([ On Critiques ])
I’m not much for “Reality TV” shows, never mind those with some nebulous prize at the end. The king of this genre, Survivor, is beyond stupid. A bunch of grown ass folks spending their time out in the “Middle of Nowhere” (with convenient access to proper medical attention) are given mostly physical “challenges” by a host in hopes that they can convince their “tribe” that their fellow members are more or less useless than they are at that time. All this is done in the name of money. It’s a crappy summer camp version of Double Dare where the folks who can’t talk their way into the Winner’s Circle go home. The money is simply this show’s carrot on the stick.
Why do I bring up Reality TV Game show thingies in a post about Critiques? Truth be told, I am watching one of those shows right now. It’s called Work of Art. While watching this show and feeling every hit from the judges, I realized something:
I can neither give nor receive critiques.
Granted, I don’t normally ask for them and I rarely - if ever - give them. I just can’t do it. Worst part of this: It seriously hinders my growth as an artist, a writer and a cartoonist.
For me, I have some standards that I hold myself to in both giving and taking critiques. Giving a good crit is like writing an actual paper. Anyone with a keen enough sense can tell you what’s wrong with a piece. That’s more akin to a rant. The tough part is how can you convey what the person can work on. Do you know how this can be fixed? Can you show them where their weak points are as well as how to strengthen them? If I can say yes to those questions, I will more than gladly give you a critique.
Sounds nice, huh? It is… sometimes. My first hurdle is taking a crit. Again, I do know how to take a critique properly… in theory. The person getting the critique - if they’re not just being ripped a new one - is to understand that it’s not a personal attack made on you. It’s the age-old issue plaguing all artists: You must separate yourself from your work. You are not that comic strip. You are not those neat little ceramic cups. You are not that overworked detective character in the script. You are the creator, not the creation. Anything said about the weak and strong points of your work is just that. They are not direct attacks on your person.
This is my hang-up. This is what gets me and this is where I fail. Try as I might, there are some pieces I simply cannot separate my self from emotionally. This is where I need the most work because this simply cannot stand. I watch this show and I see this happen every episode - there is always someone who throws themselves a little too deep into their piece. When the judges hit their piece with their own quick opinions, they get pissed. You can see it in their eyes. It’s really tough to watch.
For them and me, it’s art class all over again. I try not to pass out crits because I know I can’t take them. I need to work on that emotional separation and remind myself I just made something, that something is not me. If I can’t do that, I’ll never survive a proper portfolio review or someone giving a critique of my strip. It affects my job prospects as much as not having a license and it’s something I seriously have to work on.
([ On Signing One’s Work ])
A few weeks ago, an article titled Recto or Verso: What kind of artist are you? went up on Two Coats of Paint. It’s an excellent read and it got me thinking about signatures and comics.
I can’t say that I’m recto (sign on the front) or verso. When it comes to my work, it’s more of a case-by-case basis and it’s something that I noticed early on when doing my strips.
I have a pre-made information tag for my comics. I don’t actually sign my strips. None of them carry my physical signature which can be seen quite clearly on my doodles. In the case of my comics, I assume that one will always see them with my name somewhere attached to it - either on the website or just the huge-ass info tag surrounding the strip. In a sense, I “signed” it once. To “sign” it again would seem kinda’ redundant to me and distract even more from the strip.
This kinda’ stems from an old school comic book mentality of mine. When you pick up a comic, the only signatures your should see are those of the cover artists. You may or may not see the lead writer and artist dropped in along with the title, publisher’s logo, and other such business crap. What is certain is that the cover artists will have signed it and sometimes even dated it.
That’s not what I do.
When you open the book, the names of everyone else will be there only once. Unless it’s a very special circumstance, you don’t generally see everyone’s names on the page proper. You may find the artist’s name or mark hidden on a building or some place where a name would naturally pop up but it never overpowers the story. The content is what shines through.
That’s more like what I do.
I see my strips as just another type of comic page. To sign them each individually doesn’t make sense to me as my huge ass stamp would detract from the content and ultimately force me into thinking where I would have to drop it in relation to the panels and whatnot. Biff is essentially a series of small interior pages to me. Once collected and bound, they make a full book. When that time comes, I’ll sign the cover piece along with (hopefully) my colorist.
The writer of the article, Sharon Butler (part of the art department at ECSU and all around great artist), said to me that it all depends on how you were trained. When it comes to my doodles or my bigger pictures, I tend to treat them on the same level as I would a cover piece. I sign them, date them and set them aside. It’s second nature for me to do so as that’s how I see them. This wasn’t always the case.
Throughout high school, it was a necessity to sign your work. At that time, it was forced verso signatures so the teacher could ID them and grade them quickly. I would sometimes sneak my signature on the front but it was known. Keeping it on the back allowed me play tricks on folks to see if they actually liked the piece or they just knew my mark. Indeed, I was (and still am) that kind of asshole. = P
In college, I drifted more toward being recto. On many pieces, it was simply part of the fun. In the world of graphic design, you are anonymous. Your job is to make the design and move on. You leave your mark in how you approach the final design and overall look. As a graphic design major, I simply left it off of my design work. I separated the two in my mind and used what I had learned growing up on comics to help me remember.
This is probably the only thing that stopped me from always signing my work on the front. It kept that mentality of treating some of my pics like cover pieces and some like interiors. I also feel conflicted when, after I do some design work, I have to add in my information. It feels like I’m going against my nature and signing an interior page.
All in all, it’s an interesting thing to think about. Not often do folks actually break down why they do something as seemingly mindless as signing one’s own work. It makes for a neat exercise. = )