Art versus Art.

I think I need to verbalize this. Because flying around in my head, these thoughts are only making me crazy.

Tonight I lost any confidence that I had in myself as an artist. Don’t be alarmed, I do this frequently, and for different reasons. I have had a growing suspicion that I would have to confront one very prominent obstacle in my comics: my shaky hands. They will probably shake my entire life, which means I need to find a way to work around it – no – to work WITH it.

That might sound silly, but it was because of this shakiness that I developed a style of painting that was unique to me, throwing out the brush (save for my outlines) and using a pallet knive to apply layer after reckless layer. It worked. It occured to me that maybe I would have a similar experience with my drawing.

Until now I have been lowering my head and plowing through, so to speak, with traditional drawing methods. Pencil, ink, erase, repeat. It works well enough, but it’s nothing special. It looks like many other amateur cartoonists work only shakier, I guess. The handicap is still a handcap, though, and not a trademark. I don’t own these shaky hands.

Realizing this, I set off on a mission to find my voice as a cartoonist. I am not going to end that mission just because I had a crappy night of drawing, but let me continue to vent, as I think it’s good for me. I decided to attack my drawing like I do my painting – lots of layers. I laid out a variety of drawing materials: brush pen, roller ball, ball point, pencil, markers, ink well, white acrylic, and even though I didn’t intend to use it, my eraser. I laid out a fresh piece of paper. I started to draw. I hated everything that happened after that.And I realized that the obstacle of my shaky hands is actually a minor one compared to this other, much deeper frustration, which I’m about to detail.

It is this:

I feel like my drawing and my painting are so different from one another that they actually do each other harm rather than inform one another. It’s like my soul split in two and one side decided to follow painting as an academic, and the other side decided to follow cartooning. Since that moment, the two have very rarely converged. The painting is definitely a product of my art education in college. Illustration was not encouraged and I was trained to be more serious about art. I fought against that, but in the end I think my painting is stuck in that vein. And that’s not to say I don’t like painting or that I’m not satisfied with my painting style (if ever I do paint, which is rarely anymore). But I do feel like it isn’t necessarily the direction I would have gone if it was let to grow along with my cartooning.

My drawing, on the other hand, was irrepressibly comic. I did the standard figure drawing and still life studies in realism, of course, and I did just fine with that. But my heart was most happy when I was drawing cartoons. Anyone who has known me since my youth should not be surprised by that. It’s who I was. It’s who I still am.

So here I’m sitting with these two moderately developed talents, the fine art painting and the cartoon drawing, and now that I feel ready to become a whole artist again I thought it would be simple enough to bridge the two back together. Because on their own, I don’t think either excels. So that’s partly what I was attempting to do tonight. And that’s what I was failing to do tonight. And that’s why I was frustrated. Why should I even have to do all of this extra work to fix my Art? It seems like it could have been avoided if only the two, drawing and painting, had never been divorced.

At this most recent art show I was displaying some paintings which I had done a few years ago. I felt very disconnected from them, as I am currently giving my love and attention to comics. I was talking with one of the visitors of the art show who does not know me, and she asked if I’ve been painting much lately. I told her no, that I’m drawing comics instead, and she seemed so disappointed. What duplicity! I should not have to choose!

Okay, I’m getting carried away with the theatrics, so I’m just going to share my thing that I learned and then stop. The thing I learned, or rather realized, is that this will take time. I got frustrated with myself because I thought that just realizing this divide would be enough, that I could sit down and suddenly know how to bring the two back into harmony. But it will not happen in a night. It will not happen in a week or a month (this, my learn-how-to-draw month!) or even a year. It could take me the rest of my life! But probably not. I hope to bring my two sensibilities together sooner than that, so I can spend much of my life developing them together, where they belong.

I also realized that right now my focus doesn’t have to be on learning the perfect way to draw and developing a portfolio in that style overnight. My focus right now should be my graphic novel, and practicing my drawing and learning what will work to finish that project. I always get so far ahead of myself.

Anyway, head, there you go, you got it out. Good girl. Now go to bed.

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5 Responses

  1. as far as webcomics go all anyone needs to point to is XKCD. Therein you realize its all about the writing and context. He uses stick figures for goodness sake!

    and just keep drawing. you can’t get worse at something you do all the time. the worst thing you can do is nothing.

  2. I’m not sure if this is a helpful thing to say a this point, but, Bea, you are never going to be a “whole artist.” And you shouldn’t ever be because as an artist you should be constantly evolving and changing and developing. And I say as long as you are doing those things (the -ings, the becomings), you’re doing great. and you are great.

    love you! M

  3. Thanks guys. I was going to (and did) reply with my rebuttals, but I think I’m just going to accept the encouragement :) Thanks for believing in me!

  4. Okay, I just read this quickly and am totally going to go back and read it more thoughtfully, but I just wanted to put it out there that we should chat soon (about this and other things). You know…stuff. Our “weaknesses” are what create the deepest, most intense, beautiful parts of our art. Um yeah. Let’s hang out.

  5. Could this be the secret revelation that you are a complete artist? After all I could go Pontious Pilate and ask – what is a complete artist? You have a gift of conveying expression and feeling which I have seen in both painting and drawing.
    You will also go through cycles. Robert Leland Pence was well known for Door County landscapes. He went through a ‘dark period’ which alienated the customers. He then moved to CA and returned to landscapes. Art is your expression and what value other people place on it does not matter. You may find inspiration to paint again but you can still enjoy your comics in the present!

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