Mom was right: no man can serve two (or more) masters

I went downtown recently and visited The Beguiling, Toronto’s legendary comic shop. Inside it was the same as I remembered: cluttered and filled with shelves groaning with more comics than most countries have–absolutely wonderful, in other words. I could feel my brain relaxing amidst the drawings. This was where I needed to be.

But why wasn’t I there before? Why hadn’t I finished a comic before? I’ve always drawn, as long as I can remember. I took notes in comics in high-school chemistry, and I somehow need to make a picture in my head before I truly understand things. (Fortunately, this often seems to happen automatically in response to verbal description…)

When I was graduating from high school, Mom suggested that I go to the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD U) . I was split between going there to study art, and going to Waterloo University to study architecture.

Ultimately I went to Waterloo, in part because I could imagine how architects could make money, but I had no idea how artists could make money. I mean, I knew both sold drawings, but there was a social aspect to being a working artist that I knew I didn’t comprehend–galleries and promotion and all that. Whereas with architecture, I thought that the problems, and the path to success by solving them, was much clearer. People needed a building to solve a problem, it needs to be so big and go here, we have this much money, what can you do? And I was interested in both ecological design and drawing, so it seemed a toss-up from that viewpoint.

However, I didn’t last in architecture school. Ultimately, I left, switched to electronics, and graduated from that. And then spent 25 years working in the computer industry. I started out building computers, but ended up writing about them, as a technical writer. But all the time, art and architecture remained alongside me. I drew pictures and helped out on solar-powered houses. All through this time, drawing and solar-powered architecture appeared equally (and equally far-fetched) as possibilities.

Then I got laid off from electronics. I got involved with ecological design, but this didn’t last.

The way was now open. While I looked for other work, there was nothing to stop me from devoting myself to drawing and comics. For the first time in years, I don’t have things in my mind competing on a large scale for attention. I can devote myself to learning to draw better. And this has started to pay off; I recently finished a comic, the first one I’ve actually completed.

Another thread of the change involves people. In high school and before, and even afterwards, I drew machines and landscapes, but very few people. As part of an earlier attenpt at career change, I went to Sheridan College to study classical animation, and was told that animation is basically acting on paper. I didn’t last there either.

However, during these years and afterwards, I was gradually learning to be more sociable. And now as a result of that, I’m gradually starting to really understand what it means to ‘act on paper’. It’s not just knowing the structure of the body; it’s being able to use gesture and form to suggest the emotion of the people in the drawings. Will Eisner and many others allude to this in drawing books. And in figure drawing class, we always had to loosen up using gesture drawing to get the ‘feel’ of things.

I think that I’m finally starting to understand the necessity for tbis, and now I stand at the beginning of another road, that of the artistic study of human interaction.

So now I have no distractions. All the ebook stuff I am learning–and the job search itself–is just part of the vehicle for my art. And I can dig out all the old ideas in my sketchbooks and start making them into reality…

07. April 2012 by Scott Dawson
Categories: Cartooning, Drawing | Leave a comment

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