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Evolution in Art, Part 2

So… the most obvious person to pick apart when looking at changes in art is Jeph Jacques over at Questionable Content. He has even said, in one of his sidebar messages, that when he starts feeling too comfortable for the style, it’s time to change it up. And I’ve had friends who promise themselves that they’re going to take a pause in reading the archives when the style changes, and they’re not so lucky in finding exactly where the style changes.

I won’t attempt that feat, but I thought we’d look at the evolution of Jeph’s art. Starting from Tuesday’s strip, which Jeph was particularly proud of, we’ll go back six hundred strips and then forward one hundred each to be back at Tuesday’s strip. Hee, we’re time traveling!

Warning, fond mockery below!

Strip #82 — Jeph’s style starts with overly large eyes. In fact, Faye’s eyes are her glasses. The clothing is smooth, and the hair is helmet-like and monochromatic, giving the impression of Lego people. Lego people with wittier quips and better clothes, but the impression of Lego people.

Strip #182 — Here, Martin looks supremely uncomfortable on that stool, like he can’t bend at the waist. He must be a sloucher, but slouching on a bar stool and on a couch are two different things. The hair is more three dimensional, and the clothing has folds, Faye’s eyes are behind her glasses, but the main characters don’t have human coloring — they’re zoooombies! Maybe indie kids are all supposed to be paper white? I’ll ask my indie friends.

Strip #282 — The apartment has depth, and that’s cool, but the shadows on the walls give the appearance of an unknown light source that’s perhaps a bit too bright and too high to be useful. Steve is slouching correctly for someone sitting on a couch, and the t-shirts hang on the characters as if they’re being worn.

Strip #382 — Same problem with the walls, but the shadows on the clothing make a pretty cool effect for wrinkles. Faye’s eyes are becoming seperate from her glasses! The pupils of the characters are kinda tiny and squinty…
Strip #482 — Pupils are more proportional, and Faye’s glasses look great. Good, natural movement from the characters, Jeph has a good awareness of the character’s movements (which I would imagine would be hard to hammer down in a comic…). Check out the mirror! That’s pretty darn awesome.
Strip #582 — Jeph has pretty much perfected the shadow-wrinkle technique. It looks pretty cool. MAN is Dora skinny. And Raven’s hair has pretty awesome texture. Dora’s crossed arms are very well done — you can even notice where she’s pulling her sweater over her bra. Cool.

Strip #682 — Check out the light effect from the light in the alley. It effects the background more than it effects the characters, but the fact that it’s there is a very thoughtful addition. I wouldn’t want to meet Faye in a dark alley when I had been a cowardly boy. The coloring of the hair and the clothing is superb.

So, in conclusion? Art and artists evolve. Does that mean that anyone is finished developing their craft? Why do you think I have to write Fleen every day? Thought experiment concluded.

Faye has a pretty great grimace in number 682. You should comment on that.

The artist I think of first for style changes is John Allison.

(The radical improvement award goes to Jon Rosenberg.)

The radical improvement award goes to Jon Rosenberg.

Thanks! I knew it was only a matter of time before the awards started rolling in. I’d like to thank all the little people, and some of the big ones.

It’s hard to change art styles, I find… if you’re doing it on purpose. But I don’t think most artists do… it’s sort of an unconscious thing most of the time, I find.

Except for things like angles and shadowing, which totally have to be practiced forcefully.

Hey! I did the exact same stroll through his archives a few weeks ago when I discovered how different his original and current styles were. I love the comic. I find it curious that Jeph would imply that he’s ever changed up his style… or perhaps he meant when he tires of QC in general he will do something else?

As an artist who switches mediums semi-regulary, I can always look back on an early piece and compare it to a current one, regardless of medium, and say, “Man! I sucked back then!”

Jeph has learned, evolved, progressed… he’s gotten better. He has never changed his style in an abrupt way, which makes it all the more fun to take those big hops through his archive. It’s interesting to look at artists who learn/progress in the public eye versus artists that have cemented a style before they put their stuff out there.

Hurry! While you still can! Run over to my comic and say, “Man! That guy sucks!”

Oh absolutely. I practiced for quite a while before I dared put up my first comic… and even then, it was super crappy. Six months later, I think it’s still crappy, but not super crappy. Do it every day and you can’t help but get better. In some ways, it’s one of the most rewarding things about doing this. Looking back, seeing your improvement.

But that’s even true of the so-called “pros”. Head over to Garfield and check out the original artwork, for example.

Now if he could only improve his writing.

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