Monday, February 28, 2011

Feeling the Funk of the Creative Mind

Lately it seems every other artist I know is feeling a creative funk. Unable to draw the way you want. Lack of focus on what you want to create or even worse how to start it. Everything you touch seems to not be at the artistic level you are capable or below the vision you have for it in your mind. Maybe it’s the weather or the New Years blues, the economy or the sense that we are in a state of flux in the creative world. All these outside factors can be a part of the problem but I believe the root of most creative funks comes from inside.

I was once told that your art suffers the most right before you make a big jump up artistically. Your creative “eye” sees the problems in your work before your mind can convince your hand to solve them. What I mean is that as artists are minds are always running a sub-routine of problem solving in the back of our minds. We see how light hits the face of a stranger on subway or how the folds of jacket lay on a leather jacket on a mannequin in the window of a clothing store. We are always cataloging and sourcing for new solutions to what we don’t yet understand. Without even trying the creative mind is improving it’s internal vision of the world. Updating and sending messages like “that does not look right?”, “hey that arm looks funny.”. These messages come fast and furious and build up over time. So fast that often it leaves the artist with a feeling that everything looks wrong or my art work doesn’t look as good as it used to. In essence both of those feeling are true and real. Your creative eye has evolved beyond your physical drawing ability. It’s something you should accept and actually feel good about. Why? Because that frustration is really a doorway to better art work.

Once you know the truth behind why you are feeling the funk it’s can be a very liberating time. You don’t have to worry about creating something on a high level but you do need to keep working. Artists have a default mode where they feel unfulfilled if they don’t do a piece of art work that is “worth” showing. If you want to grow as an artist you have to be willing to accept that you will create some bad artwork. You shouldn’t feel bad about not hitting the mark because no piece is without some lesson to be learned . Even if the lesson is as simple as “that’s not what I want to do.”

The worst thing that can happen during a funk is to stop drawing. Many artists give up during this time or settle into a style that just amplifies their past knowledge base. They repeat again and again the style of drawing they are comfortable with. I’m sure you can track many artists that found something and just settled into it. Which is not bad per se but if art is about expression why would you want to say the same thing over and over again. Embrace the signs you are growing and move past the uneasy feelings with the knowledge beyond the “funk” is a blue sky of new abilities and new creative expression.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Working like a crazy man these days. Lots on the plate. Mainly focusing on getting Me2 done and out to MTV. The story turned out to be more difficult to draw than expected. Another situation where the writer side of me is writing checks that the artist side of me is having trouble cashing. I wouldn't say that the drawings themselves were difficult to do but it was more about choosing the right shot to get the story across. For me the storytelling is what makes comic books so labor intensive. I find creating the layouts are a lot of fun but executing them with the level of nuance needed to sell a particular aspect of the story or character is what takes the longest for me. Than again that's where the magic happens.

Like most artists I'm distracted by pretty things. I'll be trolling around DA at 3am and find some artwork that will inspire me and I'll think "maybe I should draw 25 different Steampunk pieces. Yeah that's a good idea." I have to fight the urge to just spend my days chasing the single image and ignoring any sequential art. Of course there is an aspect of storytelling in single images Drew Struzan and Leyendecker, Rockwell mastered it. I recognize those masters but I can't help but think how difficult it is to sustain that level of energy over the course of a page, let alone an entire comic. It's a challenge no doubt. There is a puzzle element to it that I think peaks the interest of the problem solver creator. Maybe this is why although there are many great artists there are not that many artists that can tell a great story with beautiful art.

Many comic artist eventually fall into a "drawing system". Which means they distill their style down into certain styles of lines and lighting. In some cases they begin to use the same angles and poses over and over again. This worked perfectly in the era of the monthly artist. Artists like John Byrne mastered it and for a time he was able to keep his work fresh while simplifying it over the years. The only problem is that more often than not the system overwhelms the artists core drawing abilities and the art suffers. Not to mention the landscape is different for the modern comic artist. Artist's less and less do long runs on comics and they don't often have a stable creative team surrounding them. There are still artists that have a style system but we see more and more the cartooning aspect flowing out of mainstream American comic art and new focus has been given to a illustrative approach to the art. Alex Ross and Bryan Hitch personify this in modern times. It's ironic that so many artists chase a style system and when they find it, it is usually the thing that pigeon holes them or undoes them towards the end of their career.

As the stories in modern comics have become more cerebral so has the art. It seems every artist wants to prove they know the finer points of the medium vs capturing a moment or portraying the energy of a scene. The combination of a dry story with what I would call naval gazing art has made for less accessible comics. Comic books work best when they are visceral and flawed. When the art shows off it's hand made human qualities is when it shines and more importantly connects with the viewer/reader. That emotional connection we share through the art and the story is something unique to this art form and it is what sets it apart from stills of CGI art floating across a screen. Embracing that quality is something I would like to see more of. Bring back the life. Bring back the energy. Don't be ashamed to use every tool available.

Which brings me back to my battle between focusing on sequential art or single images. It's not like I can't make time to do both but what is more important to me? What do I see myself as? I see myself as a comic book creator. A storyteller through sequential art. That's why I have dedicated this year to only drawing comic book pages.

I'm committed. I'm excited.

I'm ready to make my run.