John Clapp
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Comic Books

    I credit comic books for my initial interest in becoming an artist.  Originally I loved strip cartoons, which led to comics, and from there I got interested in Illustration/Art as a career.  I truly love comics...when they're done well, they are an extraordinary medium.  As with most media though, 98% of the stuff out there is mediocre or worse.

In the case of comic books, I think the biggest limitation is the incestuous character of the artists.  I don't mean they're breeding with their cousins physically of course!  I mean the way that most artists in the genre are copying other comic artists as a means to "success" in the medium.   Example:  Rob Liefield is ripping off Jim Lee, Jim Lee...Todd McFarlane, Todd McFarlane...Art Adams...Art Adams...Michael Golden....etc.  It's an incestuous circle, and just like in-breeding, produces things of inferior quality.

But what about "influence"?   Isn't that legitimate?  Yes, it is, but most comic artists are going far beyond that...and then they aren't going far enough!  Comic art has traditionally been, and I think will continue to be a "symbolic" art form.  Meaning that information is communicated, via a set of symbols understood by the viewer, to represent some kind of realistic information.  A great comic artist invents a set of symbols (he draws things in a certain idiosyncratic way) with which he represents his "reality".  The graphic invention he displays in creating these symbols, and the skill with which he uses them to tell his story is his measure (in my mind) of his artistry.

Most artists start out by looking at other artists, learning how other artists do things graphically.  This is true in other art forms as well.  However, the best artists may start out this way, but quickly develop in their own direction, and the very best, continue to develop and try out new ideas throughout their career!

Al Hirschfeld, the legendary graphic artist, described the process very well.  He said something to the effect: "The challenge is not to make a interesting graphic symbol for an eye, the challenge is to make a different one every time." 

 

Some Wonderful Comic Book Artists
( & things they are especially good at )

Will Eisner (Storytelling, graphic understanding of the page)
Winsor McKay (sheer drawing facility)
Frank Miller
Art Spiegelman
Bill Watterson
Chris Ware
Gary Larson
Matt Groening
Robert Crumb
George Herriman
Walt Kelly
Alan Moore (a writer, but with an artist's understanding of the form)

If you're asking "what about....".....it is probably NOT an error of omission!  On my links page is an excellent website dealing with comic art.   Anyone who is interested, I would strongly suggest checking it out...reading some of the bios, etc.

 

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