with his retrospective a while ago, PulpHope, and I find myself going back, surprisingly not for the art work, but for the written material. If you can get it from a friend or library or something, do yourself a favor and get it. His understanding of the comics form (which is another marriage between words and art) is unparalleled. Included in PulpHope, he wrote/drew a one page comic about his four understandings of comics:
1. “Comics” is a visual language. It is a storytelling form.
2. “Comics” inhabits a place between the nuance of words and the suggestion of images.
3. The art of good comics is doing with words + pictures exactly what you think you’re doing.
4. The comic not yet drawn can hold the forms of the greatest ideas an artist can have.
Now, I’m off to explore what’s possible in my own terms. I will come back soon with some answers to share and a book that will be a marker in that exploration.
The last couple of days have been interesting. Moving forward and stepping back…though, maybe it’s more like side stepping actually.
I’ve been secretly working on what I keep calling “send outs”. I’ve been saying it so much that I’m starting to hate that word. It’s just so…formless. Like an amorphous blob of an idea. I think of words like “blech” and “glurg” when I think about it. Like saying, “I’m going to elevate my heart rate”, but never getting more specific than that when you’re really going to go running. Forgive the exercising analogy. In reality, I’ve been working on a small booklet, closer to a story book than a zine or a comic or whatever is hip these days. It will be a book of words and images that retells A Serpents Lust by Ueda Akinari.
Yesterday, I compiled my rough images into InDesign to create a faux dummy. A dummy of a dummy? Would that make the dummy brilliant? Annnnd here’s a transition sentence. Each image on its own at the time was kind of interesting to me (some more than other). Once they were compiled, I took that step to the side to see the path I was headed. It sucked. OK, well that’s a bit over the top, but it just didn’t do it for me, and if I wasn’t going to like it, how could I expect anyone else to like it? I got out my art school sword (yes, you get a sword if you go to a design school, something they don’t tell you) and just poked holes in the armor. When it’s easy and you can damage a piece or project within the first 5 minutes, you know you’re in trouble.
As I’ve learned, trouble is good. That means I’m paying enough attention to whatever it is. Or maybe it’s that I care enough. I’ll leave the profound realizations for a memoir, all I know is that it’s good. I was left with asking the big question: “why?” What were the choices I was making and why? Sidestepping the project, I could actually see the line I was stumbling around, and failing the sobriety test of why I was telling the story. So, faithful reader, it’s back to it again. I’ve got a great feeling about this booklet, and quite honestly, this stuff would be really boring if I got it right every time, all the time.
Special thanks to my girlfriend for letting me give her the, “this is why it sucks” presentation and giving me feedback.
picture: compilation of various roughs for project