Saturday, June 13, 2009

Questions for Sequential Art Creators (and others)

Angel Hill's comments in the discussion box of the last post got me thinking.

(Btw, thanks to everybody for their posts. It keeps me thinking about stuff and lets me know how you guys are thinking, too.)

Here's one of the things that occurs to me all the time:
Why are you spending so much money on a degree if you're thinking so small potatoes in terms of income with the projects you take on?

I regret that the best money seems to be just in the mainstream. I wish that we had a system more like the European Market where the creators make decent money and are revered like gods. I could stand that.

That said, the realities of the system as it stands is that most of you probably won't make much money in this field UNLESS ... you help to create the change.

What is the change?

I don't know, but I see it in my head as a morphing or transformation of both the material we produce and the public's perception of it to a point that helps us earn what we really are worth for the skillset that we possess as sequential artists.

That puts the pressure on us (I know I'm not you guys' age, but I am still trying to make myself happy as a sequential arts creator, too) to create better material. Not deeper. Just better.

That's why I keep harping on how low the lowest common denominator aspect of most material that I see being created is. I had a very long discussion with a student yesterday about the validity of a zombie blood fest just for the sake of it versus a story with some characters that I give a crap about and scenarios that maybe I haven't totally seen before.

There may be a place for the zombie thrill ride of superficiality, but I think to fall to that option as your first choice (I hear all your ideas as a professor and I must say that most of you have superficial tastes at this point - as I tried to point out in my previous post, so did I at that point) is a mistake. Please shoot higher.

How do you enhance your taste and be more relevant as a creator?

Live life. Read a lot (read more than just what you're used to.) Talk to others with an open mind. Keep your options open, but give a crap about stuff. (That is - BE PASSIONATE.) Know that we all have a place here and that what we do matters - and it does influence others, so be aware of what you put out there. Study all the time. Never get lazy about your talent - it can leave you (or at the very least - deteriorate) if you let it atrophy through not pushing to get better all the time. Celebrate every accomplishment, no matter how small. Read more. Think about stuff. Think about others. Watch others. Help others.

Wow. I sound really New Age here, don't I?

Look. I'm just pushing for us all to get the most out of our lives that we can. Be part of the change, please. Go out and create stuff. Be willing to change. Be willing to grow. We never have all the answers.

Well, enough of this for now. Later, folks.


(Btw, the image above is a "tight thumbnail" that I did for the Chickasaw Adventures people for a book called JUSTICE CASE FILES. I have been brought in as a storytelling specialist for their project. They were having camera angle difficulties. This art was created digitally using the Cintiq. Interesting way to work for roughs and thumbs. Try it out some time. Take note that I allowed space for the word balloons. Do you see them in the blue line art? )

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Something a Little Less Sweeping

I've been writing about stuff in really broad strokes lately. That's a habit I've gotten into in class and I need to watch out that I don't sound a) too old-farty, b) inflexible and c) tunnel-visioned. Now, look, I know that tastes change. I was not able to watch all the films that are available today when I was in college because VCR's were still not around for the general public. At least, not where I was.

I also had the taste of a horny 19 year old. To Steve Gellar's dismay, my main recollection of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE (which he did the screenplay adaptation for) is Valerie Perrine running around naked. Yep. Class. That's me.

I'm really pushing my students and myself to see what we can do to raise the bar and get our medium looked at differently, but I really don't think that it can happen in our lifetimes. Too much already ingrained into the American Psyche (not psycho).

I think that we can produce some quality (in all genres of story and art) material in the next few years and help that goal, but I don't think we'll be revered like the European artists are.

I am constantly being told how much "extra time" that the European artists take on their projects because they take "a week a page." Again, as I've said in class, if I were to write, pencil, letter, ink and color a page - it would take me a week, too. The American studio division of labor was created to circumvent that.

Do we need to go to a "one person did it all" type of genre in order to be taken more seriously as an art form? Why cannot collaborations be taken just as seriously?

Now, I admit - the majority of mainstream stuff out there is pure crap.

That's not helping matters, either.

So, I do my job the best I can and hope for the best? Or do I work towards a loftier goal and end result and help "create the change?"

My main attraction to doing mainstream work at this point is two-fold:
1) the money is good (not great, but good) , and
2) I am addicted to the accolades that you get from fans of that medium.

I also am petty in that I wanted to prove to the mainstream publishers that I still have it in me. I'm still viable.

I did have some fun doing the VIGILANTE stuff, but the schedule was grueling and the end result was not satisfactory on many levels. Rushed work is just that - rushed work. I did a great job within the painfully short deadlines given, though.

Well, enough about me. I'm rambling as I figure out where to go from here.

I think I'm going to do the mainstream samples that I mentioned and then see where I go from there.

What's everybody working on this summer?

More later.


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

More Discussions? Hey. Where'd Everybody GO!?!?

We still need to talk about this issue of expectations and how I think the recent grads have been raised with lower expectations in certain areas and a sense of "entitlement" in other areas. These lower expectations have resulted in more crap movies and TV shows than used to be made. They make slick crap now instead of crappy crap. Take GRIND HOUSE, for instance. It looks bad intentionally, but that style of movie used to be made on the cheap. Now -- we have MICHAEL BAY!!

The king of slick crap.

Well, this is all coming up as part of this "discussion" because of Derek Diaz's comments from two posts back. Here's part of what he said:
I think part of the reception (referring to my concern and amusement over being dated because of background use - Tom) comes from the fact that your team-up with Hanna is a throwback and causes people to think its "dated" simply because they haven't seen your name in so long. Comics are just as nasty as any other media when it comes to moving on. Hardly anything is considered timeless. In one day, out the next. And I think that it doesn't have as much to do with the artwork as when you saw the guy last. Its a topic I've wondered about concerning my own work, wondering if I'll be able to stay "current" and "relevant" throughout my career. I would definitely assert that the guys who stay working as popular conventions evolve, have it much easier, they adapt naturally as time goes by. You're coming back into the game at a time when the focus has shifted from storytelling to "pretty pictures". Which is a bummer. And it leaves people looking at your work through blurred vision. I think there's just a different expectation now, good or bad as it might be.

Yep. If you stay busy, you morph as yo
u go along. I think that I'm mostly concerned with some dated layout stuff that I do. As far as dropping backgrounds ... I don't know. I might try it. I just happen to like detail.

You should all be concerned with staying "relevant" and "current" in any industry, but as Derek points out, comics has a short memory unless you stay active. John Byrne is almost unknown at this point and he was the "KING" of the industry in the late 70's and early 80's.

Come on. Let's hear some more on this kind of stuff.

Why are you recent grads so willing to absorb, accept and even "embrace" crap? There's a lot of bad stuff out there. I know I'm petty, but I'm glad that Miller's SPIRIT movie did poorly. It was someone else, not the Spirit, stuck into his already existing Sin City universe.

SPRING QUARTER is over!! Long live summer. I am teaching this summer.

Good luck to all t
he recent grads of SCAD and anywhere else.