Q: You did a lot of comic book conventions in 2014. Have there been any people coming to you, showing you their drawings and asking for your professional opinion? Could you give them some kind of advice? Did you like it to do?
A: Yes, that happens a lot.
This can be an uncomfortable situation, especially when the work being shown is not very good. You hate to crush people’s dreams, but you also don’t want to give someone who is years (or maybe never) away from doing anything that might get them work in an industry they clearly love the idea they are “almost there”.
I’ve found over the years that very few people are really looking for an honest critique of their work. 95% of the time all they really want is simple encouragement. Sometimes they just want a little attention from a working cartoonist… someone to say “very nice, keep on working hard!”. For the people who show me clearly amateur work, I give them the encouragement they are looking for, but I also am honest enough to say “you have a lot of work and learning ahead of you”. I always temper that with a little lecture on how great artists are a result of a dash of talent and a truckload of hard work. I advise them to forget about superheroes with big thighs and impossibly long capes and learn to draw trees and cars and ordinary objects. They usually dismiss that but it’s good advice. Even if you eventually get good at drawing pin-up shots of mightily muscled superheroes, they will look terrible when the building they are leaping over looks like it’s made of legos and the trees in front of it look like scrambled eggs on a stick. That advice applies to the vast majority of the work I get shown in that kind of situation. There are only so many ways you can say “you have to learn to draw better”, and with very amateur work that’s really the only advice you can give. I just try and do it in a way that encourages them to keep drawing. Whatever I say will not change whether they ever get good enough to make a living in comics or not, but encouraging an aspiring artist to keep drawing never hurt anyone.
Very occasionally I get someone who shows me work that really has something going. If I get the sense that the person showing it to me really wants a real critique, I will take a good look and try to come up with some things for them to work on. I will still point out what I think they are good at, but with decent work you can usually see some specific things that an artist needs to work on. It might be their composition, figure work, etc. I make sure they know I really see something in their work, and encourage them to pursue art as a career if I think they have the chops for it.
This isn’t my favorite thing to do. That said, if someone thinks enough of my work that they take the time to come to a comic con and show me some of their art asking for advice, I always try my best to give them something real to say to them.
Thanks to Dominik Zeillinger for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
It’s been a few years… so here is another Great Art Blow-out Sale! Well, only 10 pieces but they are of vintage nature. I have to fund the redesign of my website, so I am selling a bunch of older, traditional media illustrations I have lying about for pretty bargain basement prices. Almost all are published pieces from various magazines or ads, with the exception of two self-promo paintings I did for the Directory of Illustration. All were done before my switch to primarily digital color work, so these are the last vestiges of the real paint, airbrush and mixed media illustrations I did in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.A couple of them are really, REALLY BIG. Click on any to be whisked away to the Studio Store for more details! I will be adding a few other pieces as the days go on as well, so check back! Help get my website redesign done, and get something to hang on your wall to cover that big crack in the sheetrock!
This is the most expensive of the pieces, just because of the signatures, and I’m actually auctioning this one on eBay with a “Buy it Now” of $300. I did this painting for the cover of the Minnesota Twins magazine, Aug/Sept 2002 issue. The illustration features caricatures of Twins relief pitchers for the issue’s cover story. The artwork is done on illustration board (which was “peeled” for color separation) in ink, acrylic paint and airbrush. The art board measures 14.75 x 19.75 inches, and the illustration 13 x 16.5 inches. The art is in excellent shape, being stored in the artist’s studio.
The original is signed by five of the seven players in sharpie marker: Tony Fiore, LaTroy Hawkins, Mike Jackson, J.C. Romero (twice… he signed on the art and again in pencil in the border at the top) and Eddie Guardado. Depicted but without signatures are Jack Cressend and Bob Wells.
As it appeared on the cover of the magazine.
Other pieces for sale in the Studio Store:
Promotional piece for Directory of Illustration 1997, 15″ x 20″- $125
San Francisco Giants magazine Spot Illustration May/June 1996. 7.5″ x 10″- $50
San Francisco Giants magazine Spot Illustration June/July 1997. 7.5″ x 10″- $50
A month or two ago a posted a teaser about a comic book project I am working on for SitComics called “Z-People”. It’s a humorous zombie story written and published by television comedy writer Darin Henry. Originally I was going to do pencils, inks and color on everything but the comic is going to be 45 pages of story and in the interest of getting it done and out on time, colorist K Michael Russell has come on board to do the color work.
Darin has posted a couple of sneak peeks of the first few pages on the official Sitcomics Facebook page, pencils/ink by me and color by K Michael Russell:
The comic should be out sometime this summer.
Cop out for Sketch o’the Week this week… here’s a former SotW with digital grays added for my book. This is Winona Ryder in her role as Mina Murray (Harker) from Bram Stoker’s Dracula… a film that has the dual honor of being probably the most faithful adaptation of the original Stoker novel ever, and having the most horrific performance of an English accent by and actor since Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins courtesy of Keanu Reeves.
As promised, a couple of panels from the MAD parody of “House of Cards” in issue #532 (clicky any to embiggen…):
In case you missed the splash page that was posted last week:
Read the parody in MAD #532, on newsstands now!
In comic book shops, on the iPad and in subscribers mailboxes now, on news stands everywhere tomorrow:
- Cover (Mark Fredrickson)
- The Fundalini Pages (Dick DeBartolo, Kevin Pope, Joe Dator, Jeff Kruse, Sam Sisco, Kenny Keil, Nathan Cooper, Bob Staake, Shannon Wheeler, Desmond Devlin, Anton Emdin, Samuel Ferri, Kit Lively, Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer, Patrick Merrell)
- House of Cons (David Shayne, Tom Richmond)
- A Sneak Peek at More of the Characters in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Mike Morse, Hermann Mejia)
- The Darker Side of The Lighter Side… (Sort of Dave Berg, Carl Peterson: Colorist)
- A MAD Look at LEGO (Sergio Aragonès, colorist: Tom Luth)
- The Worst Reviews on Yelp* (Kenny Keil, Scott Bricher)
- President Obama’s Bucket List (Mike Morse, Paul Coker)
- Spy vs. Spy (Peter Kuper)
- The Strip Club (Dakota McFadzean, Christopher Baldwin, Kevin Werth, Eric Scott, Nathan Cooper, Kit Livley & Scott Nickel, Phil McAndrew, Peet Tamburino)
- The Mad Vault- From MAD #141, March 1971 (Artist: George Woodbridge, Writer: Sy Reit)
- Internet Rumor Timeline (Mike Morse, Ward Sutton)
- Few Joke Girls (Mike Morse, Tom Bunk)
- Star Wars Fans Then… and Now (Artist: Rich Powell)
- The Best of the Idiotical (Uncredited)
- Drawn Out Dramas- Various margins throughout the magazine (Sergio Aragonès)
- The MAD Fold-In (Al Jaffee)
This issue could arguably be called the “Mike Morse writes just about everything issue!” Seriously the guy wrote 4 major articles, including collaborating on a rare non-reality show TV parody art appearance by Tom Bunk! I did the art for David Shaynes’s parody of the Netflix show “House of Cards”. The splash page was already posted online by Uproxx.com, but I’ll post a sneak peek of a couple of panels of it tomorrow.
Now, What are you waiting for… a furshlugginer invitation?!? Go out and buy a copy, clod!
Q: I have a question with regards on seeing Comics/Graphic Novels as Fine Arts. How do you view comic art? High Art? Low Art? I’m asking as I’m currently facing scorns and that “question mark” look from many of my “fine art” peers on me using comic inking style as a style to paint on canvas etc. And how do you draw the line between fine art and Fan art? or is there even a line to began with..
A: Ah… Comic art/illustration vs. “fine art”. Like discussions involving politics, religion and Mac vs. PC, This is a debate that has no winner and no end.
For some reason much of the disdain fine artists have for illustrators and comics artists seem to stem from the commercial aspects of the work. There was a time when illustrators like Norman Rockwell were scorned by the fine art world, and commercially successful authors like Stephen King and J.K. Rowling are often dismissed by critics and more high-brow authors as “schlockmeisters”. Even within the realm of “fine art” there are some artists who are looked down on as “sell-outs” or artists of lesser skills but successful because of appeal to the Great Unwashed as opposed to art snobs. Thomas Kincade comes to mind, as does Thomas Arvid. Both produce (or produced in the case of the deceased Kincade) work catering to a target audience featuring mass-appeal subject matter (idyllic, fantasy-like nature scenes for the former, wine bottle/glasses still lifes for the latter).
Back when I was in college in a small art school in St. Paul, MN, there were two camps of artists… the “fine artists” and the “illustrators”. The fine artists considered the illustrators to be unoriginal automatons, who simply reproduced references according to the ideas and direction of others (art directors, authors, etc) and called us “wrists”. The illustrators dismissed the fine artists as “artists who couldn’t draw”, and who hid their lack of talent behind high minded “concepts” that didn’t require the ability to actually paint or draw with any skill.
Nobody liked the graphic designers… but I digress.
Anyway both camps were wrong. There were some tremendous talents in the fine art program who could draw and paint like masters and some of the illustrators who produced work with narrative and conceptual value that was of amazing originality and insight. But, the snide remarks, clique mentality, and general divisiveness continued for some.
Personally I look on all art as simply “art”. It does not matter to me why it is created or where it hangs, is seen, printed, or posted. It’s art. I either think it’s good , bad, or somewhere in between. That includes art created by established artists or professionals, or so-called “fan art” created by anyone. It’s just “art”. Art is so subjective that the opinions of others on its validity are basically irrelevant to anyone but the person expressing their opinion. One creates art according to the purpose and intent of the artist. That purpose might be commercial, personal, or some combination of the two. The reason for the creation is irrelevant to the art itself, which is created and exists regardless of purpose. One can appreciate it or not appreciate it. It is entirely up to the eye of the beholder. Going back to my previous examples, The Lovely Anna and I dislike Kincade’s work, and wouldn’t buy or hang a print of his in our house if you paid us. However we have several Arvids on our walls, as we love the subject matter and his realistic but painterly oil style is appealing.
I can appreciate great comic art as “art”, some of which I would be delighted to frame and hang in my house (and do). Comic art as done by the best of the best rank as impressive to me as any fine art painting. Likewise I can really appreciate many fine art pieces, although I tend to like realism or representations of real life scenes and subjects as opposed to abstract art. If an artist decides to combine comic art techniques in their fine art, who is to say that is wrong? It worked for Roy Lichtenstein. More power to you.
The bottom line is that there will always be opinions about any art. It’s up to the artist if they want to assign any validity to those opinions. I’ve always found that those who criticize and condemn the loudest usually do that in an effort to somehow validate their own work by putting down another’s , or to demonstrate their intellectual “superiority” to some like-minded group of which they are part of the herd mentality. Ignore them and do what you want to do. That is what art is all about.
Thanks to Dante for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!
Doud Gilford was so moved by the outpouring of sadness over the closing of his incredible MAD Cover Site that he has reinstated it! Hooray for all of MAD fandom, and a humongous THANK YOU to Doug for keeping this institution alive. From the MCS:
Because my act of removing the site has been likened to a crime against humanity,
because researchers are being left in the lurch in the middle of their books, films, and websites,
because I’ve been taken aback by the outpouring of genuine love and well-wishing through too many correspondences,
I hereby reinstate Doug Gilford’s Mad Cover Site for who knows how long.
Are you really surprised?
Wow, not even a week!
What I have learned in the last few days is that the thing is bigger than me and should survive.
I should be able to limit my role and be happier.
I can’t take MAD Facebook groups anymore, so THANKYOU Adam for replacing my old group with
the much better Mad Mumblings, and thanks for the many supportive and patient words of wisdom.
Let’s speak no more of this.
No more great write-ups, Tom.
Charlie, you were right.
Now get off my lawn!