The webcomics blog about webcomics

Is Art Passé?

So an invitation to check out a strip came through recently, leading me to check out Thingpart by Joe Sayers. There’s some fairly smart references hiding behind those stick figures, which leads to the question: is writing enough? Can the art be as, um, child-like and innocent as humanly possible, and still be offset by the words?

If you think “no”, then don’t bother with those links; you won’t like ’em. But then you probably don’t like The Perry Bible Fellowship or Boy on a Stick and Slither, either. They’re pretty much the Platonic Ideals of simple art used with great effectiveness. If you think “yes”, how do we explain the fact that Nicholas Gurewitch and Steven Cloud can be seen to use simplistic art merely for its effect (affect, even), and often mix in beautiful, complex artwork and or backgrounds that hint at subtle depths? To get by with simple art (or nearly without art entirely), do you have to obsess over language to a Northian degree? Shall we to this marriage of Art and Language admit impediments?

So … discuss. And after we’ve solved this dilemma to everybody’s satisfaction, we can get to work on the whole Bird Flu thing.

While not entirely clear on what exact question you are asking, but I don’t think the answer is no to either side.

Writing can obviously be the driving force behind a comic, but it does generally help when the art, if not necessarily of exceptional quality, is at least simple enough to not actively detract from the experience.

But similarly, simplified art does not itself require language, persay. A mastery of communication might be needed to translate that art into more than just an image, but words themselves are hardly requisite.

i have always had trouble enjoying comics with simple art. there’s something about the idea of a comic,a traditionally graphic artform, relying solely upon the verbal to convey its message. there is a reason that comics involving a lot of text tend to drag (the twix series’ in goats for example)

that said, simplicity can be part of the narrative device. white ninja, indie tits, etc.

as always, there are exceptions to every rule…but ah, isn’t that the beauty of art?

The only “rule” of art and writing in comics is that the two have to compliment each other. Some narratives are more effective when paired with simple, or even childlike, artwork. Others are completely derailed by it.

Imagine if White Ninja and A Lesson is Learned switched artstyles. Not the writing, not the pacing… just the visuals. Would either comic be the better for it? I don’t think so. They’ve both already found the art styles that best compliment and emphasize and enhance what they are writing.

Of course, for most of us, our personal skill level is the biggest factor in determining how our comics look. But as long as your art works well with your narrative, [i]no one has to know[/i] that it’s the only way you could have done it. I have no idea if Chris Ware can draw realistic humans, but that didn’t really bother me when I was reading Jimmy Corrigan.

Damn you, phpbb, for ruining my html tagging instincts!

Yeah, Perry Bible is drawn simply… but have you seen that guy’s “real” drawing? That guy can *draw*.

Well, having had a chance to read through the Thingpart archives, I have to say that this is just a great comic. The childish art style compliments the often morbid humour of the comic – what can I say, it just works! Definately one for the White Ninja and Perry Bible Fellowship fans.

The comment by Lucas reminds me of Art History class, discussing the cubists. Picasso, while often drawing strange one-side-faced people, could paint truly veristic paintings. But he chose not to.

I think I agree with Sam. The key is making sure the artwork matches the text that is used. After all, one could argue that a lot of the comics that are ‘big’ are also very simplistic (Garfield, Dilbert, I dunno what else is big now, I don’t check out newspaper comics unless they’re online too). However, they have managed to use their pictures in a way that complements the text. Whether or not they copuld be better artists than that is really not important.

That said, I am always going to be drawn to well drawn detailed comics because it’s nice to see pretty things. I tend to assume a ‘sketchy’ looking comic is a particularly hobby/amatuer task for the creator.

Good points by several people about art matching the intent of the strip.

However, I believe that newspaper strips (like Garfield or Dilbert) are probably not using simplistic art for aesthetic reasons, but rather commercial ones. Because newspaper strips are so damn small, detailed art does not reproduce well.

Now having read into the archives of the comic in question I have to say, is this PBF lite? As in, similar art styles, similar types of punchlines, but no colour?

[…] Uncategorized Gary wrote an interesting post meant to start a discussion about the importance of art in webcomics. The discussion was interesting; the general consensus was that the art should match the style of the strip. […]

I’d personally comment that it isn’t the simple art that turns me off but rather the style of writing that tends to accompany the simple art. They almost always are gag-based and gag-based comics are far more hit-or-miss for me than any other category. Simple art lacks much of the gravitas for serious stories.

When I look at the comics I read, the majority of them don’t have simple art. The ones that do wouldn’t be comics like Boy on a Stick and Slither. PBF and Dinosaur have occasional strips that I like, though not enough for me to read them regularly. I’m more likely to jump to specific strips whenever I see a link to one and then go away.

On the other hand, I read PIXEL.

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