11 February 2012

The Steps of Art

Art, though a difficult word to define, is found is almost everything we as humans do. In chapter seven of his book Understanding Comics, the Invisible Art, McCloud gives a very broad definition to the word art. He believes that art is any activity that doesn't come from the two most basic human instincts: reproduction and survival. He gives an example of a group of very bored cavemen sitting in a circle. But while sitting in this circle every single one of them are expressing some form of art. One draws in the sand, another is running around and kicking up rocks, another is making rhythms by banging rocks together, and another discovers fire by rubbing rocks together. All of these are art, and McCloud is proving by this example that it can be found everywhere. McCloud proposes a path of six different steps in which every work of art follows. The path starts with an idea or purpose. Second is the form that the artwork takes, for example a book, a sculpture, a painting, etc. Third is the idiom; the style or genre of the piece. Fourth, the way the artist composes his work is called the structure. The fifth step is craft; how the author gets the job done or how he uses his skills and knowledge to complete his task. The last step is the surface. This is the step that everyone can see, the finished product.
Although McCloud says every piece of art follows this same path, that doesn't mean that every artist realizes the path that they are following. Many artists are so focused on the finished product or the surface that they neglect the other steps. All six steps are still present no matter what, however they may be underdeveloped which would create a lack of depth in the artwork. The more the artist focuses on the beginning steps, idea/purpose and form, the better developed and more meaningful the piece of art becomes. Comics are no different than any other form of art. Comic artists follow this same path to create their masterpieces. It is through these six steps that comic artists, or any artist, can put their ideas together and transport them far and wide throughout the earth.

I really enjoyed this chapter. I have never payed any attention to the depth of art. I am one of those uneducated people who hardly ever looks past the surface when looking at a piece of art. This helped me realize that there is a lot more to comics and any art than just the pictures and words on the page. You can take any piece of art and pick out these six steps. For example look at this painting of Christ.

In this painting, you can pick out that the idea/purpose the artist has is to show Christ's agony on
the cross and to portray him still looking to God through all of his agony. The form is a painting. The idiom is a religious genre. The structure is how the artist put together and arranges all the details to show his purpose. The craft is the skills the artist has in order to get this painting done. And the structure is the finished product. With every work of art, these same steps can be applied, however not every person will receive the artwork the same way. For example the idea or purpose of this painting may not be what I said it was, the artist may have had a different idea in mind. But this is the glory of art, everyone can perceive the same artwork differently. This concept ties back into closure, that everyone can see the same thing a little bit differently.

09 February 2012

The six amazing steps of purpose

The Six Steps
                Artistic styles are a matter of self-explanation or purpose and in chapter 7; McCloud explains this by distinguishing six steps that lead down a path for artists to follow. Before McCloud reaches the point of no return, (meaning the end of the sixth step), he uses an example of cave men, to explain his perspective. He claims, that “art is any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species but with two basic instincts, survival and reproduction”. He then shows a caveman chasing a female but she gets away and then a saber tooth tiger comes out to eat him, so he runs for dear life but somehow uses his instincts to survive. Concepts like these are a way to plug in the comic world with reality in a sense that gives a person to understand thoroughly. Even in the cavemen days, reproduction, and survival aren’t the only things that were important, they would be bored, and in some sort had to entertain themselves. So they would make up sounds, or draw randomly, or do any sort of exercise routine. Just by doing these alone they figured out exercise for minds and bodies receiving outside stimulus than provide an outlet for emotional imbalances in the race’s mental survival and finally the most important, such random activities lead to useful discoveries.
                McCloud may explain that some artists may do art for money or fame but some do it for the love of the creations. Any certain type of medium or artistic work will always follow a path and that is the six steps. The first step is ideas/purpose which explains the emotions, philosophies and purpose of the work or the content. The second step is form, which gives a mind what they may want out of there art work or what they want their audience to understand. The third step is Idiom, which is the genre that work belongs to or maybe a genre of its own. The fourth step is structure, by piecing together the creations or composing the work. The fifth step is craft, by constructing skills, practical knowledge, and invention, problem solving or getting the job done. The sixth step is surface, which is finishing the values or aspects most apparent on first superficial exposure to the work. He explains that this cycle begins all over the world in the genre of comics. Some people may often find comics interesting than progress love for them and eventually try for themselves to be an artist, but then very few really try to make it to where they want to be. Over time they eventually may lose interest or they may settle to be a part of the process by becoming an assistant to the assistant (in a sense of saying lower class employer to comic Industries). Some may want more, so they try to get there work published somewhere and decide to make a good living but that’s it and then there may be the ones that want to make it big, but realize there work may be of big use but there audiences may not know what their art work really stands for, or a purpose to it. There are very few who would like to really go beyond the boundaries of artistic, to the point where they want their audience to notice there purpose in there piece of art. They must first know what they want out of that, and so ideas determine the outcome of comics and as McCloud explains, “the cycle can begin again”.
                McCloud knows that art is a part of comics, and as of what I’ve noticed in Chapter 7, it can really have of a big effect on you. If comic artists show there true purpose than maybe comics could be seen as of value, and to add this on to the definition of comics, it could really work. It could open the doors to broaden its genre or expect the extraordinary….

Words & Pictures: Two sides of a Coin

Chapter Six of Understanding comics lays a great importance on the close bond shared by words and pictures and, how we as children perceived pictures and words as a combination as a way to express ourselves, however we out grew them. McCloud restates and emphasizes on words and pictures just like in Chapter Two. He looks at the two as being two sides of the same coin.

This chapter not only works towards his definition of comics but also towards broadening the mindset of people. People who believe that art and literature can be portrayed only if the two are kept separate. A great way to explain the combined outcome of the two is the main reason for the success of Commercials, as they approach their mass media through words and pictures. As children we learnt to read by the help of pictures, learn to show and tell- but gradually we start reading books without any pictures at all. A related path can be drawn amongst many ancient forms of art, where people were shown as icons, drawings where more like letters where the images were flat and bright. Even then, the letters were more or less like pictures. Words and images were side by side, just like the lower-left vertex of McCloud's great pyramid. But, over the course of the next thousands of years, they diverged. Letters surrendered to visual representation and pictures grew richer and more complex to such an extent that looking at them was more like looking at reality than at thoughts.

Words and pictures compliment each other. Comparing the two- like partners in a dance is an excellent illustration as they support each other’s strengths. The chapter’s title can also be read both ways as they function just like how words and pictures work- show and tell, tell and show.

Tampon in a Tea Cup

In chapter six of Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud returns to the subject of words, pictures and their unified mission to tell stories. He begins by professing that common practice of making monumental pieces of art and literature is done so by keeping the two mediums separate. This also takes us back to the long held idea that comics are only for children because they are littered with too many pictures and, as we mature, we should desire our literature to be free of pictures and our art to be free of text. But McCloud suggests that art and stories of equal significance are produced through comics and pleads that the barrier of traditional thought open up to the idea of blending words and pictures without degrading the author’s work. He goes back in time and explains forms of ancient text were originally just stylized pictures that resembled the objects that they were representing. Eventually through centuries of writing and the printing press, written language mutated into what we think of it as now. Though through this mutation, the words slowly shed their association with pictures and they grew further and further apart. And then they began growing closer and closer together, with the entrance of abstract arts and modern poetry. But, these two things don’t just simply mix in one way, McCloud describes several ways that words and pictures can blend and tell stories. Word, picture and duo specific are self-explanatory. Then there’s additive where words are used to amplify the pictures, parallel is when the text and pictures seem to be doing two completely different things and montage that incorporates words and pictures into themselves. Inter-dependent though is the most popular, in which text and illustration team up to convey ideas they couldn’t get across alone. So once again, McCloud proposes that words and pictures be mixed in whatever way the author sees fit to tell their story.

"There are many different ways that we can express ourselves. By doing things like these cartoons that are amusing or as a sort of light entertainment. Or we can do work that's a little more serious in scope and feeling and that deals with issues; emotional, spiritual, political.... Of great importance."

Welcome to Show and Tell - Ch. 6

In the beginning there were pictures, and it was good. So good in fact, it existed thousands and thousands of years before written words were even considered a good idea. As McCloud explains in chapter 6, pictures as a way to communicate were around before written words, but as time went on, humans created symbols which represented sounds, and before you knew it, we had the printing press and written word was up and running. But pictures, as McCloud argues, developed in the opposite direction of its counter part: words. Pictures took a wild journey from impressionism to cubism, to abstract expressionism to constructivism and back again. While words and pictures were on two different ends of a spectrum, McCloud states that they were both headed straight at each other in an attempt to find meaning. As the two met, never was the combination accepted as "high art", and McCloud argues that comics are not taken in because it is perceived as a new media that is judged by old standards. And even though the combining of words and pictures is not in McCloud's definition, he states that the presence of words does increase the acceptance of comics. McCloud expounds on the many different ways words can be incorporated into comics. There is word specific, picture specific, and duo-specific. There is also additive, which elaborates on the picture, and parallel, and montage. However the most popular type is inter-dependent, where the words and pictures balance each other.

McCloud starts the beinging of the chapter with a little boy at show and tell,  and he does so to demonstrate how comics are in way, show and tell. Comics are very much the same thing (McCloud is clever). The item you bring is the show part. The comic book brings you the pictures. The pictures are nice, but the words, they help you to understand why the pictures are there in the first place. Granted, both words and pictures are worth their OWN weight in gold, but together, as McCloud puts it, it is Alchemy. I liked that comparison, it articulates just how precise comics are once they reach their finished state (the good ones at least.)

Picture Words

            Pictures and words (English) imagenes y palabras (Spanish), images et des mots (French), fotografie a slova (Czeck), immagini e parole (Italian). Pictures and words are considered to two completely different things and they are meant to be separated from one another.  Pictures are for children and words are for big people. As we grow up books with pictures are given to our younger siblings, younger cousins, or just put at the bottom of the bookshelf. We leave the idea of word and pictures working together to make meaning in our past, and we forget how magical it was. This is what Scott McClouds chapter six of Understanding Comics focuses on.
            McCloud explains how as children we are required to use pictures and words to learn how to communicate. It is normal to our society to only do this as children as long as we eventually grow out of it. In the future we are required to communicate without pictures. Learn how to use only words to make sense of things. We forget what pictures used to do for words and the life they brought to them. A comic is one form that brings art and literature together which is why the stereotype views comics as childish. McCloud explains how using pictures can allow the creators to use less formal language and vise-versa. If pictures and words can come together and work in perfect harmony then they can create meaning in one of the greatest forms ever. Picture a man dancing in the rain with him saying “Yes!” The picture of the man was brought to life by using one simple word. Or the creator can have a man in the rain smiling and waving his hands in the air, thinking “I finally did it, now I can dance.” The simple picture was brought to life by using words. This is what McCloud is trying to prove during this chapter.
            During my Introduction to Art class we learned about how a priest from Rome stripped an entire church of its painting because he claimed they were distracting peoples focus from the bible. People argued that the art brought life to the words; and the combination of words and art could bring the past of their faith to a visual reality. This proves that this argument has been going on for a long time. Why can’t words and pictures work together to bring meaning visualization? This priest obviously had no appreciation for art and no appreciation for what pictures can do for words.  This is why comics have such a hard time blooming into their full potential, because people have the same belief as the priest did words and pictures cannot work together.  How long has it been since you read a book with pictures? Society has brainwashed us into thinking that pictures are childish. The world of comics will never reach its prime with this kind of beliefs. Words and pictures can work together to show and tell a story together.

Ha, Scott McCloud proves everybody wrong again! H

In chapter 7 of “Understanding Comics- The Invisible Art,” Scott McCloud is informing us that comics and art are the same. He writes the definition of art, which is, “any human activity which doesn’t grow out of either of our species’ two basic instincts: survival and reproduction.” (pg. 164) His statement is about how art is in our everyday lives, even when there were cave people. The first example that Scott provides us with favors the two basic instincts. A caveman is in the “mood” to reproduce and is chasing a female. (This is the reproduction instinct) The female is running away and hides because she doesn’t want to reproduce. The caveman encounters a saber tooth tiger and runs for his life. (This is the survival instinct) The caveman is trapped at a cliff edge and the saber tooth tiger lunges at him. The caveman jumps out of the tiger’s way. The saber tooth tiger falls to his death and the caveman makes faces in the tiger’s direction. Today, the basic two instincts: survival and reproduction are still the same but they are just more complex.


The other examples are about how art played a role in the cave people’s lives. They could’ve drawn pictures in the dirt using a stick, which is also known as self-expression. They also might have made a rhythm by hitting two stones together. We do not take into account the idea art and the basic two instincts are still in our everyday lives today. It could be the way we sign our signature or our personal sense of style.


Mr. McCloud also informs us about the six steps that are essential to the comic artist. He uses an apple to make the reader understand that the six steps are in levels. The first step is the idea and metaphorically, the apple seeds. The first step becomes a, “tool and the powers of the art will rely on the powers of the ideas within,” as noted by Scott McCloud (pg. 179) The second level is form. On this step the artist decides the form that he/she wants to use. He/she could use the form of a song, a book or just about anything, there are no limits. The one question that refers to both the first two steps is asked to or by him/herself at one point to every artist is, “Why am I doing this?” Idiom is the third step; it is the vocabulary of styles or gestures or subject matter, the genre that the work belongs to. The fourth step is structure, this is the step that helps the artist decide how they are going to organize their information, and what they are going to leave in and/or take out. The fifth step is the construction of the work or in other words the story of the comic, this is called the craft. The sixth step is the production value and finishing or metaphorically known as the surface of the apple. An example that Mr. McCloud states to make the reader understand that the six steps will work together correctly no matter what order you discover them in, is a dinosaur’s skeleton bones. He uses this example because dinosaur bones are almost never found in the correct order but the bones fit perfectly when they are put together.


He provides information along with examples that are at the basic level. He gives more examples than what is expected. By doing this the beneficiaries are the reader and Scott McCloud. The readers benefit by learning more about comics. Mr. McCloud benefits by proving his credibility, he does this by providing many examples and showing different point of views.

08 February 2012

Closure? Oh Closure!


In understanding comics’ chapter 3, it goes into detail about what closure is and how it is perceived in today’s society. It gives a quick definition of closer is which is, how we piece fragments of an image together to see the entire picture. An example that is gives is when we look at the world we will only see fragments and not the whole thing but our minds place the fragments we see together to, again, see the whole picture. Another example is when we are younger and our mothers are playing Peek-A-Boo with us and she covers her face with a blanket we think that she is gone when in fact she is still there but at a young age if we do not see it, touch it, taste it, or feel it than it does not exist.
 So with that said than when we move on to comics and the space that you find between the panels. You use your imagination to piece the two together to tell what can be happening. Even though there is nothing between the panels, experience tells us that there is something there and when you piece the two ideas together they transform into one image. For example in comic strips or books we see separate images that are a jagged picture of unconnected movements but closer allows us to mentally connect them for one continuous movement.

 Like moves, comics use the viewer’s imagination to pieces each fragment together so that they can tell a story along with what is being told. For example in a movie you see a couple kissing and then move off the screen your imagination, in a way, guesses what will happen next. Well the same goes for comics. In chapter 3 page 68 it has two pictures. The first one is of a man with an axe and a man pleading for his life. In the other picture you see that someone is screaming but what you don’t know is that you are the one that killed the man unknowingly. The artist of the comic mearly drew two pictures not telling you that the man with the axe killed the other or who was the one that screamed but you as the reader were the one who killed the man and swung the axe. So thanks to closer we piece fragmented pictures together to see it as a whole.
I find what Mc Cloud states about closure to very interisting. I find it interisting because in chapter 3, according to Mc Colud, "visuial icongraphy is the vocabulary of comics, closure is its grammer, and since our definition of comics hinges on the arrangement of elemens than in the real sence CLOUSER IS COMICS," but how can e say that when in the first chapter he states that comics is sequential art.So in other words the definition is just expanding for a greater understanding of what comics really are.

Oh Pictures... Where Art Thou?


Scott McCloud shows us a deep connection between pictures and words and how they can work together to create a better form of communication.  He shows us how tragic it is that society views a piece of literature containing pictures as elementary or being for kids, while written literature without pictures is viewed as being more sophisticated and that adults should be drawn more toward this type of literature.  Scott McCloud helps us to realize sadly that the vast world of comics has been judged by the rules or attitudes of the generations before us, where a detailed work of art without any words was worthy of one’s attention, and good literary work consists  of complex words and text that arouses curiosity but contains no pictures.  Scott McCloud delves into past history to show us the interaction that words and pictures share.  He shows us how in the ancient world there were pictures that acted much as words do today to tell a story.  These pictures eventually evolved into the words and letters we have today through centuries of abstraction.  Scott McCloud also refers back to his triangular table from chapter two revealing to us how pictures and words were once used side by side with each other, but how over time, they slowly drifted apart.  A time would come when pictures and words would have to move toward each other once again.   These two great tools of communication, pictures and words, would one day collide, and then the greatness and potential of comics would be truly realized.  Scott McCloud continues by uncovering several different ways words and pictures work together in comics.  Word Specific, Picture Specific, Duo-Specific, Additive, Parallel, Montage, and Inter-Dependent are the tools the comic creator utilizes to combine words with images.  The most commonly used is Inter-Dependent, where the words and the pictures both need each other to get the point or meaning across to the reader, the words and pictures share a symbiotic relationship so to speak.

 The way past and present society has viewed literature containing pictures as being just for children is dismal.  In history, people have gone from pictures, to words with pictures, to only words, and then have gone back to slowly accepting a combination of words and pictures again thereby creating an ironclad way of writing in which the meaning will appeal to today’s society.  How many books have we read that we thought would have been more exciting if only they had pictures?  How many textbooks have we studied that would have explained the point better if they had contained pictures?  I agree with Scott McCloud that we need to keep changing the way in which we communicate as society evolves or people will stop reading and learning all together.  Today is not yesterday, but maybe one day our writing will go back to looking like this…it’s my name “Michael” in hieroglyphics!