Editorial: Speaking Dork and Drawing
Compiled thoughts on comics, looking at art, and the formation of drawing habits from Michael Glenn and Hannah Dean.
MG: The comic con coming up here in Lubbock has me remembering the first comic rag I bought at Toler’s Pharmacy on Georgetown and 34th street in Indianapolis, some 26 years ago now. It was a pose book full of Marvel characters called Marvel Universe Update ’89. The economy of the illustrations was a perfect start, and I learned how to look without all the frills of a heavily inked Jae Lee Ghost Rider, or an extravagantly rich X-Men cover like Marc Silvestri’s. If you speak Dork, you know what I mean. If you know drawing, you know the best tool for learning is looking.
I started out with some tracing, getting the movements into my body. Late weekend nights playing Castlevania on the NES had prepared me for this. My dexterity has always been good, and this minute adjusting of the pressure, the flow, the directional shifts, the looking and decision-making, all honed my hands. I stuck with the comics for a long time, venturing into the realm of architecture and lettering only slightly. The figure and the dynamic contortions of flesh held sway. Drawing was my religion, my therapist, and my sustenance.
Eventually I made that big shift from drawing things to making marks, which puts you out of the market in a lot of ways, and out of favor with those humans who love things they can recognize. Those first comic book chops remain in the marks, the graphics, the poetry of the inky swagger. A little McFarlane finger or two pops up sometimes, poking out of a land mass form, or clutching a scratchy spray of lines. Faces emerge from the paper that resemble Will Eisner street people, and cross hatched spaces contain John Romita Jr. intimations. Drawing after can be viewed as a combined record of prior existence, called forward in the moment, crafted by choices. When I draw I am melding the past and present, stealing pieces of the environment, re-collecting harsh winters, bringing forth phantasms of scrawled graffiti, the curve of a highway overpass, the serifs in the last book of poetry I read, the microscopic and the cosmic, and in a more abstract manner the flow of a thousand musics across the surface of my skin. The Comic Book is one more piece in the amalgamation.
HD: Alright, so I'm not as big a nerd as Michael.
Still, beginning in first grade, I got through my "Accelerated Reader" program in elementary school by reading Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, and The Far Side books. My own scratched out illustrations were simplistic, and not nearly as ironically misproportioned as Gary Larson's. I did a pretty good Plesiosaurus.
I guess that even as we artist-types move into what we call “our” work, there is this (sometimes unacknowledged) pre-determinism in drawing. It is a practice, formed from those first tracings, that functions as the ancient art of the copy. I wonder, just as there is a slew of Archie and Sailor Moon doodles that formed the hand-eye coordination of a future generation of artists, if it is this copyist mode of working, based on popular culture, that slowly changes the aesthetic of drawing, of marks, of fonts, of design, for each..decade? I’m not sure how to categorize time here. I’m sure that dates me, as well as my mention of Sailor Moon. Anyways, I mean to say, are we really crafting our drawings by choice? Are we that unique? Or, are we merely painting other peoples’ paintings, in the words of Frank Stella. This doesn’t exactly keep me up at night, but it interests me. Maybe it goes back further than Sailor Moon (or for me, “How to Draw Animals” books). Maybe the way I make marks is due to my early childhood education, my second grade teacher teaching me to write cursive in the same way she did. So, perhaps I am merely recalling Mrs. Robinson when in my studio. Maybe not.