Saturday, September 30, 2006

Take It From Katie - an essay about style versus skill

Katie sent me this comment and it's brilliant. She said what I was trying to say only she said it much more succinctly. Her experience can be yours if you follow this logical advice!

I almost think that anyone who can tell you what their style is, or openly talks about "developing their style" is in danger of never finding a real style whatsoever. I tend to think that your "style" is similar to your personality- something that grows as you get older and learn more, but that you're born and stuck with none the less. A real artist's style is like a thumbprint...unique and impossible to really recreate. You can copy an eye shape that John invented or a particular Chuck Jones mouth curl or whatever, but you can never master their "style" because you can't absorb what really matters- an artist's personal point of view, their emotions, or their personality. I guess this sounds sort of cheesy, but it's difficult to explain!What John said about learning skill before style is extremely important. People today are far too interested in "expressing themselves" and trying to prove how unique their points of view are to take the time to learn. No one wants to waste time learning how to do something right. In most other professions this is ridiculous. Would you get up onto a stage to sing some song you wrote in front of the whole world if you couldn't play your instrument? If your ideas are so important to you that you want to show them to the world, do yourself a favor and take the time to learn the skill. I can say from personal experience that studying and practicing and eventually getting better is EXTREMELY rewarding. Before working on APC my drawings were REALLY crappy. I had no skills whatsoever, although I talked a lot about construction and perspective and all that. I didn't actually learn anything until I was forced to while doing layouts for John. After the season ended I woke up one morning and realized that something new had clicked- where a year before I could only draw someone standing perfectly straight with no expression or life, suddenly I was having fun drawing poses that I had previously thought to be too hard. It seemed like almost over night drawing went from being arduous and kind of entertaining to being thrilling and super fun. It's been two years or more since then and I'm only now coming off of that high. I'm in no way saying that I made the leap from amateur to professional- I've only made one tiny step towards being good enough to tell the kinds of jokes and stories I like through art.The thoughts in this post aren't very organized…sorry! There's one more thing I want to say though- I've observed something about the modern world, and that is that it encourages creativity and uniqueness in people than ever before. This is very bad. I learned in school that it was more important to be "unique and creative" than it was to be smart or knowledgeable. Dumb people on MTV or in artsy fartsy magazines who aren't smart or creative tell you what smart and creative stuff to like. I wasn't around until a somewhat short while ago, but I believe in the past people who were meant to be artists simply became them because there wasn't anything else to be. Today there are millions of "creatives" fighting to be the most popular with our dumb modern culture. Ask yourself if you have no choice but to draw funny pictures for a living (for some reason it seems so glamorous to people). If you are reading art/theory blogs like John's and you love the art but aren't helping yourself out by following the advice, then perhaps you ought to look for work in another area. If that makes you mad and you don't want to be thought of as a faker, then take what John says to heart and better yourself. You'll be happier, and the people looking at your work will be happier too!

go check out her drawings: