In recent months I have been sketching, drawing, and just generally being more visually creative. Originally I started work on some ideas that would have seen fruition on a selection of canvases. And probably large canvases at that because that’s the way I tend to work. However, as my sketching started to take shape, and influenced by some of my reading, I realised that what I was working on was an abstract comic. The forms and patterns of comic book story-telling, especially the placement of panels on a page and the flow of narrative within those panels, were feeding the structure of my drawings.
I then began to experiment more within the confines of an abstract comic; adapting my original idea and adopting the structures of an abstract comic. In his book Comics And Narration, Thierry Groensteen briefly discusses the notion of Abstract Comics. He gives examples and attempts to break down not only what classifies as an Abstract comic but also how it creates additional problems for very definition of comics. The very nature of abstraction appears to contradict the purpose of a comic strip, especially as identified by writers such as Scott McCloud.
However, the structure of a comic book page, devoid of narrative and lacking even the most recognisable imagery, can still be viewed as a piece of art work while meeting the conditions needed to form a comic. The page layout, with panels, gutters, page bleeds, and all of the other artistic choices that are made, are still required, irrelevant of the content. And this was my starting point. At first I took pages of published comics and reduced the images to a handful of shapes thereby removing the narrative context and creating a page of insignificant lines. They were still bound by the confines of a comic page, each image settled within its panel, trapped behind the boarders and gutters but there was no longer a narrative. (see fig 1 below. A collection of my initial sketches).
Except in some it could be argued that there was still a narrative. The way that the images flowed from panel to panel across the page told a story, a story about shapes instead of people, a tale of forms instead of actions. From this I began to play with the idea of creating a comic with a narrative consisting on image flow and panel layout. Devoid of characters and story-lines, the comic would exist as a reflection of the movement of time only. Any additional narrative would be placed upon it by the reader and their personal experiences, similar to an abstract expressionist painting like those by Mark Rothko.
In his work, Rothko used colours to evoke an emotional reaction which is intensified by the length of time the viewer stays in front of the painting. In my comic I intend to use the flow of forms to stimulate a similar personal experience. The reader in essence will create the narrative out of the structure.
Over the next few months I intend to post some of the original sketches and initial ideas I committed to paper. Along with this I will add some of my thought processes and even look at work that has influenced the work I am producing. Then I will post the pages from the first comic that I am currently producing; the outcome of the studies and experiments.
Welcome to my Conceptual Comic and please feel free to leave any questions or comments.
(Fig 1) Initial Sketches, pencil on paper.
Initial Sketches - Background
My first few drawings were of random images on a page, separated by boarders and gutters but with no real rhyme or reason. Then I had the idea of removing narrative from existing comics, reducing the images to random shapes and meaningless forms. The first hand full of those were taken from a selection of comics that were laying around at the time. No thought was given to the comics I picked because the idea was to remove the narrative, rendering the actual content meaningless: if it worked the way I wanted it to, the original comic, with it's specific characters and narrative, wouldn't be reflected in the drawings.
Some of the sketches were more successful than others. The forms that I could create from the images on the pages varied in shape and style with some of the becoming more appealing than others. Two 'styles' jumped out at me and they became the ones I worked on the most, although I did carry some of the other images over to an inking stage to see how they would look.
The two forms I concentrated on I will look at in more detail later, as I take the images forward from the sketching stage.
The images in Fig 1 above had elements that I liked, but also elements that I didn't think helped to progress my personal brief. These were abandoned at this point. The bottom two images, one a page from X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga of Wolverine in a sewer and the other from The Saga of the Swamp Thing featuring the titular character in the rain, didn't spark any excitement in me. I could not see the possible expansions of the images or the forms they featured. The concept of rain from the Swamp Thing image had some potential but after finding my other two elements, as mentioned above, it's appeal fell away.
The top two images, two scenes from The Amazing Spider-Man comic, one fighting Doctor Octopus and one featuring Venom, were worth exploring further. The additional work I did with these images will feature in my next post.