Ok, it’s only been 12 months, but I thought I’d keep the running gag going from my 6-month retrospective on Mister G Kids.
It’s been a year of Mister G Kids, and I had planned a lovely blog post to celebrate. Instead, I unintentionally said everything I wanted to say broken into bits over the past week!
I intended at first just to repost a couple of old favorite comics from the first months of the blog. I ended up waxing verbose on each, and so a big thoughtful polished eloquent year-end blog post isn’t necessary!
And I’m just a guy making a comic. Continuing the week-long look-back at a year of Mister G Kids, I’d like to re-share with you this comic, Artists, originally posted April 30, 2012.
When I had an undergrad semester distraction of thinking I was going to major in studio arts, I was mostly depressed with the static despondency of my professors. The studio arts department was in the basement of the fine arts building. Upstairs it was all wood grain and dappled sunlight for the rarefied folks studying 19th century Belgian architecture. But for those of us getting our hands dirty, it was the basement we called home.
It was like taking class in a tomb. Or a Vegas casino. No windows, no sense of time passing. It was an appropriate setting for the calcified collection of broken dreams that was the faculty. Most of them really got me down. My adviser, with humor more bone dry than the corpses surely buried under the basement floor, once sarcastically asked me, “What’s your hurry?” when I told him I was hoping to graduate by the time I was 26.
There was one professor whose world view changed my attitude about being an artist. After I had moved to the theatre department to take up studies there, I came back to visit him. He asked how things were going. In the middle of giving some murmered non-answer, he cut me off to ask simply, “Are you making stuff?” And I was elated to answer “yeah.” Whether it was a monologue I was working on or a comic for the school paper, or a tomato salad, he got me to realize in that flash of interruption that an artist’s life can be full if one is just making things. It doesn’t matter if it’s important, valuable, or for pay.
So in the years since, I’ve moved back and forth between the stage and the studio, and now I find myself in front of a piece of paper again. To me, it’s all one. It’s making stuff.
To return to this comic, Artists… Here were a couple of kids just making stuff in school, and the one kid was the voice of the perfectionist, the careerist, the man who counts the years he has left to make his mark. And the other kid just brought it down to earth.
In the end, we’re all just kids colorin’. There are larger forces at work that decide whether the stuff you make is worth a damn, worth a dollar, worth praise, or worth scorn. It feels good not to be in control of that.
So here I am, just a guy making a comic. I earn little more than pennies a day on ads. But it gives me joy to share my day with you. And that’s another special thing that separates this comic from my other comic projects. I don’t write the jokes. Virtually all of the comics really happened. Taken as a year’s worth of work, all these comics are really just a journal, a couple hundred moments of sitting still to jot down a snapshot of a day’s work.
I don’t do it for the money, because there isn’t any. I do it because I like making stuff, and giving it to you.
Kids are smarter than I am in their direct unequivocal observations, and at their age with their potential unfulfilled, they are better human beings than I am. That’s why I love being around them. And why I can’t wait to share what they say with the lot of you who only spend your time around adults and may have lost a little faith in mankind.
I leave you with the words of a wise old painter years before he got old and wise and painted a bunch of pictures:
“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? How else can we put ourselves in harmonious relation with the great verities and consolations of the infinite and the eternal? And I avow my faith that we are marching towards better days. Humanity will not be cast down. We are going on swinging bravely forward along the grand high road and already behind the distant mountains is the promise of the sun.” – Winston Churchill, 1908
It’s Mister G Kids‘ first birthday! Continuing the celebration from yesterday’s post, I’m re-blogging some memorable comics of the last year.
This comic, Chapstick, originally posted April 2, 2012, was one that found an audience on Pinterest. I discovered the importance of the mom demographic, and the key to that demo is featuring a cute little kid. The motif of the little girl in pink has since appeared again and again.
In the early days I was still experimenting with what worked for a child’s face, and looking back I think the pupils are too big, but otherwise the basics are there for the typical kid that appears in the comic. The key to a kid’s face is Less is More. The more detail you add, the older she starts looking. It took me a long time to learn that.
This comic has no background. As I had learned in the week since I started the comic, not only did a background take too long to draw, it also distracted from the foreground action.
That brings me to perhaps one of the most distinctive features of my comics – they aren’t digital. Many of today’s webcomics are done on a tablet connected to a computer, and I understand why. If you’re doing multiple panels, digital cartoonists easily cut and paste a drawn figure and just change an expression or an arm. I am old-school and think this is cheating. I know – I’m a fossil.
Another great thing digital can do is backgrounds. You can quickly fill in a color field with the paint can tool and add some quick details, then add your more carefully crafted characters on top of that background. As an old-school drawer, I have to plan ahead – I can’t draw the background until the foreground is done. So not only does it take away from the story, it’s a giant pain in the ass – if you’re doing a daily comic and you also have a dayjob, you just don’t have time.
I can’t tell you how many people have commented about the hand-made quality of my comics. I don’t think my way is better or faster than a tablet, but I do love how quickly you can make a sketch with warmth and luminosity with just a few pencils and a real piece of paper. Don’t get me wrong, beautiful painterly work can by done on a tablet (see my favorite contemporary artist Artgerm‘s work as a great example), but it requires painstaking hours of work. Most webcartoonists don’t have that kind of time, and so my observation is that many tablet-drawn webcomics look flat (two cartoonists who find a balance between digital’s ease of use and a healthy dose of chiaroscuro are Ray Kelly and Dave Mercier).
With old-school tools you can, in five minutes, create depth and – like my favorite aspect of art that manages to reveal it - see the medium itself: the imperfections, the pencil’s unsteady line, even the faint wood grain of the table I draw my comics on! To get that hand-crafted look on a tablet just isn’t practical for someone churning out a comic a day. So I sacrifice the ease of use, the ability to edit without hassle, and many other conveniences of a tablet to have that hand-drawn simplicity in my comics. Thanks for supporting it!