OUR TV ADVENTURE, so far-part 5
what is the most important and undervalued skill a strip-cartoonist can have? Is it the facility to neatly ink brush lines with a steady hand? Is it a keen grasp of the complexities of perspective? Is it the ability to negotiate a bigger page rate? Nay! I say resoundingly. It is the art of pulling faces in the mirror. And Every comic book artist worth his salt who is reading this is grinning and nodding his head.
Of course you won't find many who will admit to it and you would have to be very stealthy to catch one of us in the act. But there you have it. It's the truth. You just read it on the internet. Artists need to be constantly reminding themselves of the muscle and bone structure of the face, and looking for the expression best suited to the situation at hand. And since we are working on a very small scale, these expressions need to be grand physiognomical exaggerations in order to communicate clearly with the minimum of means.
When Pete Mullins worked with me, he always had a full size mirror next to his drawing table, and if it wasn't there waiting for him, he would draw attention to our oversight. And every time my eye roved around the room in contemplation and alighted upon his lively countenance in the act of such a performance, he would have me doubled up with cackling mirth. And how else would he have achieved such an array of interesting cartoon faces?
To relate this to the matter at hand, and for those who wondered about the face I was pulling in yesterday's post, it could have been much more outlandish than it ended up. I'm not saying this is the same thing as acting, but for the purpose of the one-sheet still-photo promo I showed here, I figured the thing to do was to arrive at the studio with a portfolio of sample muggings. Thus I caught a few facial distortions on the digital camera, looks that would express the proposed set-up of me being harassed by the Snooter, printed them out on typing paper and when I arrived I presented them as a swatch. Below is an edited version. When the producers saw it I'm sure they thought that I thought we were doing silent movies in the style of Lon Chaney. In modern film, where the image is going to be enlarged big and precisely focused on a screen, and the soundtrack is conveying a share of the meaning, everything needs to be understated. I'm learning this as I go along. The facial expression for contemplation is the same as the one for constipation, and that would never do in a comic book. My fellow artists, you may file these away for the next time you need reference for a sequence of a man being pursued by running zombies.
(drawings above: top is mine from the 1001 nights of Bacchus, lower set is a montage of faces by Pete Mullins, from assorted Bacchus books)
Labels: our tv adventure