Chapter Seven of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics-The Invisible Art takes a closer look at art in general and discusses its almost ever-present role in the human being’s life.
McCloud claims that the human race has two basic instincts: reproduction and survival. He classifies anything that does not directly relate to these two instincts as art, making the definition of art a very broad one. Art is a means of self-expression, created by humans to overcome boredom. Comics, of course, fall into this classification. Although art is not a basic instinct, it still holds important evolutionary purposes. Art exercises the mind and body. It offers a healthy means to channel emotions, and sometimes it can even lead to useful discoveries. Art exists in almost everything we do -- even in something as simple as signing your name, as each person has his or her own unique way of doing this. Art and survival oftentimes go hand-in-hand when art is used as a means to make one’s living.
One element comics share with other art forms is the necessity for a purpose in the art. In fact, this is likely the most important thing artists have to keep in mind while creating their artwork. Artists need to decide whether they want to use their art to say something about life or if they want to say something about art. All art forms also have six steps in common throughout the creation process: idea, form, idiom, structure, craft and surface. There is no exact order for these steps; they will always naturally work themselves out. McCloud proposes that much of the popular new art focuses mostly on surface and not enough on the content, creating “hollow” art. This type of art often appeals more to people, but lacks the substance necessary for more complete art. McCloud uses an analogy of a dull apple as the “old master” and a shiny apple as the “new kid” to explain this concept. Of course, most people would be drawn to the shinier apple; however this apple is hollow inside. It’s important for artists to employ fresh techniques and apply their own style so that art can continue evolving.
McCloud’s claim that “art is the way we assert our identities as individuals and break out of the narrow roles nature has cast us in” is a great way to look at art. Art is our way of showing off our uniqueness and standing out from the crowd, sometimes without even realizing it. I believe that we constantly incorporate art into our everyday lives, for instance, when we sing at work or doodle in class. Art is our main source of self-expression! I thought McCloud’s apple analogy was really helpful in explaining the six steps and surface appeal. He has helped me understand the importance of each of the six steps through this analogy. The fact that all art forms have something in common is really interesting. I never thought that mediums that are so completely different from each other could possibly share the same creative path.