November 9, 2008

The amazing Trade Loeffler
posted this comment:

"Hey Matt,

A couple of great posts so far. Your mirror trick is something I'd never been taught, but learned on the fly when I started drawing my Upside-Down Me story. When flipping the characters from the floor to the ceiling and ceiling to floor I started catching all kinds of flaws in my drawings, and realized what a great technique it was to look at my drawings from different perspectives.

I don't have a mirror that I work with (not enough room in our NY apartment), but I use my lightbox instead. Flipping the drawing over and examining it from the back works just great for me."

Trade's online comic Zip and Lil' Bit, which finished it's second story arc in June, is one of the best drawn web comics today. His comment shows exactly why I'm doing what I'm doing with this blog. I know so many cartoonists who are growing into their craft, who don't lack for talent, but who struggle with easily fixable problems because they simply haven't heard these little bits of knowledge that would make their creative lives so much easier. Most cartoonists are left to figure these problems out on their own, and sometimes they never do. How-to books are usually focused on broad problems like figure drawing and making pages that read clearly, and they rarely contain all these hard-won little pieces of accumulated craft. These things become second nature to a professional, to the point where I think people take for granted just how hard and slow drawing was for them before they learned them all.

The internet has really made things better. Trade frequently posts work-in-progress pictures with explanations of his process, as do many cartoonists these days. It's common for young artists to post their pencils and even thumbnails up on Flickr for people to see how they work, and there's an entire Flickr Group dedicated just to cartoonist's work spaces. A recent and WONDERFUL phenomenon has been artists posting video of themselves working. All of this is for the same common goal- we remember how hard it was for us to get this information, and we all want it to be as easily available as possible. If you want to know, you should be able to find it out. What I'm trying to cover with this blog is the stuff you didn't know you wanted to know, things you wouldn't necessarily know to seek out on your own.

Warren Ellis once posted an idea he had where blogs and social networking would basically evolve into mass, simulcast radiotelepathy, where every piece of new knowledge would be instantly broadcast to the entire group, so that everyone's knowledge would increase at once. I dream of an artistic world like that, where your limits are the limits of your creativity, not your knowledge.

Old artists sometimes see knowledge as something to be hoarded and guarded. They see themselves as riding in a helium baloon, and if they give away their helium to other balloonists they'll sink as the other baloonists rise. Of course, the truth is that they're riding in a hot air balloon, and if everyone shared their fire with each other, they'd all rise up faster and higher than they could if they were miserly with their flame.

I hope that my readers will tell me, whether by radiotelepathy or comments or email, about any tips and tricks they've learned.


Trade Loeffler said...

Ha! Thanks for the shout-out, Matt. I'm a bit humbled by the "amazing" part in the title of your post, but I appreciate the attention for Zip and Li'l Bit.

I'll definitely be a regular reader of your blog posts here. I think we've been mutual fans of each other's artwork for quite awhile now.

Comic Tools said...

What can I say? There's almost nobody doing what you do at the level you're doing it online, at all. I call that grounds for amazing.