mad in pursuit journal

DISPATCHED FROM THE CROSSROADS, AT THE intersection OF convention & cliche

Expressing the Obvious

So I spend all week practicing my cartooning figure drawing and last night the teachers says movement is not enough — you need EMOTION. You must tell a story in pictures — body language and facial expression — with no words. We have an hour and a half to come up with something.

I start off with one idea — a salesman pitching, people reacting in different ways. I chuckle to myself as I see how the hunch of shoulders can heighten the drama. My scenario morphs into something else — a mother scolding her daughter to go out on a date with a homely guy. Then I give him horns and a tail — something the daughter sees but the mother doesn't care about. Silly, but I laugh, thinking I could be the next cartoonist for The New Yorker.

Teacher comes by. He doesn't get it. He fails to see my genius. If it's what I say, then the mother doesn't look old and ugly enough and the date doesn't look stupid and ugly enough. Lose the tail and horns.

I comply. Safer to be a good student than a misunderstood genius. Mother gets a housecoat. Date gets wilted daisies. The teacher says he would have exaggerated even more.

sketch 10.23.06

So, telling a story with pictures is harder that it sounds. It makes me think.

I know that cartooning has a lot of conventions that must be mastered. But when does convention become cliche? Must nagging mothers always wear flowered housecoats and have curlers in their hair? Must undesirable dates always be fat and bald? When is the drawing too "on the nose"? Do you have to learn to be a hack before you can learn to be clever and subtle and delightful?

Or is there a lesson here for this brainiac? You can have the greatest concepts in the world but unless you can make them obvious to other people, you're nowhere.

Back to the drawing board...


Thumbs Up if you liked this entry