Ollie & Quentin Book

Ollie & Quentin Book
125 pages in full colour!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Less is more

In a discussion on The Daily Cartoonist Website there's talk about simply drawn comics, namely Stephan Pastis' Pearls Before Swine comic. I quote "... the infantile scrawl of his drawings in the strip. Stick figures, slightly modified." The writer goes on to say "...when he draws his characters in a way that they resemble hors d’oeuvres on toothpicks, we know he’s doing minimal work, artistically speaking. In effect, he’s ridiculing his hard-working fellow cartoonists, many of whom spend almost every waking hour making the elaborate drawings in their strips. I can almost hear him scoffing: “You fools! You spend your lives pushing ink around on paper, but I have achieved fame and fortune with the barest resemblance of drawing in my strip. Don’t you wish you’d thought of this?” Scorn drips from every syllable."

This same writer once wrote about my comic. He was quite complimentary but on the subject of my artwork he wrote:
"...Piers Baker draws his Pastis-ische strip, Ollie and Quentin, with a line that is as unvarying and monotonous as Scott Adams’ in Dilbert..." he continues "The simplicity of the drawing bores me. Shouldn’t a visual artform present pictures that are interesting? A worm as a character is probably the apogee of uninteresting art. And a seagull with a beak that never opens isn’t much better. Only Stephen Pastis tops this performance by giving Rat and Pig stick-figure arms and legs in Pearls before Swine."

Ok ok, that's enough copying and pasting. What I want to say in reply is that it is a mistake to think an unvarying line or a simple character is an easy or lazy option. I, for one "spend almost every waking hour" drawing the simple pictures in my strip. I spend as much time on my feature as any comic strip cartoonist out there. And it's not because I'm slow. I take great care to get everything just right. Every aspect of every frame is thought through carefully. I draw most items individually so they can be dropped in in exactly the right place. It takes a lot of hard work to reproduce characters of a similar look frame after frame with only the simplest of lines. In fact, in my experience, I'd say that the scratchier, more complex and 'interesting' the line the easier it is to achieve the same look to your characters. I am certainly not taking the easy option by choosing one simple line. It's damn hard.

The unvarying lines in Dilbert and Pearls Before Swine are genius. Making it look easy is what clever people do. They make you think "I can do that", but guess what... you can't.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Piers.

It's the simply drawn, clever comic, that is the most interesting. It's easier to pick up the visual clues within the comic. The non-verbal communication.

It's just easier to digest.

There are other good comics out there in my daily paper, but if I have to spend too much time deciphering the visual, it's too much time spent.

Is it any surprise that Dilbert, Arlo and Janis, and Ollie & Quentin are among my faves?