I've never been one to fit in. It doesn't come naturally to me, personally or in my art. Fitting in requires consistent categories and some predictability of the way things work. More than the fact that I don't fit in is the fact that those things don't fit me. My work comes from a lot of different places, which means it comes in a lot of different forms, and the newest form it's taken is comics.

"Fake It 'Til You Make It," from my comic, Brushwork. Find it here!

I'm not really a comic book, graphic novel, or internet cartoon kind of person, and comic cons are definitely not my thing. I like comics and graphic novels like I like scary movies, which is really not at all unless the timing is perfect and the work is precisely up my alley. I'm working on a graphic novel right now, but I'm no cartoonist, which begs the question: what in the world is it that's moved my work from traditional fine art towards comics? 

Some of my studies of the greats.

Growing up, my grandfather made a notebook of Calvin and Hobbes comics for my brother. He manually cut, pasted, and photocopied comics from the newspaper and put them together in a three-ring binder. Whenever my brother was out of the house, I'd go into his room to read it, wishing more than anything that we lived somewhere with snow so that I could make sculptures like Calvin's snowmen. When we visited my grandparents, there wasn't a lot of kids' stuff around, but they did have an actual book of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes that I would pour over whenever I was by myself. 

Everything about this Calvin and Hobbes is what I love about Watterson's cartoon.

Back then I knew I wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist. I liked art, I was good at it, and I obsessively read the newspaper comics every day, even the ones I hated (although that might have had more to do with my OCD than true passion...). By the time I was old enough to leave high school, the internet was making everyone nervous about the future of print with dire predictions that newspapers would be dead in the next few years. I also had no idea how one becomes a newspaper cartoonist. On top of all of that, Watterson had retired, and the comics that were left were dull and lifeless.

A detail from one of my favorite Calvin and Hobbes cartoons.

Calvin and Hobbes is still my favorite by far. It gets better and better with time. I pour over my own collection of Calvin and Hobbes books now, noting Watterson's layouts, visual set-ups, and above all his masterful use of line. Bill Watterson broke literal boxes that structured the newspaper comic, fighting for his art to be seen in the format that he envisioned. Equally influential to me is Watterson's relative silence about his work and his refusal to give a Calvin and Hobbes trademark to anyone; he trusts the quality of his work to speak for itself.

Watterson is an artist who chose comics as his medium and who raised our expectations of what a comic could be by breaking very literal molds. I think that I've turned to comics as a way to explore themes and ideas that aren't appropriate in other media. Having influences who work from a true artist's background and then step out of what's expected of them--artists who turn their medium into something more than it was before--they inspire me and give me validation to break my own boundaries and to see how far I can go. 

Spaceman Spiff from Calvin and Hobbes.


Popular Posts