Literalist

Apparently, this is as abstract as I get.

It was recently pointed out to me that my work is exceptionally literal. I took this as a mild insult though I knew it was impossible to dispute.

I suppose it bothers me because I learned to draw by copying cartoons, and I feel as though I can never quite shake their flat simplicity. Everything I draw has clear, black outlines and garish color, and even when I try different modeling and lighting to add depth, a cartoony, one-dimensionality pervades. Life would be so much easier if I could just accept that this is my style and I should revel in it, rather than repudiating it. Yet being the over-critical perfectionist that I am, I prefer to see it as a problem.

So this week I thought I’d try illustrating something abstract. I recently attended a fantastic Radiohead concert and figured that would be a good subject to tackle. Music is, after all, a non-visual thing, so I challenged myself to try and evoke the spirit of the concert—to create images that could capture the sound and power of the music, combined with my own enthusiasm as a die-hard fan.

I failed.

Well, okay. I did start out on a somewhat promising note with this first image. I wanted to capture the moment the band broke into one of my favorite songs, “The National Anthem,” which begins with a killer bass line that shook the entire venue. As news transmissions and scraps of radio noise filled the arena, Johnny Greenwood, the band’s mad-genius, multi-instrumentalist virtuoso, messed around with an old radio onstage. At one point, he turned it upside-down, and the sight of his silhouette against the spectacular light show burned into my memory as a starting point for the first image.

I realize the image isn’t very abstract, but it’s more expressionist than what I usually come up with. So that was a start.

Once the cartoon lines make their way in, it's over.

Downhill from there. As fan-girl enthusiasm took over, I completely forgot my artistic objective and just started drawing scenes from the show.

Thom sings "Give Up the Ghost" as my abstractionist drive gives up the ghost.

Fan-girl wins.

(Sigh)

Ah, well. Maybe next time I’ll try working with some experimental language poetry. Or Bach.

Or I’ll finally accept that I like drawing tangible, recognizable things, especially people. Especially people outlined in black contours and colored with bright, saturated hues.

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