Some men, when they reach my age, experience a mid-life crisis– a realization that they’ve come to the half-way point of their lives. Standing on that peak, legs trembling and knees knocking, looking down the slide to the liver-spotted and toothless maw of old age manifests itself in different ways in different men. Some guys buy expensive sports cars to bolster their feelings of virility. Others may search out much younger women to try to reconnect to their youth. Others still may embark on an ‘extreme sports’ kick– bungy jumping and skydiving to kick start those adrenal glands to give them that sense of being a kid again. Different strokes for different blokes.
For me, it’s manifested itself in feelings of inadequacy and a lack of confidence in my work and perhaps my place in the comics industry. My whole world seems to be wrapped up in the comics world. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not (probably not… I should have some outside hobbies, I’m sure). What that does, though, is cause me to focus every bit of my attention on not only my own work, but that of all the other artists in this business… those working for Marvel and DC as well as all those folks working in the indy and small press world. Every time I go to the comic shop to buy new books… it’s a mixed experience for me. I love buying comics that feature art by all the different folks who’s work I follow on a regular basis…. and it’s always wonderful to read them and marvel at these people’s abilities. Inevitably, though, it ends with me feeling vaguely depressed and comparing my own work to that of those artists who’s books I just purchased. My favorite kind of work is what would be termed as ‘stylized’… that work that is a reflection of the individual artist’s personal outlook, experience, influences and natural traits. When I see work that, for the most part, is done from photo reference– it just doesn’t interest me. Perhaps that’s because I don’t work that way… perhaps it’s because I’ve never drawn in a particularly realistic manner myself. For me, an individual, highly personal style is what makes comic books so exciting to see. That very individuality of these artists is what leads to my crisis, though. My OWN individuality seems… bland by comparison. I’ve always lived with the label ‘cartoony’– and over time, I’ve come to embrace it. I don’t have much choice– because it’s true. There are, though, LOTS of cartoony artists working in the business… but to my eyes, their work has an intensity and an edge that mine seems to lack– and in an industry whose focus is all about intensity and edge…. death, betrayal, ideology, angst and generally grim subject matter… I feel a bit displaced. I’ve read several comments from folks about the SPIDER-MAN/FANTASTIC FOUR mini that I’m drawing that state that it reminds them of an “Adventures-style” of book. I’ve got nothing against the Adventures books… but I’ve never seen myself working in that realm.
I’ve had countless people writing me and asking me at shows how I come to my particular style or way of drawing. My answer is always that for me, it’s not something I’ve been able to ‘concoct’. It just came to me over years of work. I’ve tried, at times in my life, to try to incorporate some of the elements of other artists who’s work I admire into my own drawing… and it never seems to work. I’ve seen many comics artists over the years reinvent themselves over and over. It’s always amazing to me that these folks can do this, when it’s always so seemingly impossible for me to change the way I draw in any significant way. Heck, even any SUBTLE ways. Sure, I’ve grown as a penciler over the years. I only have to look back at my past work to see that. As a whole, I draw better now than I did 10 years ago… or even 3 years ago. However, there are things that I liked from my earlier work that I also see have slowly bled out of my present drawing. So today’s sketch was a way of looking back and trying to perhaps draw some of that old edge I think I had and filter it into the way I draw now. The sketch, I believe, is entirely unsuccessful. It felt completely unnatural to do that– and therefore, it wasn’t much fun. FORCING myself to draw any particular way than the way that comes naturally feels akin to trying to fit a size 9 shoe on my size 12 foot. At the end of the day, I suppose I don’t have much choice but to be who and what I am and hope for the best. Call it paranoia from a middle-aged guy who lives to draw comics (or should that be draws comics to live…?)– but for a while now, I’ve felt like the comics biz has been moving in one direction… and I’m moving in another. I guess I can only keep going… and try to roll with whatever happens.
I enjoy reading many web comics… and I’ve become friends with several web comics folks, like Jamar Nicholas of DETECTIVE BOOGALOO and Scott Kurtz of PVP. I’ve enjoyed the web strip SILENT KIMBLY by Ryan Sias for quite some time. It’s a very funny, gentle and sweet strip that usually involves a cast of very cute characters in scenarios that illustrate a play on words. Ryan is an incredibly imaginative guy and a terrific artist. Recently he contacted me to ask if I’d be willing to draw a guest strip for him, and I was happy to comply with that request. Ryan just posted the strip I drew, and I’ve posted it here as well– but click the link and head over and read his SILENT KIMBLY archives. You’ll discover how wonderful a world Ryan has created.
OK… that’s it for today. I apologize for the rambling post above… but one of the things about this blog is that it can serve as a bit of therapy at times. It helps to write things out that are running through my mind. Hopefully, it didn’t bore you to tears.
This is Entry 368.