Artistic Parents

July 17, 2019

I've been meaning to get back to blogging here, but I wanted to focus on some deeper topics, related to art and comics. I haven't been very inspired on that front, until last week my friend and fellow artist Gary Welsh asked me if I had artistic parents.

 

I was about to tell him that my mother did have some artistic tendencies that she never fully explored, while my father never showed too much interest in it. But obviously, that wasn't what he meant. He was referring to this idea he'd heard on and episode of Draftsmen, a podcast by Stan Prokopenko and Marshall Vandruff. It's quite a good listen, I recommend it.

 

The idea of artistic parents is identifying a few artists who influence you, to which you can trace back the way you do things. It's not the same as artists you admire, but the ones that actively influence the way you draw and think about art. It's an interesting thought experiment, and one that helps you get to know more about yourself. It also reminded of the Influence Map meme that had been floating around the internet a while back. It was started by a Deviantart user called fox-orian, and you can find their template here.

 

I had actually done that exercise before, when I was just starting to draw. I don't know if I can find that earlier version somewhere, but it had a lot of similar artists, which is actually something they talk about in the podcast. With this in mind, I tried doing it again, trying to branch out more, both in comics and outside of them. I ended up with this (yes, I just noticed I left "your name here" there):

 

 What do we have here? Fewer comics, for one thing. I only used four artists this time. Their art is still somewhat connected, but less so than the artists I used before. Here's a breakdown of what I chose as influences:

 

1- Adrian Tomine - He was my #1 influence on the previous map I did, as well. His comics were a big reason I started making my own comics, and his influence on my own work is impossible to hide. A lot of his own influences are my influences, too, like Jaime Hernandez, Seth, and Daniel Clowes. I really like his simplified style, which I find to be what resonates with me the most. It's not an accident that all the artists I chose to have here are great at simplifying forms and making economical marks. I also like his storytelling and choice of subjects - a genre that I've heard the good folks at Comics Alternative call "Bande Verité" - comics about real life, real people, small things. That's a huge part of what attracts me as a reader and especially as a writer, and the reason why Tomine remains my favourite artist and biggest influence.

 

2- David Mazzucchelli - There are two problems with Tomine, however, as an influence for me: one, he seems to actively despise genre fiction and superheroes; and two, he is TOO precise with his line, something I admire but cannot bring myself to do. That's where Mazzucchelli comes in. Of course I've been aware of him for ages, but it wasn't until recently that I started really paying attention to what he was doing. Batman Year One is basically the best superhero comic art I've ever seen, as far as I'm concerned. Like Tomine, he is a master of simplification and storytelling, but he creates more moody environments with his blacks, and has a more spontaneous, less deliberate brush stroke, both of which I'm trying to incorporate in my style. I also admire how he can do different things with ease. Superheroes, detectives, regular people. He does it all, it all looks great, it all works. That's definitely something I'd like to do.

 

3- Michael Walsh - Probably my favourite artist working on mainstream comics these days. I see him on the other end of the spectrum, opposite Tomine, with Mazzuchelli in the middle. All he's done so far has been superheroes and genre fiction. And yet, he brings a lot of personality to it, and makes superhero comics sometimes feel like indie comics, while still managing to do great action sequences when required. When I say I would like to do superheroes someday, THAT'S what I'm talking about! He also is very good at simplification, and at times he can use very loose brush (and yet well thought-out) strokes, although he seems to adjust that from project to project. I found his work at a time when I was dissatisfied with Marvel and DC in-house styles. He seemed to break the mould, and it made me care about some of those characters again. 

 

4- Alex Toth - I think pretty much everyone these days talks about Toth, but it's for a good reason. If you like simplification, he's the go-to reference. You can trace the three guys I've talked about to him, so if they're my artistic parents, Toth would be my grandpa. I'm still discovering a lot of his stuff, and I keep being amazed by it. His use of light and shadow is something that really connects with me.

 

Those are the only comics artists I chose to have on the map this time. There are many others I look to for inspiration, but they are all somehow similar to at least one of those I've listed, at least for my purposes here. There's also about a million artists I greatly admire but don't feel influenced by. The chief example would be Bill Sienkiewicz, whose art I absolutely adore, but I never think about attempting anything like it. My mind just doesn't work that way.

 

Apart from that, there's:

 

5- Music - A lot of my comics are influenced by music, or straight up feature musicians and references to artists I love. I also can spend a lot of time choosing the right music before starting to write or draw. 

 

6- Traveling - I'm also inspired by places I've seen and where I've lived. I've been very fortunate to have lived in four different countries so far, and traveled to more places than I thought I would when I was little. The way people live in different places, how each city feels... I like paying attention to those things and trying to bring them into my comics, somehow.

 

7, 8, 9 - Tv Shows - Seinfeld is an integral part of me at this point, as well as everything that influenced and was influenced by it. Easy is one of the best shows I've seen in recent years, one that is very keen at observing regular people and what makes them human, which is what I try to do with a lot of my comics. And Fargo is another one of my favourite shows ever. I haven't worked on anything quite like it yet, but it's where my mind is at these days. I would love to do something with that combination of crime, dark humor, and humanity.

 

10 and 11 - Film. Represented here by The Darjeeling Limited (my favourite Wes Anderson film) and Hirokazu Kore-Eda. Though I have been focusing more on comics lately, my background is in film, I love the cinema, and it still influences the way I think about images and composition. I'm not happy if I'm not going to the cinema regularly, and it's something from which I draw a lot of inspiration, even if I see a bad film. And there's no substitute for the cinema, I don't care how large your 4K TV set is.

 

12 - The News - I have The Atlantic logo here because it's one of my favourite sources, but really it's meant to represent many news sources and current events.

 

13- Beer - Which is not what it looks like. I don't need to drink to write or draw, or anything like that. I do need to meet up with friends at a pub from time to time, however. Being able to have long conversations with people over a couple beers is not only of my biggest pleasures - it's also a way to see how people think, to gauge what's been happening, and to develop ideas I have in my head. Social media has for the most part failed at bringing people together, we must do it ourselves.

 

So there you have it. It occurs to me now that I should've put a cat on there, too, as I seem to have cats on all my comics and a lot of the illustrations I make. But what's done is done. I will revisit this in a couple years, and see what's changed (or not).

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