Over dinner in the dining hall, I asked my classmates what I believed in, because I didn’t know myself. They replied simply, “You believe in comics.”
I have to admit I was rather disappointed in their answer. Of all the fantastic, brilliant, and awe-inspiring notions in the world, the one thing I can be associated with is a comic book. Comics aren’t exactly a highly appreciated art form. People tend not to take them seriously. Somehow I’ve ended up as their spokesperson. How’d that happen?
The focus of my college work is comics. Before I was swept into the commercial comic book world of Superman and Wolverine, my first experiences with comics were in the Sunday paper. One comic artist I’ve always admired was Bill Watterson, the creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin was a borderline-psychotic child, and I admired him. Calvin was able to say what was going unsaid in my childhood–he talked back to his parents, expressed himself freely, and seemed fearless. In reality, Calvin was only an expression of his creator’s innermost thoughts. By digging into the darkest parts of his mind, Watterson was able to create very pure humor.
Here at art school, we have this thing called the ‘group critique’, defined as the action of criticizing artwork in a friendly communal environment. Or, as my fellow students like to define it, nap time. You hear all sorts of crap in a group critique that reveal what people really think. Kind of like in a comic strip. I find myself taking critiques too seriously, getting caught up in trying to find what is “right” and “wrong” in art. A lot of my professors wouldn’t tell you that drawing comics for an art class is “wrong”. They’d say, “Do whatever makes you happy.” But pin a comic page up in a critique, and suddenly there is a very uncomfortable tension in the room. People don’t understand comics because they try to take them seriously. They try to find what is right and wrong in them, the way art students are warned not to take critiques too seriously. I think we get too caught up in this “right” and “wrong“ nonsense. Such subjective terms are rarely useful when critiquing artwork. The critiques I enjoy the most and learn the most from are the ones where everyone is relaxed and saying exactly what’s on their mind. The kind of critique that is like a discussion among friends at the dinner table. A discussion full of humor that is pulled from the darkest reaches of the mind.
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