I’m not gonna lie, I love painting and drawing and visual art in general. Sure, some contemporary art can be challenging, baffling and, let’s face it, boring. But a lot of the conceptual stuff is pretty interesting. But hey, I went to art school and then grad school so maybe I’m a little bit indoctrinated into the weird Cult of Contemporary Art. Ha ha! Take that artist friends! And yeah, it does get pretty damned weird, but I digress. That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten my roots as a–wait for it–lowly cartoonist! I say lowly because I know a lot of contemporary artists don’t seem to have a lot of respect for cartoonists and other illustrators. But I do. I have a great respect for highly skilled illustrators and cartoonists. Illustration is not easy and I sometimes wish I had gone to some kind of illustration school before I went to art school. I think a combination of both would give someone an incredible combination of skills along with with some interesting ways to utilize them.
But that is not what happened for me. For one thing, I live in Winnipeg, a pretty damned isolated city with no illustration programs anywhere in sight, also I have to admit I never even considered it. So there’s that. But of course illustration is a skill that can be learned on one’s own. And I’ve even done some ‘professional’ illustrating. I worked as a graphic artist at a label printing company for eleven years where I often got to do some illustration and some of it was even pretty good (that was before all this art school business–another life)! I say that in a self-deprecating way because I’ve never practiced enough to get truly good.
Allow me to explain. When I was a kid I used to draw. A little bit. It wasn’t an obsession or anything. But I did spend some of my time copying cartoons. I want to specify, I was not tracing them, I was copying them. Looking at them and trying to reproduce them by eye. I remember showing these drawings to people occasionally and hearing: “that’s just copying.” As though it’s nothing. As though anyone can do it because it’s basically tracing? Well, it’s not tracing, but it’s true that anyone can do it–with practice. Because it’s not easy! Take that you discouraging assholes! Sorry for the language, but there’s always a curse word in my blog post title (it’s a rule) so you can’t possibly be surprised. Also, they likely didn’t really know what they were saying, so they’re not really you-know-whats. (At least I didn’t repeat it!)
The thing is, copying is how you fucking learn! (oops, did it again). Painters often learn by copying the Old Masters. Even the Old Masters themselves copied the other Old Masters! So the fact that I let that kind of discouraging feedback make me stop copying cartoons when I was really young is a pretty big regret. Mind you, if I had really wanted to keep doing it, presumably I would have. So I guess there’s actually no point in regretting it now.
But that brings me to the present day and the work I’ve been doing for the last few weeks and months. Everything I do starts with a drawing. And I wish I was better at it. I think I’m an adequate caricaturist. That’s something I should be practicing everyday, but I like the painting part better, so I don’t. But if you follow what I do you’ve also seen that I’ve been doing paintings based on famous cartoon characters. And I’ve really been enjoying it. But the fact is, I’m re-discovering that copying cartoons is hard. Of course these paintings aren’t really copies of cartoons, but I can’t do these without referencing the originals. So they do start with trying to re-create the look of the characters. The surprising thing is, the initial drawing for these paintings takes longer to do than if I start with a photo of a face. I wasn’t expecting that.
One of the things that people find hard about drawing is judging relationships between things. How big is that eye in relation to that chin? Or whatever. As a cartoonist who has drawn a comic or two (see gorillainthemidst.com), I have a formula for drawing my characters the same over and over. And I know those formulas exist for all of the characters I’ve been drawing, so I could go and look up the character sketches to see how they’re constructed. But as frustrating as it is, I’m kind of enjoying the challenge of drawing them by eye. And I think these paintings have been pretty successful. So enjoy the ones in this post! And send me a message if you’d like to buy one, and just so you know there is always a discount if you buy two or more! Just sayin’!