March 18th, 2008

The Zombie

Comic Book Mozart?

March 17 -  Comic Book Misconception of The Day - Comic book artists are self-taught savants.  I must again admit my ignorance.  When I was a kid - and I mean a real kid, like eight years old - this is what I believed.  I was adamantly opposed to any artistic training, or even any particularly strong influence.  Why?  Because every time I drew something "good," some skeptical classmate would ask whether I had traced it, copied it, or had been instructed on how to draw it.  I was always incensed, nearly to the point of "doth protest too much," which didn't help much.  The more indignant I became, the more people believed that I was a plagiarist.  For that reason, I spent the rest of my public school days eschewing anything that smacked of an "unfair advantage," hoping to prove (to whom?) that what I did, I did.  Then, as a Freshman in high school, I was offered the opportunity to study Art under Loretta Grellner...against both her and my better judgement.  For her, the misconception of an unruly, unformed, and probably unteachable fourteen-year-old made the prospect less than appealing, while for me, well...such an arrangement would definitely constitute an unacceptable, and blatant, "unfair advantage."  So, why did we each give in?  After much friendly persuasion from the mother of a fellow prospective student, Loretta was coaxed out of retirement by being promised that I would always be part of a group of four paying youngsters, of which I was merely the least talented.  As for me, I just assumed that my dreams of a comic book career were silly, and that it was time for me to "grow up" ( turns out that I didn't achieve either goal, but that's beside the point).  During my high school years, though, not only was I thrilled by a resurgence of the comic book artform, but I was shocked to learn that most comics artists had, indeed, attended Art School, served apprenticeships, or had other similar instruction!  So, as high school ended, I had overcome both my aversion to professional instruction, and my feeling that a comic book career was silly.  That led me to wholeheartedly, if also unsurely, apply to The Joe Kubert School...and the rest is history (?).  Even so, I wish that I had been some sort of comics Mozart, sprung fully-formed from the earth like a creative force of nature.  Instead, I'm like the vast majority of professional artists who have had at least some art instruction (in my case, not yet enough).  Still, the "self-taught" misconception persists, in part because we like to exaggerate the mysteriousness of artistic talents...and artistic talent is very mysterious.  Schooling may help comic book artists in their preparations for a career, but the source of that original spark is still something fairly unexplainable.