Saturday, July 31, 2010

COMIC-CON 2010 (part 4)

At Comic-Con, artist Neal Adams defined a comic book artist as:
someone you put in a closet with a drawing table, a lamp, a radio, art supplies and you slide paper under the door and he'll keep filling it up -- just so he can get new paper to draw more.
There must have been a thousand artists at Comic-Con who fit that description. Some of them were still blinking as their eyes adjusted to being out in the light. At tables on "artist's alley," in booths and leaning up against fire hydrants, you saw them inking highly detailed backgrounds and individual strands of hair. They didn't seem to be weighing the costs and benefits of their actions, the way sensible people would. They drew unfazed by the economics or the logistics of what they were doing.

There must have been 423 of them specializing in slick, polished images of huge breasted barbarian women in leather and chain mail bodices. (Question: if there are only 360 degrees in a full circle, how is it possible that there are an infinite number of angles from which to draw barbarian women bending over?)

Most of these pictures were keyed to grab at your attention -- every muscle flexed to the max, every gun blazing, every body extended mid-leap. Walking down a corridor of such overwrought images was exhausting.

Most of these pictures were technically accomplished. The artists had clearly sacrificed huge chunks of their lives to acquire technical skills. Some of the art-- a very small percentage-- was even excellent.

I would not live my life the way these artists do, but from a safe distance I can admire their willful disregard for actuarial tables. I am reminded of Archy and Mehitabel's famous Lesson of the Moth, in which Archy asked the moths why they continued to bang their heads against an electric light bulb in an effort to fry themselves in the beautiful fire. He asks one, "have you no sense?"

plenty of it he answered
but at times we get tired
of using it

As Archy returned to his rational life, he remarked,

i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself

28 Comments:

Blogger kev ferrara said...

Zeno's paradox is the truth, not degrees, which are completely arbitrary. (But you knew that.)

Neal Adams was once the artist he described in that quote, making the best art he could under the tyranny of his own will for something like a decade. He will always be great because of the time. His reputation, the self-discipline, the connections, the technique, his voice as an advocate... all of which he mastered during that great run, has stood him in good stead since. I think it was worth it for him in the long run.

The inability to draw flaccid musculature or the extension of a muscle in opposition to flexion is the sure sign of an emotionally-stunted artist. Constant tension in artistic musculature is the same as constant tension in the voice, or constant criticism, cynicism or suspicion. Life is too short to negotiate the affronts produced by such claustrophobic psyches.

7/31/2010 2:07 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Love "The Lesson of the Moth". Thanks!

7/31/2010 2:23 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7/31/2010 2:28 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Zeno's paradox -- is only partly true.

To find the actual quantity of degrees, say in a sphere, you would measure the circumference and divide it by Planck's length -- that would be the total quantity of true degrees that the object has. Not a single more, not a single less.

But that is neither here nor there.



http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_units#Planck_units

7/31/2010 2:32 PM  
Anonymous MORAN said...

Kev, you have a gift for words, especially on this series about ComicCon. I have enjoyed your comments.

7/31/2010 2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard and Kev, Zeno's paradox is no paradox, even without QM: Old Zeno just didn't know how to sum series, lots of my students have the same problem :)

David, as for the angles for drawing bending-over-barbarians, even if you decide arbitrarily to go for finite divisions in the old Babylonian-style hexadecimal system, remember you can still divide each degree into minutes and seconds (so instead of 360 you get more than a million ways to draw a a barbarian bending over - and that is just on ground level). Now, since in fact we'll have to face our bending-over-barbarian in 3D space, you actually need three angles just to specify your orientation with respect to said barbarian (so multiply all those degrees and that makes for a lot of drawings).

Btw, those 3 angles are called "Euler angles" by physicists but for the man-of-action they're the old "yaw, pitch and roll", and with those names I don't have to draw you a picture of how they relate to the subject matter. :)

Furthermore, you must also consider the famous angle-of-attack. You cannot contemplate a bending-over-barbarian without figuring out your angle-of-attack, young man! :)

Back to work now(not a moment too soon), so cheers, and do keep us up to date!

Antonio

7/31/2010 3:18 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

Yeesh, if I knew this was going to be a contest of technical one-upmanship, I woulda started out by explaining the degrees of freedom of each vertebrae. Bunch of damn scrappers. ;)

MORAN... I tip my hat to you 30 degrees this way, 4 degree thataway, and 12 degrees the other way.

7/31/2010 4:22 PM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

I'm just a working artist, and damned glad that there's nothing for which I'd fry myself. If, after several tries, I was not successful at making a decent living I'd quit bullshitting myself about greater good and the morality if sight-size drawing, pack it up and move onto pastures green and postures new.

There's a terms for people who devote their lives to failure and it rhymes with idiot...wait a second, it is idiot.

7/31/2010 6:59 PM  
Blogger etc, etc said...

A very moving post, David, although I am a little confused as to whether I should feel respect or sympathy (or some combination of both) for many of these guys. Maybe that's exactly what you intended.

7/31/2010 10:34 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Kev-- Neal Adams would not disagree. he clearly viewed himself as a lifelong member of that club.

Richard-- Glad you liked it. You can still find Archy & Mehitabel with the George Herriman illustrations in used book stores.

MORAN-- agreed.

Antonio wrote, "instead of 360 you get more than a million ways to draw a a barbarian bending over - and that is just on ground level"

Antonio, you're fantastic! I learned about yaw, pitch and roll from a case involving the C-130 aircraft, but the test pilots never explained the relevance of these measurements the way a mathematician has.

8/01/2010 1:54 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Rob Howard and etc, etc: although Rob has chosen the same rational path I have, I guarantee he is not tone deaf to the ambivalence that Etc, etc recognizes in our choice.

8/01/2010 2:20 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I'm surpised how often this site talks about aesthetic philosophy and all the rest, and how little actual specific pieces are spoken about -- their efficacy, etc.

Why does the conversation here steer so strongly away from discussion of singular pieces and what created them?

8/01/2010 2:44 AM  
Blogger Rob Howard said...

>>>I guarantee he is not tone deaf to the ambivalence that Etc, etc recognizes in our choice.<<<

Not at all. There are a few among us who have been fortunate enough to practice art as a paying profession. But the vast number of people have it as a hobby, and a wonderful and enriching hobby it is.

My cavil was and remains with delusional behavior of any kind. I can assure you that the quickest way to make an enemy is to tell the unvarnished truth about their comforting illusions. Hobbes won no friends in turning away from the paradisiacal illusions of life in The Peaceable Kingdom and call it as he saw it... nasty, brutish and short.

Arising from that miasma are untold legions of people ready and willing to filch your money with promises of (if you're a woman) making areas of your anatomy smaller and (if you're a man) making areas of your anatomy larger. Occupying a respected position among those acai berry hucksters is the profusion of second and third-tier backwater schools (aside from MIT and a handful of others, I see very few schools that deliver on their promise).

What compelled me to take time away from a lucrative practice to do a bit of teaching and a lot of writing was the astounding appeal to delusional behavior that is practiced by art schools, ateliers and (especially) university art departments (the very concept of an MFA boggles the non-delusional mind). What these houses of illusion do is take years of your life and considerable amounts of your money to teach you a hobby. They make no attempt to teach art as a way of making back that tuition money. It's sold under the rubric of some sort of spiritual and psychological growth...a four-year self help seminar with brushes. You leave school confident in the knowledge that you can find work as a self-realised human being. Put that on your resumé right next to decorating the gym for the senior prom.

With that in mind, you went to ComicCon (so well named in that this pervasive con game is comical...in a pathetic way) and see marginally employable people who have spent years developing skills that will, if we are to be truthful about the level of taste, impress young teen boys but not curators or gallerists. Those skills are fine if you are one of the few people employed making digital games. The technology those games use is mind-boggling but the level of visual, dramatic and literary taste is abysmal.

So you have to ask if that four year degree in learning a hobby would get the folks to pony up vast amounts of tuition money if the hobby was "studying" mountain biking? Perhaps a four year degree in scrapbooking? Pottery? I could go on but you should get the point...what you spent all that money on is what are essentially merit badges.(HOT FLASH...getting the MFA does not make you a master of fine art)

As I say, art is a wonderful hobby and after painting pictures of whatever it is you fancy, you might want to take the occasional weekend course to polish up an area of interest. That's wonderful, as is the chance to communicate with other hobbyist...amateurs in the very best sense of the word. But to spend that time and money in a way that would benefit you more (and society) as a lawyer, doctor, engineer or thousands of other occupations where you can actually build or (in the case of lawyers) destroy useful things that can benefit people. That's a better use of resources.

Spending four years and a fortune to find your deep artistic soul is delusional. Psychiatrists have a term for such behavior, it's called "nuts."

8/01/2010 7:50 AM  
Blogger Edd said...

nice lesson............

8/01/2010 8:54 AM  
Anonymous john cuneo said...

Jesus, what happens to those guys? Are they allemployed? Do they work for mainstream comic companies, and are they able to pay a mortgage with those skills? I've been to a couple of smaller, 'alternative' comix conventions, and there are always a pack of cartoonists sharing small booths on the fringes of the hall (and it doesn't get much fringier).
They've all got a half dozen tee shirts printed up, a bowl of pins with their character on them and a couple small stacks of their mini comic or two color 'zine.
The artists behind the card tables are always hunched over sketchbooks, and drawing away with the concentrated fury of the authentically possessed . It's a kind of determined tunnel vision that allows them (it seems to me ) to avoid any actual public interaction. The whole scene is strangely noble, though awkward for all parties involved and more than a little heartbreaking. I worry for these guys, like I worry for the thousands of art students that want to draw Manga or dragons fantasy book covers or whatever. I'm sure lot's of these folks are brilliant, it's just that it seems like such a tough road.

8/01/2010 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Cyril van der Haegen said...

This was Artist Alley (or the majority of it, a least), but there was also the whole area with booths consecrated to Artists, Illustrators and Painters whose subject matter, while Sci-Fi or Fantasy, didn't always involve the over-sexualized Barbarian-babe in 4 dimensions. I'm just pointing that out to our readers who never have been at ComicCon and who might expect, after reading part 4, that the whole convention was primarily made of carnal pleasures and rotund Conanesque fleshbots.

8/01/2010 7:37 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

Cyril, I didn't mean to suggest that there wasn't some high quality work in progress at Comic-Con. Artists I deeply admire, such as Peter de Seve and Nathan Fowkes, were there. And as usual I discovered other talented artists who I should have known but didn't (such as Craig Elliott).

But there were also plenty of "consecrated" booths overflowing with barbarian babes beyond Artist Alley. It's just that the better artists (such as Ashley Wood) did a better job painting those babes than many of their lesser known competitors did.

8/02/2010 5:10 AM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

John Cuneo-- welcome, I'm honored to have you stop by.

I think I have felt each of the emotions you describe at one time or another, and I still don't know which one is right. For the small percentage who persist and succeed, I suppose my concern counts as condescending and misplaced. But I think the vast majority of these artists, unless they are grossly unrealistic as Rob Howard suggests, are simply prepared to eke out a subsistence level existence in exchange for doing something that they really enjoy doing every day. As you suggest, some have buttons and T shirts. Most do whatever they can to market themselves. All I can tell you is that Comic-Con reminds you that there are a LOT of artists out there in this category.

I am not sure whether it is a personal failing that I am not prepared to pay the dues that these artists pay (hence the lesson of the moth.)

When asked whether universities stifle aspiring young writers, Flannery O'Connor is reputed to have responded, "not enough."

8/02/2010 5:35 AM  
Blogger Ray said...

I've had a few comics published, and I can definitely relate to the compulsive nature of trying to get into the business. Because of family obligations, I'm not able to devote the time I want to to the pursuit, so, while I've gotten on the short list of portfolio reviews at both Marvel and DC at large conventions, I'm unable to produce the volume of work needed to push open the last door, keep my name in front of a given editor and get hired. Alas, I started too late. It's a young man's game, as Bob McLeod (a comic veteran) told me at his kitchen table one day.

But, I still want it. As Michael Corleone said, "Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in." When I'm frustrated and decide it's not worth it, it's not long until the gnawing longing to want to try my hand at it is back again. A writer friend of mine called it "his private hell." I'm a late bloomer, and that means when you figure out what you want to do, the odds have spent a great deal of time stacking themselves up against you with the normal responsibilities of adulthood, family, and all that.

I think it was David Bowie that said something to the effect of, "God's cruelist joke is making someone a mediocre artist." I think there's some truth to that. Another cruel joke is being given the talent and potential, but life seems to just keep you from developing and using it as you really want to.

Perhaps, that's whining on my part.
And yeah, I sometimes think I'm an idiot, as Rob Howard has described some of the Comic-con attendees as. And, family is more important to me than being a famous artist...comic book or otherwise.

I've dispensed with the childish notion of feeling validated only if I work for DC or Marvel. If I can sustain my family on work that I enjoy doing, and have some time to self-publish some stories, I'll be ecstatic with that.

8/02/2010 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Banksy art has become highly collectable during the past decade. Banksy originated from the Bristol underground scene. Some of his street work has been preserved by the local council, particularly in and around his home town of Bristol. Unfortunately some of Banksy art has been painted over too. Banksy art is available from graffiti shops and online graffiti websites.

8/02/2010 2:13 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

"Banksy"? Isn't that the guy who has spent the last decade ripping off Blek le Rat, and becoming wildly successful doing so?

8/02/2010 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was one of those Artist Alley dwellers for going on 10 years or so, due to some comic work I did, along with role playing game stuff. But, like Ray, I had to submit to the truth that I just cannot devote the time to making comics or making it in comics any more. Family pressures and all that common jazz. There are many reasons we/they are there. To make some extra money on top of the good money already being made. To eke out whatever small bit of money to pay for the trip home or the hotel room. To interact with those that know our work. To find new work. To get any small audience possible for the work, whether it is to justify the work or not. There are noble artists and crass tits and ass drawrers. Just like society at large, the place is filled with as many types as you can imagine...or probably more than you can imagine.

And, like David, I am honored that Cuneo is here as well.

Ken Meyer Jr.

8/02/2010 11:23 PM  
Anonymous A Real Black Person said...

I'm sorry, but I don't think lawyers and doctor really serve society when the vast majority of people on the planet cannot pay for
their services, when the barriers of entry in both fields are so high, in the U.S., that both professions are reduced to rent seeking.
I find that Rob's assertion that would-be Fine Artists, would make good doctors or lawyers as odd. Those professions are even more
demanding than that of an artist. To suggest to the would-be Fine Artist that they will simply be better off by going to law school or medical school is misleading.


David fails to realize that any kind of acheivement requires some sort of sacrifice, that talent isn't bestowed to a select few by a Talent Fairy. The fact that David couldn't live his life the way those artists did is one of the reasons why he isn't an artist. David assumes that some of them haven't weighed their costs and benefits and that's where his commentary takes a dive. There's no evidence in his survey of Comicon that suggests that he conducted any field research to back up this claim. There's no evidence in his four-part investigation that suggests he ever spoke to any of the artists. He has no idea if the majority of them were professional artists (I don't
want to say the word "illustrator" because the word has become mired in historicim in this blog. When David bothers to highlight a contemporary illustrator he likes it's someone like Sterling Hundley, who'd be another Alphonse Mucha clone if his work was more consistant, and whose art has more Fine Art applications than the real world operations of commerce), just trying to make some extra money. It just didn't cross his mind that if an artist can draw qucikly and well and sell a certain amount drawings at COMICON(whether in poor taste on not) for a in exchange for a certain amount of money, they could make a (gasp) return on their investment. If David showed some journalistic integrity and could back up his claims--who made money and who didn't and wasted his time--than I'd have no problems with what he said. Reporting opinion as fact however is wrong.

It seems that the only art (market) that matters is what's presented in a Fine Art Gallery. Unfortunately,there is a market for upper middle class 14 year olds and the like. There is or was a market for the masses--which is what illustration is or was. It's silly to suggest that all art needs to share a pretentious Euopean Fine Art sensibility. This is not to say artists can't LEARN from Old Masters, but to suggest that something by the fact that it is not hanging in some noteworthy museum or gallery has no merit to anyone, is silly and elitist. Everyone knows that Fine Art dealers routinely buy and sell crap to and from rich collectors who are desperate to look cultured. Fine Art is no longer concerned with timelessness anymore and hasn't been the second Modernism became the predominant ideology. If David is all for "cultured art" ,then perhaps he should just remove the word "Illustration" from the title of his blog. It'd be more intellectually honest. I'm already looking forward to a dozen posts about the genius of Paul Cezanne.

8/04/2010 10:38 AM  
Anonymous A Real Black Person said...

I'm sorry, but I don't think lawyers and doctor really serve society when the vast majority of people on the planet cannot pay for
their services, when the barriers of entry in both fields are so high, in the U.S., that both professions are reduced to rent seeking.
I find that Rob's assertion that would-be Fine Artists, would make good doctors or lawyers as odd. Those professions are even more
demanding than that of an artist. To suggest to the would-be Fine Artist that they will simply be better off by going to law school or medical school is misleading.


David fails to realize that any kind of acheivement requires some sort of sacrifice, that talent isn't bestowed to a select few by a Talent Fairy. The fact that David couldn't live his life the way those artists did is one of the reasons why he isn't an artist. David assumes that some of them haven't weighed their costs and benefits and that's where his commentary takes a dive. There's no evidence in his survey of Comicon that suggests that he conducted any field research to back up this claim. There's no evidence in his four-part investigation that suggests he ever spoke to any of the artists. He has no idea if the majority of them were professional artists (I don't
want to say the word "illustrator" because the word has become mired in historicim in this blog. When David bothers to highlight a contemporary illustrator he likes it's someone like Sterling Hundley, who'd be another Alphonse Mucha clone if his work was more consistant, and whose art has more Fine Art applications than the real world operations of commerce), just trying to make some extra money. It just didn't cross his mind that if an artist can draw qucikly and well and sell a certain amount drawings at COMICON(whether in poor taste on not) for a in exchange for a certain amount of money, they could make a (gasp) return on their investment. If David showed some journalistic integrity and could back up his claims--who made money and who didn't and wasted his time--than I'd have no problems with what he said. Reporting opinion as fact however is wrong.

It seems that the only art (market) that matters is what's presented in a Fine Art Gallery. Unfortunately,there is a market for upper middle class 14 year olds and the like. There is or was a market for the masses--which is what illustration is or was. It's silly to suggest that all art needs to share a pretentious Euopean Fine Art sensibility. This is not to say artists can't LEARN from Old Masters, but to suggest that something by the fact that it is not hanging in some noteworthy museum or gallery has no merit to anyone, is silly and elitist. Everyone knows that Fine Art dealers routinely buy and sell crap to and from rich collectors who are desperate to look cultured. Fine Art is no longer concerned with timelessness anymore and hasn't been the second Modernism became the predominant ideology. If David is all for "cultured art" ,then perhaps he should just remove the word "Illustration" from the title of his blog. It'd be more intellectually honest. I'm already looking forward to a dozen posts about the genius of Paul Cezanne.

8/04/2010 10:40 AM  
Anonymous A Real Black Person said...

I'm sorry, but I don't think lawyers and doctor really serve society when the vast majority of people on the planet cannot pay for
their services, when the barriers of entry in both fields are so high, in the U.S., that both professions are reduced to rent seeking.
I find that Rob's assertion that would-be Fine Artists, would make good doctors or lawyers as odd. Those professions are even more
demanding than that of an artist. To suggest to the would-be Fine Artist that they will simply be better off by going to law school or medical school is misleading.


David fails to realize that any kind of acheivement requires some sort of sacrifice, that talent isn't bestowed to a select few by a Talent Fairy. The fact that David couldn't live his life the way those artists did is one of the reasons why he isn't an artist. David assumes that some of them haven't weighed their costs and benefits and that's where his commentary takes a dive. There's no evidence in his survey of Comicon that suggests that he conducted any field research to back up this claim. There's no evidence in his four-part investigation that suggests he ever spoke to any of the artists. He has no idea if the majority of them were professional artists (I don't
want to say the word "illustrator" because the word has become mired in historicim in this blog. When David bothers to highlight a contemporary illustrator he likes it's someone like Sterling Hundley, who'd be another Alphonse Mucha clone if his work was more consistant, and whose art has more Fine Art applications than the real world operations of commerce), just trying to make some extra money. It just didn't cross his mind that if an artist can draw qucikly and well and sell a certain amount drawings at COMICON(whether in poor taste on not) for a in exchange for a certain amount of money, they could make a (gasp) return on their investment. If David showed some journalistic integrity and could back up his claims--who made money and who didn't and wasted his time--than I'd have no problems with what he said. Reporting opinion as fact however is wrong.

It seems that the only art (market) that matters is what's presented in a Fine Art Gallery. Unfortunately,there is a market for upper middle class 14 year olds and the like. There is or was a market for the masses--which is what illustration is or was. It's silly to suggest that all art needs to share a pretentious Euopean Fine Art sensibility. This is not to say artists can't LEARN from Old Masters, but to suggest that something by the fact that it is not hanging in some noteworthy museum or gallery has no merit to anyone, is silly and elitist. Everyone knows that Fine Art dealers routinely buy and sell crap to and from rich collectors who are desperate to look cultured. Fine Art is no longer concerned with timelessness anymore and hasn't been the second Modernism became the predominant ideology. If David is all for "cultured art" ,then perhaps he should just remove the word "Illustration" from the title of his blog. It'd be more intellectually honest. I'm already looking forward to a dozen posts about the genius of Paul Cezanne.

8/04/2010 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YO CHECK IT

A BROTHA HYPEN CEZANNE? IF YOU AX ME YOU AINT REPRESENTIN

WORD

8/04/2010 12:17 PM  
Blogger David Apatoff said...

A real black person: I think you raise some weighty issues in your second and third paragraphs. (Your first paragraph makes no sense to me. How can it be that lawyers and doctors don't serve society just because there is a large unmet demand for health and legal services in many places on the planet? Would society be better off if there were no doctors or lawyers at all? And how can the solution be simply to lower the barriers to entry when there are already so many incompetent and unethical doctors and lawyers around? If your mother needs heart surgery, will you be seeking out one of the "lowered standard" doctors?)

But for paragraphs 2 and 3, there is hardly a sentence that I don't think is worth engaging on. A few of the most interesting points, at least to me:

You write: "David assumes that some of them haven't weighed their costs and benefits and that's where his commentary takes a dive. There's no evidence in his survey of Comicon that suggests that he conducted any field research to back up this claim."

ARBP, I do think some of these artists haven't weighed the costs and benefits, but more interesting to me are the ones that have weighed them and come up with a different conclusion than I would. To the extent that's because they are willing to pay dues that I am unwilling to pay, I may admire them and even envy them for it (hence, the "lesson of the moth"). To the extent that's because they are unrealistic idiots (as Rob suggests) I don't find that trait very admirable. Some have no other options in life. Some have a higher pain threshhold than others. I was most interested in the comments by readers who have actually done this. I think Ray gives a very thoughtful and heartfelt assessment of the situation by someone who, despite everything, "still wants it."

Personally, I have been in the position of drawing in a fishbowl (metaphorically speaking) and I don't like it one bit. I know you have to be technically very able to pull it off, and I respect that. But there seems to be a glut of artists who are technically very able, so it's not clear they can follow that path to to a livable wage.

As for whether I conducted "field research" to back up my views, I would simply say that I had a good time talking to artists in booths and artists alley about artists' rights, copyright issues, pricing, problems with art directors, retaining originals, etc. I also listened in panel discussions to young artists in the audience stand up and bleat about how they are determined to make a career out of drawing manga. Ye gods.

I'm not sure this counts as "field research" in the sociological sense, but I do try to keep my eyes open.

8/04/2010 12:24 PM  
Blogger kev ferrara said...

David,

I think ARBP may have been referring to the argument that if only people who have enough money can get proper medical attention or legal representation, then these professions, rather than being noble, are actually contributing to inequality. This argument, if addressed in all its complexity, would take us at least to 2012, whereupon the Mayan Meteor would, with any luck, put us out of our misery.

On the question of 20 something ships at sea, the captain's bridge of these particular vessels are generally neither organized nor staffed to war game future scenarios of import.

8/04/2010 3:50 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home