Tinged with nostalgia. That’s what the glasses I’m looking through are. I say that because I decided to pull out some old artwork to write about and I picked some painted comic book pages that I made sometime in the mid 1990s. I really wish I had dated stuff back then but I didn’t. These pages are from when I was first learning to paint with gouache and I decided to paint a short ten page comic story. I figured that was the best way to do a lot of painting at different sizes and get a good learning experience. Looking back at the pages they are solidly mediocre but I can see the beginnings of how I later painted with gouache in a much better way.

I pulled out just two of the pages to look at because that’s all I need at the moment to give them a good examination. Each page is thirteen by nineteen inches and the first has five panels on it and the second six. That’s eleven small paintings. That’s a lot of painting.

The first page has the general style of the whole piece. There is an illustrative realism to it. I think I photo referenced a lot of the figures in the story so they came out a lot more life-like than if I tried to make them up out of my head. I think the first panel is pretty good. A close-up on a face and hand. I worked best with this technique at a larger scale. Every artist has a scale and mine tends to be large rather than small. The hand is a little thick and clunky and the hair lacks technique but I like the mouth and teeth. Still, I was never that good at realism. It doesn’t suit me. I like the geometry of the objects in the background better than the face in the foreground. I could have really made something out of that poster behind him.

Page one panel two is adequate at best. I like some of the shadows on the floor but the foreshortening on the arm and hand do not thrill me. I almost pulled off the rest of the figure but didn’t get any good shadows to root him to the spot. It’s not like he and the bed are floating but they almost are.

Panel three might be the second best panel on the page. The guy is painted okay and this time I almost pulled off a good hair technique. Illustrative painting is all about technique and I didn’t know enough of them. Of course that’s why I was doing this story. To learn. I like the hand this time and the watercolor marks behind the figure. The coat he has his hand on is only meh. Over all it’s the middle of the road.

Panel five is a complete failure. I did not get enough form in the coat he’s putting on. This one makes me wince.

Panel six is not terribly interesting. I can tell I put a bit of work into it but in the end it’s just a door on a screened in porch. The screen technique is almost there but not quite. I barely even noticed the car driving away in the background.

I was actually surprised when I flipped the page and saw the second page of these two. I can’t tell you the last time I looked at these pages but I bet it was twenty years ago. I don’t remember much of the story and it hasn’t sat well in my memory. I mostly remember it as a learning experience and not something to be proud of and show off. So it surprised me when I saw this bright green, red, and blue page.

The first two panels are more typical of the story. The close-up on the face is well done this time. I like the way it’s cropped and I think the sun glasses add some visual interest to it. Panel two is a solid little landscape. It isn’t spectacular but it’ll do.

It was panels three through six that surprised me and made me feel nostalgic. It looks like a flashback dream sequence (I’m not even sure since I can’t bring myself to read all the pages right now) so I moved it into the realm of the weird. As it turned out later in my artistic life the realm of the weird is where I excel.

In panel three the black shovel is particularly powerful. There are black borders throughout the pages but otherwise I wasn’t using much black at all. It was all color paint. So the sudden intrusion of a black silhouette is startling. The black shovel continues into the next two panels but mostly as a storytelling thing rather than a big presence like in panel three. Its presence gets bigger again in panel six as it gets bigger and cracks the dream head. I’m not sure about those shovel motion lines though.

It’s the color and line work that I like in panels three through six. The line work is mostly lines following the planes of the muscle forms but they vibrate well with the blue, red, and green all making my eyes go kablooey. It works. The story got interesting for me here.

It was these panels that triggered the feelings of nostalgia for me. The rest of the story was okay and an learned a lot doing it but in the end it was the weird panels that were my way forward. That’s not to say I didn’t try my hand at other realistic type techniques. I did continue with that after this but they all ended up nowhere. I’m just not a realistic artist.

Oddly enough despite realism not having a big place in the fine art world it’s generally the most encouraged form of art around. I think its that people respond best to it. If you can paint a chair that really looks like a chair people say, “Cool, that really looks like a chair.” But if you paint an odd creature from the edge of imagination they often have no idea how to react. So the real gets encouraged by default and artists try to paint that way even if it doesn’t suit them. And it didn’t suit me despite my trying.

What suited me was this dream sequence. I had drawn many dream like things before but I think this one showing up in an otherwise realistic endeavor made me realize I should abandon the real and enter the dream. It suits me. Now I’m nostalgic for that epiphany.


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