After struggling for a long time to find an artist I could say I could describe myself as similar I think I found it but in the most unlikely of places. I study a lot of Simonson and Leonardi, John Romita Junior but I also love some of the rougher more textural inking styles of guys like Bill S. and Danijel Dell’edera, and all the artists I said I think I look like have clean inkers. But I’ll come back to that.
Artists say they are influenced by everything they see and it’s true. Even if it’s influenced to not look like them, just like interacting with people. Additionally I may love and look at a lot of artists that I look and draw nothing like.
For example I’m starting to really like the cartoonstrip-style Herge-eske “dot eyes,” and have even tried it in a few panels where I probably would have done the classic superman comic strip “abbreviation” for eyes: The line for the top lid and a pupil somewhat overlapped underneath. I think that matches with my philosophy for comic art in general, with my approach to them – that you should be able to see the artist, tell that it is a representation and interpretation of life; The super realistic artists I used to admire either all worked from photos – basically any realistic cartoon strip artist pre-1979 – or tried so hard that I didn’t see them (the artrist) anymore – I just saw Fumettii. Tacktful inking can save this, like Al Williamson, Hal Foster, etc etc.
But I find the artists I’m really opinionated about are the ones with a very distinct style, like Kelley Jones, Denys Cowan, etc. Btw- just found out about Milestone comics, awesome! It’s a shame Static Shock is the only one that survived from it. Another artist saying is, that they want you to like them or hate them but don’t be only passive with their art, they want you to have a reaction.
We’ll it might have been from seeing him in a “history of comics” vhs a few years back or just seeing his older art but I absolutely hated Howard Chaykin. It might have been all the “budda-budda-budda” that filled the panels of his early 2000’s DC comics or that all his panels were bleed panels and his characters filled the frame.
But now I look at his new work and see a more striking similarity with my art that probably anyone else I’ve seen. I thought it was sloppy, fast, dirty and his characters were so blocky, and some of those same qualities were the ones I admired in different combinations with the aforementioned Leonardi, JRJR, and Simonson. But as I told my students when I taught for a brief time at a college here, Consistency was the biggest must-have trait (in my opinion) to developing a style, and he is, so how can I fault him.
I think I’ve come to drawing like how I do now because it’s the only style I can do consistently. I used to think of it as a non-style, my default drawing type, and yet after seeing enough of it and comparing it to the other artists I can see my similarities in what makes a style. It’s usually everything I mentioned on the list of things that I would describe Chaykin’s work as – but I’m okay with that. And I’m very comfortable in the style I’m using now, my non-style. Places where something looks inconsistent is probably where I’m trying to do something that I want to but is not me – which is a hard concept to wrap your head around as an artist.
You may like how certain things look, be able to replicate them in your art consistently and yet if you weren’t thinking about them when you draw you wouldn’t draw them. “Affectations” as one of my instructors used to call them.
I still haven’t come around on Milton Caniff’s art who has been cited by some if not all of the artists I’ve talked to and admire, in the same way Kirby is. There is pre-Kirby, prime-Kirby and post-Kirby. I think jobs in comics are so sought after and not really set up as a retirement deal that once an artists starts making a living doing it they have to keep at it so constantly that (I feel) all that’s left is their affectations – they settle into their niche and get pushed into that corner to an extreme. They become exaggerated in the things that make them “them” and the general drawing rules start to fall by the wayside. Personally I think Mike Perkins and Doug Braithwaite, Mark Texiera have started to be that way for me. Their faces are starting to look incredibly asymmetrical, despite being inked so well you can hardly tell. Of course, Tex and Braithwaite are just going from shaded pencils now while when they started were inked over by some of the best in the biz.
So to circle back around (again) people say that about Caniff, “of you have to read Terry and the Pirates,” or one of his other series, but then always add the caveat of not one of his other series. His layout is the best, black placement amazing, his gestural inking etc etc etc. Almost like a band/singer with a long career. If you catch them at the wrong point even now-fans of their art would criticize them.
I mention it in reference to music, because ideally (I think), and in movie series to some point, each one (cd/sequel etc) has to be a bit different from the onset – think Back to the Future. Set against 1980’s back to 1950’s, into the future then back to the old west. Still Back to the Future, but all fun because it’s not a rehash per-se because it’s all been turned on it’s ear. Or Empire, with Kershner. And then movie’s that flop because they stick so close to the formula that the original invented, The newest Pirates of the Caribbean (I thought), Ghost Busters 2 etc.
I’ve heard musician’s talk about this, when they create a fan base in one type of music and then grow, change, evolve into another a few songs or albums later and people chastise them for it. Its like there is some perfect combination between changing but not too much.
Ok back to art, take Jae Lee for example, early 90’s he was doing backgroundless ink-crazy and yet Jim Lee inspired art like Hellshock etc. Then he took a few years off and reinvented himself. I can’t stand him now, no backgrounds still lol, but totally different otherwise. And especially with comics where you are drawing so many panels per comic that by the time your done with two issues, you’d be hard pressed just mathematically from ythe number of angles to circle a character to not havea similar panel. So how do you keep it interesting? Change, grow, keep learning? I guess, if the fans come with you. If you don’t keep changing how will you know you’ve reached your prime, and once you do – can you just stay there, stagnant Doubtful. What’s even more, are changes like that really even totally conscious? Is it like they say about love, “you don’t find it, it finds you?” Especially if we’re influenced by everything we see.
When someone gets a JRJR sketch at a con, are they getting it to see what he looks like now, or for the affectations that made him famous? Do they really want him as a person, a growing artist, or just the stereotypical version of what they used to look like? Can you blame an artist for playing toward that?
Like JRJR, he has done so many comics (most of which I own) that I can see every fight scene goes down the same way, all the same angles almost every time. The legitimately new pages/panels are few and far between and that’s the point that I start going backwards with the artist, same with music. If the look stagnant now, try finding their art form before you started liking them. JRJR’s X-men stuff form the 80’s, Daredevil with Williamson etc is all some of my favorite stuff from him even though I got into him with the ultra bulky Punisher: War Zone stuff form the 90’s.
It’s interesting with some artists how they just became “them” at certain points in their career, Bill S looked like Neil Adams for the longest time, Travis Charest like Jim Lee, so many people like Jim Lee lol, same with Adams in his day though, Barry Windsidor Smith during his first few issues of Conan and Greg Capullo, the one who “jack of all trades, master of none” does not apply. I can’t take credit for pointing this out but on the CGS podcast, or maybe it was my friend Hobbes, he pointed out that Capullo can ape another artist’s style and then do “them” better then they can. He had a JRJR phase, Todd McFarlane (famously), and a few others and made it look like a better version of those artists. So what does Capullo actually look like – what is his default/no-style? Some say his Batman stuff now is that – maybe it is – for now.
This is even a bigger question to inkers, do you try and make yourself visible over the top of someone elses’ art or should you be the invisible hand that just makes the penciler look like the best “them” that they can be?
All questions, that artists all answer differently. And we get to see their answers in the pages of our comics books everyday.