I’ll start with a mammoth digression (hang in there):
My good friend/Landlord/illustration mentor, Mike Charlton, and I once spent an entire lunch break arguing about truth in colour. We sat on his porch looking out over sunny Salisbury with him taking up his post-war rationalist opposition to my post-acid arty position, we pointed out shadows and highlights and bickered about their true colour. The conclusion he drew, in his usual acerbic manner, was that I either had a visionary eye for colour or I was just making it up. Now we weren’t arguing about the existence of fairies or aliens, but the insinuation was the same – his argument was that the colours you see in Van Gogh are not what he sees they are an invention of the imagination. My argument (and yes, Mike, I’m still here making it!) is that art is about learning how to see so you let other people see too.
Hmmm… you can see the weight of Mike’s case about me being full of shit – he’s the one who made me see art as a job rather than some airy fairy mission to understand. The irony is Mike would use colour in a visionary way, but he’d just say he was doing what worked best for the picture not what the world really looked like to him.
I can’t help wondering how much the arrival of photography impacted on how we see and what we believe about ‘how things really look’. It is an aspect of seeing (with one-eye) that tells us so much, but not everything.
What has this got to do with cartooning, you ask, is he about to launch into a tirade against comic artists who trace photos for a living? Well, no, this is just a preamble to me showing you a few panels from Don Quixote Volume One. And the thing that you’ll probably notice is the colours are a bit wangdoodle.
I’ve long found myself with a foot in both camps when it comes to drawing comics – out and out cartooning, with its possibilities for the pictures becoming graphemes, on one side and more ‘realistic’ action comic art, with its attraction of turning the mechanics of light and shade to schematics on the other. But with colour I don’t see that dichotomy. Hopefully the drawing doesn’t show the constant wrestling between cartoony and realisticy as a problem.
Don Quixote has given me the opportunity to put all of my ideas into practice – the book is all about perception and deception after all – I may well fall flat on my face like Quixote does, but I love the idea of being either a visionary or full of shit. Comics let you do that, and there’s an audience for both.