Tag Archives: seth

Comics! Lichtenstein: Recontextualisation, Attribution, & the Soul of Art

Lichtenstein: Recontextualisation, Attribution, & the Soul of Art

Lichtenstein: Recontextualisation, Attribution, & the Soul of Art

Ah, Lichtenstein. Famous, revered, historically important… unless you’re a comics artist or cartoonist.

I have a perspective on why the fine arts–sorry, the Fine Arts–traditionally malign comics artwork & the act of cartooning. But first, two definitions of ‘cartoon.’

During a panel at TCAF 2010, I first heard Seth define a cartoonist as one who is the solitary creator of comics; the individual as writer & artist (which I like to think of as writer-artist-colourist-letterer-cover-designer-and-sometimes-publisher, or the a-e-i-o-u-&-sometimes-y of visual literature).

The other definition is one I’ve only heard from a single source, & have yet to find a concurrence beyond my own. The source is Barrie artist Tim Bilton, & he defined ‘cartoon’ as ‘to outline.’ It came up in discussion when, after attending TCAF 2010, I began to refer to myself no longer as a comics artist, but a cartoonist. Tim asked,

Do you work in stained glass?

Huh?

He explained stained glass artisans refer to arranging their metal frameworks as ‘cartooning.’ He thought it odd that I, a specialized pen & ink illustrator, would apply the term to my medium. A later convo included my assertion that I couldn’t find an online reference connecting cartooning to stained glass (did Google fail me?), & perhaps the usage was a local phenomenon.

Seth’s definition seems one of pride, in collecting self-contained comics creators under an umbrella term that could have been anything (if he has specific reasoning beyond paying homage to the comics heroes of yesteryear who made ‘cartoons,’ I am ignorant of it; maybe I should read more interviews he’s given).

Sea Turtle (stained glass window 14 x 14 in) by Robert Rawson

Sea Turtle (stained glass window,
14″ x 14″), by Robert Rawson

The stained glass practise, though, is a beautiful analogy. They lay outlines; we (typically) lay outlines. And I see this as where the trouble brews.

If we concede that cartoon equals outline, then great, revered oil paintings had cartoons as the planning stage, sometimes even laid down on canvas to act as guides for paint to follow & cover up.

Cartooning, then, is the first step toward a work of Fine Art, but never the totality. Historically, professional cartoonists typically drew their outlines of characters & objects, then sent that art to stand on its own or be coloured/filled mechanically with separations, dot screens, etc.

To my ear, it sounds akin to a logical fallacy, & one that keeps the Lichtenstein Foundation from acknowledging any artistry on the part of the creators of Roy’s source material. Seriously, check out the links accompanying my webcartoon; they reveal ignorant & classist attitudes toward cartoonists, with zero regard for any source attribution.

Vanilla Ice tried that. He became $4 million of dollars poorer for it, & also credited the source authors. What makes audio artwork so fucking special & comics art such shit?

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Most touching comic book/comic book scene.

*This entire post is a spoiler.*

I get emotionally invested in stories very easily, whether a song, movie, essay or comic, & with a variety of subject matter. There are scenes & stories that have great universal appeal. This isn’t one of those.

I was coming to the end of Seth’s George Sprott 1894-1975. It had been a sentimental read, from fictional Sprott’s youthful arrogance to his pensive & ever-sleepy elder years. I had just turned from the Epilogue, where a devoted fan & memorabiliaist lamented:

“I googled George the other day & got only one hit. Nobody under 40 even knows his name any longer.”

…& was met with a spread announcing ‘The End’ as a graphic design element that seemed more glamorous than anything that had come before, as is common, IMO, with old films.

I don’t know what I had expected with one more page-turn, but the penultimate spread of the book was a comic strip version of the end of broadcast day footage, called Sign Off; every Canadian TV station had their own. From the opening “This concludes…” to the first line of O, Canada, I heard that fatherly, gently authoritarian voice read to me. Powerful stuff.

I skipped right past the final credits spread & was again blown away when met with the interior back cover – SMPTE colour bars!

The sign off & colour bars together took me right back to being a kid in pre-cable small town Ontario. It was an incredible comics moment that I’ll never forget.

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TCAF

Dave Lapp at TCAF

Dave Draws Dick, a delectible dealio

I had an excellent time at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

Day 1

As on most public outings, I was initially a shy, bumbling oaf (specifically Saturday). I had a brief, stuttering face-to-face with Chester Brown before he was *ahem* rescued from the annoying fanboy. When I realized this, I was, & remain, suitably embarrassed. *sigh* He was gracious & apologetic.

Dalton recommended Miss Apple Pie & I introduce ourselves to Dave Lapp. He signed our copy of Children of the Atom with a left-handed penis! Too friggin awesome!

Jim Woodring was also really cool to talk to. And such beautiful, flawless work! Anthro-pomorphic comics rarely appeal to me, but, after hearing him speak on Saturday & then meeting him, I must say I’m driven. This, of course, will be after I read every as-yet-unread book in my possession, which is why Dave Lapp’s book was our only trophy of the weekend.

Day 2

We spent Sunday exclusively at The Pilot. The highlight for me was speaking to Seth for a few moments about perhaps not stressing so much over lack of perfection, quite a humble notion from someone with such an exacting hand.

All in all, we attended several seminars over the two days, & were given a lot to consider. We’ll see what happens.

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