Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Mid-life crisis?

Is it possible to have a mid-life crisis at 33? Maybe not (but I’ll be 34 on Saturday, so maybe the answer is yes lol).
Anyway, I went to a Chinese comics day yesterday, and it was very awe-inspiring, especially the young artist known as Benjamin who drew live on stage (yes I know it sounds boring, but you had to be there - it was amazing). Watch for him, he's going to be huge.
But the downside is that it left me feeling untalented in comparison. And I was showing my comic to people and not many people seemed interested and a few people even turned down free copies.
So there’s two things here - first up, the whole point of this blog is supposed be about my O Men thoughts (rather than my thoughts on the latest Lost episode lol) so I wanted to write this here, and also the other thing is that the intention of this message isn’t for everyone to write and say ‘nooo martin you’re great’ or something and rally round because I don’t really want that - because I think I'm figuring things out in my head.
Basically, when I started The O Men, I knew I wasn’t ready, but I figured that if I waited til I was ready, I’d never start. And yes, the first few issues were very rough but I think I’ve improved.
Now I’m at a stage where I am very proud of an issue when I’m doing it but when I get the final version, it sometimes doesn’t seem to be quite there. I don’t know what happens with my art, but somehow my pencils and my sketches look better than the finished version. Maybe, as a self-taught chap, I’ve missed out on some useful illustration courses/techinques. The final version often seems too simple.
But here’s the thing, I figure that I’m telling a story, this is a story I have to tell, and this is the form it’s coming in, good or bad. It could be a cave-painting, but it’s a story I want to tell. Art and story are just combining here. One thing I’ve noticed with my drawing is that I pretty much always, 98%, go with the first version of a drawing that I do. I don’t re-draw, and sometimes if I struggle with a picture, I’ll often realise that I like the first version (of many) that I’ve done. It feels like what I draw is what the story wants to be.
But maybe I shouldn’t settle for this. Maybe I should aim for more perfection. I just feel like I want to get on with it and get it done. I totally admit that there are a lot of panels that I rush just to get the story done, and sometimes it’s not what I planned.
What yesterday taught me yesterday was to analyse what I’m doing, and to really go for it - to really try to hone the artwork, to really not shy away from perspective and backgrounds, just go for it, and if it takes ages it takes ages.
I’ve got my Spandex project coming up and I am very excited about it. I have never, in all my 20 or so years of drawing, earned a single penny off drawing, and I really want Spandex to get published, and I’m really going to go for it. If this means spending years on it, then that’s the way it’s going to have to be... An if anyone wants to help me, to 'edit' me - because I can't tell if a page is good or bad - then they're welcome.
So I don’t know if this makes sense, but it’s from the heart, something that’s been on my mind since the comics day yesterday, and something I wanted to write down.


Rol said...

'A man told me to beware of 33.
He said, "It was not an easy time for me"'

That's what Jarvis had to say on the matter. If it's any consolation, I've been having a mid-life crisis since I turned 21.

The thing to remember, re: your artwork, is that real creators are NEVER satisfied with their work, no matter how good they get. When you stop trying to improve, you might as well just stop.

And without coming the "you're great, Martin" routine: yes, there are rough edges to your work, and things that don't quite work / could do with a little more time. HOWEVER, right from the first issue I've always been impressed by your sense of design and composition. You have an imagination on the page that a lot of professional artists (who might be able to draw better cars or buildings or whatever) seriously lack, and you know how to tell a story - in comics, that's the most important thing.

So, y'know, keep at it. Crack on!

Mart said...

ha ha Jarvis.
ah thanks Rol, that's very sweet of you. I will back away from the window ledge now. maybe ITV could run a Mart-athon to support my crisis.

I think the problem is that I cant' see what's wrong with the artwork - I'm too close to it. Maybe when I send you the new issue, you can let me know the flaws - because I can't tell. Anatomy? I think I could be good, but I don't know what to do - what style to go for? Sketchy? Polished? No idea. I think the potential is there, but I don't seem to be improving.

Ha ha remember that car crash scene in 2.4? I really wanted to make it good - like Geoff Darrow - some huge scene. I don't know what happened - it just sucked - and I did photo reference of my friend's car too!! I don't know why it sucked so bad - maybe I just rushed it.

One thing I'm considering is using models and taking photos for body language. It would help a lot I think, but I do like my silly approach to just popping people on the page straight from my head. It just seems more natural and honest.
Obviously, backgrounds are an issue that I need to address...

But thanks for the response Rol, it means a lot.

Tara said...

I think you have your own style that lends itself to being a bit rough, M. I think if you were going for photorealism that would be one thing, but that's not your style.

I agree that artist's are never satisfied, there's always a better line to draw or a better sentence structure to create but that's the nature of the beast.

I'd love to look at any of your work you want to share. I think feedback from trusted peers is invaluable and it does give perspective when your head is just too deeply into the work.

Maybe take a contemporary art course, not a classical one where you will feel intimidated, but one where you can critique with a group and maybe learn some more techniques that you can just fold into your own style.

BTW - I HATED turning 35 :)

Rol said...

I think you'd be better off asking an ARTIST, rather than someone who snappede every pencil he ever owned.

I don't think your figures are a problem in general - you have a very stylised look which works well, but probably wouldn't benefit from trying to be too anatomically analytical (with the exception of tricky areas like hands and feet, which I understand are always a bastard to draw and often benefit from a bit of examination beforehand). You're certainly very good with the sexy ladies - and in a way that's quite different from the cliched comic book babe look.

If it's any consolation, I know that Nige Lowrey - whom I worked with on The Jock - hates drawing vehicles and buildings, and regularly beats himself up, redrawing panels that I can't see any problem with.

Like I say, a good creator is NEVER satisfied.

Mart said...

thanks t. i've been working on some new stuff and showing it to a good chum - and it is really helping. i think it looks quite good. i'll show you soon.
t, surely you're not 35! i thought you were 25!

Mart said...

oh jeez what is it with hands and feet! actually this is the thing - a friend of mine would literally laugh at the hands i drew - but would never tell me why. they look okay to me, but i guess they're not right lol.

Tone said...

Hands are a pain to get right. As are cars, buildings, backgrounds...

I sympathise Mart, I went through a similar art crisis recently, plus we're the same age (well, until tomorrow, happy birthday). It's easy to watch more natural artists (such as Mr Lowrey) knock out a great sketch in 5 minutes and think 'what am I doing'. Like you say, you get too close to the art to see your mistakes until you come back to it fresh months after, by which time it's already out there.

Personally I took a step back for a year or so and improved on the areas I wasn't happy with. I agree with you though, telling the story's the most important thing, drawing pretty pictures is secondary. If you do a bad panel, move on and make sure the next one's better. Perfectionist artists sit around endlessly agonising over and redrawing the same page, whereas you've actually got a huge body of work out to be proud of. I know which I prefer.

For what it's worth, I think you're art's at the nearly there stage. Maybe work on smoothing out your finishing a bit more and the occasional wonky bit of anatomy, but stylistically it's very nice. Plus it's your own unique style, which counts for a lot.

Mart said...

ah i feel like i have my own support group!

i think taking a step back and looking at the picture is good advice. i'm working on something new now and a friend told me to take a break and look at it again the next day. and it really works.