Fine Art Illustration Can Be Comics, Dammit

Sometimes it’s some kind of narrative.

Forgive me for failing to know the names of these illustrators.

One gentleman in particular, the one that leads this short series of interview soundbites, describes fine art illustration as “(having) a sequential quality,” that “it’s really like fiction.”

Jan Pienkowski

Er, I guess I do now know his name: Jan Pienkowski

Literature. Right.

With illustration, there’s a beginning & a middle & an end, and each picture has to somehow guide you to the next, have a hint, have something that makes you think, ‘Oh, yes,’ go back & make you think ‘that was the person in that window, & here they are.’

Not that it isn’t true (it is), but here’s another example of the terror of the word ‘comics.’ We all love how German, Japanese & other languages have these beautiful & exotic words that, alone, define a concept that in English needs a sentence to describe. Or two.

English HAS a word to describe the sequential series of illustrations that gives a literature-esque, narrative, storytelling effect.




Filed under opinion

4 responses to “Fine Art Illustration Can Be Comics, Dammit

  1. Graphic-novel is better and I made it one word with my handy hyphen-tool.

    • The hyphen is my new nemesis.

      To some, ‘graphic novel’ is a term for those too afraid of the word ‘comics.’ Some comics, due to a short length, can’t be graphic ‘novels,’ but graphic novels are ALWAYS comics ;)

  2. It may simply be a fear of not being taken seriously. “Comics” does imply funny, just because of the root (comedy) and all the other derivatives (comical, comedian). That might be the stumbling block.

    I’d like to see a day when a graphic novel can simply be called a novel, in which the same way that a science fiction novel is just a novel. Stories are stories.

    • With OpinioNation, I’ve run into the ‘funny’ assumption with some younger audience, but that’s just lack of experience talking. For most adults, I’ve found, there’s a fear of association with low-brow endeavours, like the comics of Archie, Gold Key Comics & pre-postmodern capes – you know, kids’ stuff.

      But I don’t outright reject the graphic novel label, though its only real application, that I see, is in the marketplace. For the uninitiated, it reassures there is value here, that the material doesn’t pander to immaturity or self-censor for kids.

      I’m mixed on the rebranding of collections–trade paperbacks (an unwieldy name)–as graphic novels. They weren’t novels – they were serialized. I have to remind myself that many classic writers (Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc.) had they works serialized, or were expansions of essays (Orwell, C.S. Lewis), I can see the tradition.

      Some comics are collected in ‘books’ (Preacher), some ‘volumes’ (Powers); the happiest one has made me lately is Jeff Lemire’s ‘Essex County, Collected.’ That, I think, does the most to honour its original serialized form while negotiating the transition to award-winning (& game-changing) graphic novel.

      I can’t see ‘graphic’ not being part of it. Despite sci-fi’s recent elevation & acceptance as ‘literature’ (it was a long slog), there’s still value in acknowledging genre. ‘Graphic’ does that. Perhaps moreso b/c it’s a completely different way of reading. To me, literature is the goal, the universally embraced idea that a graphic novel can belong on a bookshelf beside Plath, Melville, BrontĂ«, etc., as well as on the walls of galleries.

      There will be big arguments about who belongs, but that’s part of the fun.

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