Maybe I’m my own worst enemy. Or maybe I just love being a novice. Or maybe I’m bored too easily. But if I gaze back on the course of my passage across the infinite drawing landscape, I look like a veering drunkard, swerving between POVs, pens, paper, subjects, experimenting like Dr. Hyde. When I talk to people I know who are successful professional illustrators, they seemed to have done all this experimentation back in art school and then settled on a style, a technique and a set of tools long ago, so their work is predictable and knowable — that’s what make it commercially viable. When it comes to tools and techniques, I tend to be a serial monogamist. For a while I was madly in love with drawing with grey markers and white pencils on butcher paper. Then I was passionate about using the teeniest possible Rapidograph point on watercolor paper in the smallest size Moleskine, colored with water colors. I went through a period of just doing comic strips in pencil and shades of grey ink. I have always liked the effect of rough, indifferent or spidery marks, splattered with ink, grubby, and wild. In part, that’s a necessity because I am impatient and incapable of neatness. But I like it in others too, from Ronald Searle to Francis Bacon.
My newest journal is big, about 8″ x 12″. Normally I would never use such a large journal because it’s too big for my scanner. Now I’ve decided not to care. Its paper is pretty crummy, too, just ordinary stuff you’d cram into a Xerox machine– the ink easily bleeds through it. And I am not using a pen — just a plastic brush which I dip in a bottle of sumi-ink. It’s a waterbrush but it’s too clogged for the reservoir handle to work properly so I dip it in a puddle of drinking water which I pour on the pavement in front of me. And instead of writing careful, ornate captions with my dip pen I just write some sort of crappy looking note with the brush on the opposite page.
As I describe all this, I wonder is it a matter of some sort of artistic self hatred that’s making me work in this slovenly way? Or am I bored? But no, I really like the feeling of freedom I get from slashing at the page in this way. The drawings have yet to reach any sort of aesthetic that I am completely pleased with but I feel nice and loose and unfettered. I don’t care if the pages are perfect ( I had been becoming so anal in my last book that I was drawing less and less, rarely having the time or mood to be so deliberate) and I like how they are warped and winkled. This may be a summer fling but it’s already forming sweet memories.
My comic drawing style is still developing. I’ve given myself three handicaps: I’m drawing small, with a brush, and from my imagination. Despite my reservations about my drawings, I do like the look of these wee moleskine pages filled with greys.
I have also set myself another task. Every day, Jack tells me some story from his day and I try to turn it into a comic. I am working to develop a Jack-like character that I can repeat frame after frames, story after story.
I am starting to turn the members of my family into characters that can be drawn over and again in different poses and be recognizable from frame to frame. Again, this is so dffferent from how I normally work. I am drawing in sumi-ink and working very small. My lettering virges on the indicipherable for which I apologize. Write me with strenuous complaints.
I imagine that comics aren’t your cup of tea. Still, think about them and how they could effect your own journaling. They offer a good way to use drawing to tell a story and force you into some dfficult design and drawing problems that may teach you something.