Comic Art

Mike Dominic wrote this article for us. He is a freelance illustrator and comic artist living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has produced work for both print and online comics, including his own webcomic, The Journals of Simon Pariah. He has written articles about comics for Sketch magazine and 24 Hour Comics Day 2006, and he is currently a participant in the 100 Artists Project. His most recent work can be found at the Bruno the Bandit webcomic and his own sketchblog.

Comic Art

Comics is an old art form that is always new. In its current form, it is just over a century old, yet it is just as fresh as today’s strips. It has adapted to nearly every communications medium introduced in the last century, yet it is still produced with tools that are as old as the written word. It is considered lowbrow trash by some (see, for example, Jack Chick tracts or Tijuana Bibles), pop culture by many (see the current spate of comic book based films and the books from which they are derived), and high art by a few (see Gary Groth and Art Speigelman). Some creators have even managed to start at one end of the scale and work their way to the other (see Will Eisner and Robert Crumb).

Comic art is used for educational and instructional purposes as well as it is for entertainment value. It has provided icons for our modern culture, even as it tore down that same culture or provided an escape from it. Comics are to art what water is to a Taoist: infinitely adaptable, ever changing.

This is why I consider myself fortunate to have some small talent for comics; comics are, literally, for everyone. I write them, draw them and color them. I also read them and share my love of them with others, old and young. Although I’ve worked in other artistic fields, I keep coming back to comics. The lessons I learn from another medium make their way into comics, and somehow the influence of comics keeps making its way into other artistic endeavors.

No other creative efforts have challenged me as much as has the creation of comics. This field is, for me, simultaneously the most rewarding and most frustrating work I have ever undertaken. Comics just demands so much of the creator. It demands that I know something about just about everything, as I could be called upon to draw anything at any given time. As a comic artist, I must be able to create a believable image of just about anything, be it real or utterly fantastic, and use that rendering to aid the narrative, convey action or create a mood. And do it in a few deft penstrokes. Usually on a deadline. On the other hand, it allows me to realize just about anything, be it real or utterly fantastic, with an effect as real and a scale as large as my mind and hand can convey, and with a budget no larger than the cost of a piece of paper and a stub of a pencil.

Yet when the job is done, comics is an ephemeral medium, flashed briefly on the screen or held briefly in the hand, then discarded or stashed away while the reader moves on to the next task of their day. In thinking about it that way, it makes you wonder why anyone would bother putting in so much effort to make good comics, and its probably that ephemeral nature that contributes to the perception of comics as an immature or irrelevant medium. Yet, if the comic creator has done their work diligently and well, they will have produced something, an impression or insight, that will last well beyond the short span that is spent actually experiencing the art. It is when that lasting impression is achieved that comics (in any format) has succeeded, and truly lives, as art.

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