Am I Elitist? Heck, No!
Submitted by Sean C on April 21, 2006 - 16:00
I was called an elitist. Ouch. I found the comment among Livejournal entries, and even found that there was a discussion about my last blog, "Developing Your Own Style". It was not pretty. The group supported derivative manga art, and seemed to miss my general point completely. I was not knocking manga art at all. I was simply stating my observation that a great deal of web-based manga is derivative. (It seemed they simply interpreted my blog as a general attack on manga, which it was not. I stated there was a great deal of originality in this particular artistic spectrum; manga just happens to have the largest amount of knock-off artists at the current time.) This apparently didn't sit well. It was not my intention to attack the artist. My intention was to encourage artists to be individuals - to be creative and unique - a statement which I still stand by.
I grew up believing that an artist should be unique. I taught myself how to draw, starting from when I was six. I did use the art of others as a teaching tool; when I discovered that particluar technique did not help, I moved on and studied anatomy, real-life, etc, and developed my own style of drawing. In fact, I can work in many different styles depending on the project I'm working on; it's a result of that experimentation. It was the fact that I worked things out for myself, rather than just lifting the style of another artist that helped develop my talent, and made art so much more fulfilling. Is putting the extra effort to develop one's skills, rather than ripping off another artist, elitist? No. Does working hard in order create my own identity make me "McCloudian". No. It's just artistic expression created by nearly 16 years of practice. I never followed the advice of "elitists"; I did my own thing and am proud that I did it my way.
There's a lot of people who want to make webcomics, and I say more power to them for going for it. What I have noticed is that so many people just copy the work of another in order to tell that story, and that is what bothers me. It just seems like a shortcut to rip off someone else. It waters-down their idea; I don't mean writing a derivative story, or even fanfic; that's another topic in itself. There is potential in every budding artist to achieve great things, if only they put the effort into developing those young, untapped talents. Lifting the style of another artist denys them that period of self-discovery, and limits them as an artist. Remember that art can look good, but if you copy another artist, the original is 99.999% likely to be better than the knock-off. The claim that copying other artists so closely teaches one to draw is false. It doesn't give you a better understanding of anatomy, or even simple cartoon figure building. I can understand that people want their art to look good, and to appear perfect, but shouldn't originality count for something, too?
I know I should just ignore what was said, but I can't. Maybe they didn't read my whole blog. Maybe they just can't see another point of view. I've been on both sides of the fence, folks. I tried to copy other artists when I was young, and it doesn't work - it doesn't teach, and you don't grow as an artist by doing it. I wanted to save people the long headache copying can cause, and encourage a more useful route for the budding artist to take. My statements are my own. I don't spout back what Scott McCloud said, or what any other person has said. Take my advice or leave it; that's all there is to that. But don't call me an elitist for trying to pass on what I've learned the hard way; what I've learned personally, and for trying to just help out developing artists. I will finish by saying this much: by developing your own art style, you better realize the vision you had for the story you intend to tell, and that makes it more personal - something the reader can sympathize with and better enjoy. And for a cartoonist, isn't telling the best story you can what it's really all about?
On a much lighter note, I just made the commitment to display at Connecticon this year, so if anyone from around the area's planning to attend, look me up when you're there.