We’ve entered the last week of classes at Mount Allison! It should be spring, but of course, we had to be hit with a freak snowstorm on April Fool’s Day. So it looks like we’ve backtracked a bit into winter, when really it should be spring. Last Thursday we began discussing comic strips and cartooning. Often, a cartoonist will not be labelled as an artist, and it’s taken a while for cartooning to become recognized as a legitimate art form. I think you might still be hardpressed to find people who would willingly accept cartoons and comics as a form of art. It is unfortunate that comic strip artists and illustrators are often branded as practitioners of a “lower” art form. Just because their art is often not found within a gallery, does not mean it is a lesser form of art.
I think that so often, drawing gets classified as the “jumping off point” for sculptures, paintings, installations. I remember having to do a preliminary sketch or series of sketches for each work we wanted to do in my high school art classes. Very rarely was drawing the medium that the final work would take. We didn’t even have a unit on cartooning or illustrating in the whole three years of art classes that I took. These were ventures that would be encouraged for you to take on yourself, outside of class time. However, despite this somewhat negative association, comics and illustrations are the mediums by which I personally believe the majority of the Western population experiences art. Comic strips appear in each daily paper, often running for years at a time. My personal favourite comic is Calvin and Hobbes, which ran from November 1985 to December 1995. That’s ten years of fresh ideas, every day of the week! I think everyone has a favourite comic, or can at least name one that they find funny.
Additionally, part of being a comic artist is being able to come up with characters and storylines that are able to be expressed with a correct balance of text and drawing. Comics take on a different style and feel that is often reflective of the comic artist, and more often than not, a comic artist’s self will be reflected in their characters. I think that being a cartoonist is being an artist, it’s just a more accessible form of art to everyone. So often, people unfamiliar with art will either claim to find it boring or they will feel embarrassed about not knowing too much about it. Comics are an art form that everyone has access to and can enjoy on their own or with other people.