Artist’s Block

I don’t get what artists usually call artist’s block, that lack of inspiration or subject or what-have-you. Except for those times I’m doing a portrait, I always & only draw from scripts. I don’t even keep a sketchbook; unless what I’m working on ‘counts,’ I can’t seem to care enough about any object to render it. It’s akin to Diane Warren’s approach to songwriting.

What happens to me is I get to a panel & I have no idea how to approach it. I know what it’s supposed to be, because I put it in the script, & ofttimes the image (POV, perspective, etc) I had in mind is still in mind; I just don’t know how to start, what the first shape is, the first line.

My most recent bout of The Block ended a few days ago. I hesitated for more than two weeks before I could bring myself to pencil panels one & two of page two of LYNCHPIN #2.

That’s, like, ONE THIRD OF EVIL! (digression…)

So, here I am, back at it. My nose has been to the grindstone (just not with a pencil in hand) & I’m on page five. It is PISSING ME OFF! Allow me to explain.

The illustration is going smoothly. This page is a rarity for me: three horizontal rows of two square panels each; I avoid this format when I can. All the panels are nearly identical, & it’s for this reason that my thoughts are getting under my skin.

Tracing is as rare to me as a 3×2 page, & then it’s usually because I’ve drawn a pair of (what I think are) drop dead gorgeous hands, just to learn I mixed up the character’s left & right. Tracing anything other than your own art is a sin of the highest order. I don’t buy the crap notion of learning by tracing; that’s what your eyes & ruler (& possibly calculator) is for.

The cool thing I’ve learned to do in these situations is to draw all the near-identical panels at the same time – line one, panel one; line one, panel two; line one, panel three; etc. When the basics for all six panels are down, then I’ll usually finish panel one, paying attention to the different needs of each. Working like this certainly shows off the flaws in my penwork, but better to be honest & flawed than a perfect cheat. I avoid a lot of erasing by doing strong thumbnails & having a very good idea where my text will sit.

In my opinion.

I keep thinking of guys like Greg Land. Comics, to him, aren’t art – they’re commerce. I believe the twain can meet, just not in his studio. He is welcome to change my mind/prove me wrong any time.

Of course, I’m torn. There are artists much greater than me who are slavishly devoted to the old school & never use any digital techniques. I imagine them looking down at me & saying “You aren’t doing it right. You don’t feel it.” Except I’m pursuing what I hope is a unique style.

I also picture commercial illustrators *like* Land look down at me & saying “How can you waste so much time? Life is too short. If you can finish your work quickly, you can do more.” Except if I were to do what I feel is dishonest art, I’d rather not do it at all.

All in all, everyone draws the lines in the sand they can live with. I will be honest about my ratio of physical to digital work &, in so doing, reserve judgment when I see art being shat on in favour of commerce.

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