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14.6.03

Ampersand has a post that includes a time-series of how one of his latest cartoons was drawn. It's interesting to see how a drawing comes together. He clearly spends a lot more time in getting things sketched out than I ever do. In part, that's due to time constraints. I generally aim at a half-hour turnaround time, from the point when I conceptualize the cartoon to the point when I'm ready to scan it. It's an effect of drawing for the school paper, though with the Scarlet -- where the spots for my cartoons are pretty standard, and I never have to illustrate an article that I haven't read until production night -- I could probably work farther in advance and thus take more time. I complain from time to time about the short-notice cartooning, but after several years I've gotten used to it. I'm not sure what I'd do with more time. In part that may be due to working in a fairly minimalist style most of the time. I draw at only a little larger than the size that the finished cartoon will be published, which (along with my artistic disposition) prevents me from putting in too much detail. I've even cut down on the shading that I used to do, since it tended to look awkward when done with a wider pen such as I was using.

My main hang-up right now is faces -- specifically, faces that are supposed to actually resemble someone. I'm fine with, say, George W. Bush, because he's developed a standard caricature. He's been drawn so many times that it's easy enough to evoke him, even with a drawing that bears fairly little resemblance to the real man. It's the less-well-known (and less-often-drawn) people that I have trouble with. This carries over into non-cartoon drawing as well. I can draw a person's face so that it looks like a real person's face -- but not the exact person I'm trying to represent. There's some knack for recognizing those features that make a person's face distinctive (and, I think, distinctive to the artist and audience -- the same person would be appropriately caricatured differently by, say, an American versus a Japanese versus a Kenyan cartoonist, because experience of a different set of faces makes different features more distinctive), and to capturing and exaggerating them.

The other thing that's interesting is the fact that, for at least the one character illustrated in his post, Ampersand now has a history of that drawing preserved (I'm guessing he scanned the same drawing at intervals, so it's not like he has retrospectives of all of his cartoons on file somewhere). In any creative work I do, I tend to eliminate earlier versions of a work, out of a desire for clarity and avoiding embarassment. (I'd probably drive scholars and historians nuts if I ever became a famous and influential thinker and didn't leave them "papers" by which they could reconstruct my intellectual development.) This tendency is carried to an extreme in my cartoons, where I rarely even keep the "original" of the drawing. At times this makes sense, if I do a lot of cleaning up on the computer, but even for drawings that are essentially finished on paper, all I usually have is the published version in the newspaper and the ultra-low-fi electronic version on my website. But at that point, my archival instinct kicks in. Once a work reaches "finished" status, I hang on to it forever, and get upset if my archive is not complete.

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