The cartoons started partly as a result of genetic influence. Iím the son of† a professional artist. At about 27, the instructions started coming: ďThou shalt paintĒ, and things have deteriorated ever since. I used to be a rather respectable border collie, you see, so to be demoted to a mere artist has been a bit of a shock. Iíve been out for revenge ever since.
Anyway, in 2004 I was writing Gardening Is a State Of Mind, and thought I might try some illustrations. In keeping with the laws of Art, nothing I came up with had a lot to do with gardening, and considerably less to do with the book, so naturally I kept right on drawing.
Formal training and qualifications: None. No institute of learning is so silly that it would allow me anywhere near anything thatís auditable.
Art media used: Drawn with a mouse using Microsoft Paint, with occasional scans of paintings.
Artist mission: To be as irritating as possible. I want antihistamines named after me, at least.
Political affiliations: None if I can help it. No bargepole could be long enough.
Influences: Hogarth and anybody since with something to say. I like Robert Crumb, Gary Larson, Wallace Wood, Bill Elder, Norman Lindsay, Gilbert Shelton, Chas Addams, James Thurber, Charles Schulz, also including Tom K Ryan for dialog.† Underground comics, generally, are another big influence. Thereís a vast range of good underground artists who seem to come and go and be utterly ignored. Have a look at some of the 60s stuff in particular, and youíll see why thatís so unfair. Thereís a debt to be paid.
Opinion of own work: Probably forgivable. OK as a basic communication medium for the ideas. Technically I want to improve to the point of giving the Louvre and the Turner something to think about. That may take a while, but itíll be worth it. Eventually I want to get to roughly Heavy Metal standard with this stuff, mainly because it allows more substance. Iím a satirist by birth, and visual media needs to have depth to work as satire, like in the old Mad Magazine. God knows how the pre and postwar pen and ink guys managed to do so much in relatively limiting frames.
Position on the current bitching sessions about cartoons and animation:
Cartoons: I think the medium should be allowed to grow outside the egg. Cartoons have long since moved on and become real media in their own right. The ďcomic bookĒ is now a lot more like a book, or a movie, and yet nobody seems to have yet acknowledged that the last three or four generations grew up on them, and with them. It sounds far too pompous to call it a true cultural medium, but accidentally or not, it has become one. The four-frame thing is getting old, despite Dilbert and Cathy. Doonesbury has been multi for decades, and has anyone noticed? Thereís a worrying compulsive tendency of good artists to provide a ďlookĒ, like in New Yorker where you get the wash effect whether you need it or not. Point being, the really great New Yorker stuff, the classic period, didnít do that, except on the covers, and even they were more variable.
The mainstream B&W guys seem to be formatted to death, and the jokes out of touch. It looks like the 1950s will go on forever, whether anyone likes it or not. Itís not really the artistsí fault, itís ďthe marketĒ, that useless flabby pile of omniscience we all know and loathe. Who do these people think theyíre pitching to? Six year olds have better and sharper senses of humor. The old 40s Disney stuff was more au fait than this antique shop, and at least it was funny. The worst thing about this neutering of talent is that if you want to be an anonymous artist, do format, and nobody will ever know you existed, or how you saw what you were drawing, however good you are. All anyone will see is a standardized image, created mainly for technical reasons, using exactly the same methods as everyone else. Itís not even good marketing; a product with no identity is actually a criminal offence in advertising. Itís a terrible abuse of talent, and a waste of valuable space on something nobody could notice, because itís so nondescript.
Just what the world needs, another media monoculture.
Animation: Everybodyís now a bloody animator, and the saturation level hasnít helped quality, which is already suffering enough from some rather dire sitcom-like content, as well as being very much too much into the highly-medicated script idiom. I would have thought prescription-based humor might have peaked by now. As animation, itís not a lot better than late 90s PC game standard, which was an achievement then, but itís plastic flowers these days. Letís face it, the new media and better resolution will obliterate this period. This is still the gasping remains of the transition stage to full digital. The actual animation varies from seamless a la Dreamworks to atrocious, barely equating to page flipping, but not as good.† All of it will wind up in a museum in five-ten years max. Sorry about that, Korea.
Come on, people, you can see whatís wrong with it, try something new. As it is, everybodyís already seen whatever youíre doing, if theyíve seen Shrek. Again, loss of identity by common usage, killing ideas before theyíre even in production. Remember, thatís what makes Manga so avoidable. Even the good stuff is predictable. Thatís why something relatively simple, like The Simpsons, has more impact than a very highly produced† thing like Neon Genesis Evangelion; you donít have to wade through masses of stuff you donít care about to watch it. More is definitely not better, and even the stuff that is better gets hamstrung by mediocre format and mind numbingly slow plots, if you get enough time to see it during the compulsive overproduction. NGE, incidentally, is a model of restraint compared to some of the other high maintenance things.
Digital Art, general bitches: IĎve actually got a use for some good animation and game software, based on the Amoeba game in Wanderlaugh, and I still havenít seen anything that looks like youíd want to play it for possibly years, like they do in the book. (It is a real game, by the way. The intent is that both it and the 1000 square chess game will be created when the software is up to it.) Thereís some sort of ongoing insult in bad animation. In desperation, I actually invented a new pixel. Itíd need some new software to run it, but it could work a lot better than these idiotic grids. Grids are just reference points. They donít have to be part of the image, just part of the software.
Try this for an exercise in futility; you can have a 2400 magnification on any digital image; but the line you draw is at 1 mag, quite useless for fine work at higher magnifications. If you can fill at those magnifications you ought to be able to draw. Line quality is pretty shaky too. Surely you can have the digital equivalent of a 6H pencil, etc., at least, on your palette, not stuffing about with a series of controls to get line quality. This matters a lot when youíre drafting. Anybody whoís every really wanted to draw or paint anything will tell you that the fine lines are the real work. Thereís a Chinese guy who draws portraits using a brush with one hair on it; wrecked his eyesight, of course, but wow can the guy hit a line.
I want to do a lot of experimentation, because as far as I can see this is still the maternity ward of real digital art. Looks like what I want hasnít been invented yet. You can expect to see anything Iím physically able to get onto a screen.
The really irritating thing is that photo quality reproductions are so much better than pure direct digital drawing. Most digital artists have to use Photoshop type software, and the results are pretty respectable. But- they can also have a tendency to look similar. Good as some of the software is, you can see the Japanese style of coloring, the American software imprints, all the current plateaus of the medium. ďEffectsĒ become conventional, because the code that creates them is identical. The results are restrictive.
Even something so straightforward as a GIF or a TIFF image can have excellent quality. Some of the more complex of The Little Nurse pictures were put through other media and came out very well. One of the reasons for the various versions of The Little Nurse is to illustrate the point. Why canít the direct drawing hit the same quality? Spending hours messing about with complex images isnít art, itís a form of bureaucracy. It interferes with flow, so it affects the actual work, while youíre doing it. Itís like buying a neurosis.†