John "The Gneech" Robey (the_gneech) wrote,
John "The Gneech" Robey

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Ze World, She Is Flat? Or Round? Or Neither?

I had a great time at FC; no real negatives to speak of other than a few logistical booboos that were easily ironed out, and a flight home that was just a little more pleasant than a stomach bug, by virtue of being shorter.

One good thing that happened was that I got to talk to higginsdragon a bit about the reasons why my application to Artspots got turned down. It was all a bit harried and catch-as-catch-can, but in our two fifteen-minutes conversations the gist of it seemed to be that my perspective and shading are weak -- which is actually on the self-critique list I wrote up before the con, but perhaps should be moved up in priority as a more fundamental problem. He was very careful to emphasize that my grasp of anatomy was good, which pleased me.

I was thinking about that this morning, and I think I may have an idea of why that is -- my art style is still trying to straddle two worlds. Specifically, the flat panels of the newspaper comic, versus more realistic, representational art. It makes sense, when I think about it, considering that my earliest influences were Peanuts (one of the original "abstract art comic strips"), Saturday morning cartoons and in particular the Looney Tunes (which swung wildly around between abstract and realistic depending on the era and the budget), and early '70s anime (especially Kimba the White Lion and Speed Racer).

If you ever look at the world in Peanuts, everything there is flat. When you see the side of a house, it looks like an architectural diagram, with the side of the house as a rectangle, and the front stoop as another rectangle. To create a sense of depth, when such is called for, there are smaller "flat buildings" in the background on successively receding layers. Ditto much of the Looney Tunes (tho, again, not all -- especially during the Clampett/McKimson years, which were often more illustrative than toony).

(For a more contemporary example, compare the flat world of Pearls Before Swine to the, erm, well-rounded world (one hesitates to say "realistic") world of Danger Girl.)

This world-flattening is done for a very potent and practical reason -- in the limited canvas of the 3x4 comic panel or the tiny '50s TV set, you generally don't have room for depth and perspective! But when it comes to doing illustrative art for its own sake, or the larger canvas of the modern comic page, this tends to be a liability rather than an asset.

If I understand Higgins right, my problem is that I'm stuck hovering somewhere between these two worlds. One of my images that he and I discussed, primarily because I had it on hand in my sketchbook, was this image of Yin, where the merging is prominently noticeable. While I worked hard to give the shading on Yin a sense of depth, there is no realistic "camera" placement where the steps and the wall off to the side could be so completely flat, that wouldn't put the statue bust into a forced perspective pointing "up" -- or if the viewer was aligned with the statue, the steps would have perspective pointing "down" and thus not be flat. So we have a realistic-anatomy character with a toony face sitting on steps in Charlie Brown world. Something of a muddle.

(We also spent some time redlining and tearing apart this image, but it was very late and we were both pretty incoherent; the same basic point was being made, tho, I think.)

Any thoughts on the matter, LJ brain trust?

-The Gneech
Tags: art, comics, conventions, suburban jungle
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