09 June 2010

Chpt 4/6

In chapter four McCloud makes it clear that we use closer and space time biologically as well as in reading comics which he explained in chapter three. In chapter four McCloud breaks down time and motion is the use of lines. Most comic book artist used lines to show when an object or a person is on motion. Early Japanese artist had been using this technique for years before The U.S. discovered it. Another way we break down sound in comic books is with the use of words, however i will speak more about that topic shortly. They give the example of an object in motion in sequential images with the image changing gradually, but if you would rather use one image moving in an instance the you use lines around that object to show that it is in motion. In chapter six McCloud breaks down the use of words we use words to balance out the story the images tell in a comic. Even though he makes it clear that you can easily make a comic without words they would still provide words to exclaim sound and such as i had stated earlier. with the balance of these images and words they can provide us with a vivid or a vague view of the story being told.
This proves his thesis with these chapter by breaking the concepts down so that they are easy for someone to understand why comics have their icons, with words and stories. This makes it possible for anyone to make a comic relating to their interests. i really enjoy his writing and his descriptions, provided with his abundance of examples. I find it interesting because i am an art student but i highly recommend his writings even to those who are not in the art field. Especially to those who are going into the art field.

Chap 1/2

In the first chapter McCloud narrows down his audience of readers to creators of comics: first by defining comics as a sequence of images or ‘juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence’. I agree with this definition in the aspect that it covers the basic concept but for those that really want to narrow it down the literal definition is provided. McCloud also states how comics are a medium supported by having many different ideas, writers, and trends excreta. I don’t deny this claim, but more so in the artistic aspect since being that different mediums in art relate to techniques such as watercolor, pen and ink, charcoal, and so on.

One of the claims in chapter two is when you break down the illustrations in comics. You can separate them from icons which are images that represent nouns. The illustrations however of the actual characters are easier for people to relate to because of the simplicity in those characters. I admire this only because it is true in the way we know a generalized placement of our features and unless we are looking in a mirror we do not realize what our face looks like in detail. In that way we can relate to the simplicity of those characters.

Blog 2

The experience that I have had with comics is purely based on the cheap laughs I, or others have known through the expense of the comic strips that are always printed onto the last page of some newspaper section and only seldon seen when someone leaves the paper folded forward exposing the "funnies", as we called them. I never once wondered about the question "Can comics be art?" I always just assumes the answer was "yes" based solely on the fact that they are cartoons, and cartoons are always art, right? I say right and I hope to be concurred with because "art" is such an open term and I agree with the personal definition given in the book, "Art, as I see it, is any human activity which doesn't grow out of either of our species' two basic instincts: survival and reproduction." this definition opens a path for anything outside of sexual activity, breathing and eating to be considered art; and who is to say it isn't? One man's trash is another man's art.
"...because the creation of any work in any medium will always follow a certain path." This said path consists six steps: 1. Idea/Purpose. 2.Form. 3. Idiom. 4. Structure. 5. Craft. 6.Surface. These steps don't always have to follow this direct route when ideas are free flowing in an artist's mind, or any person's mind for that matter. As the book describes "The order of the six steps is innate. Like the arrangement of bones in a dinosaur's skeleton they can be discovered in any order but when brought together, they will always fall into place!" This metaphor helped me to better understand the purpose of the six steps and how they are applied to the mixture of creation.
Your mind is your own personal area for anything you want to imagine or think up, here in your realm you don't have to worry about discrimination, criticism, or any misrepresentation of misinterpritation because it's all common language to you. You know what you mean and what point you are trying to make. The problem facing any and all artists how are they going to make people (the audience) understand what the voice of their art is saying because in essence it is like translating a foreign language. "There's only one power that can break through the wall which seperates all artists from their audience-the power of understanding." Once the wall of ignorance is broken down like the Berlin wall by the hammer of communication, then and only then can comics be fully appreciated and understood for the true expressionism they represent and the raw talent that goes into making every strip. but until then the pilgrimage of the comic continues...

The Secret's in the Sauce!

In chapters 4 and 6 of “Understanding Comics”, Scott McCloud demonstrates the unique relationships comics have with time and space, pictures and words.

“In learning to read comics we all learned to perceive time spatially, for in the world of comics, time and space are one and the same”

Scott McCloud introduces this idea of time and space being the same in several examples. One panel can show several moments in time, one moment in time, infinite time, the past, the present, and the future. This concept is also true with a combination of panels proving, once again, the endless possibility comics have. The panel itself is an important icon used in comics—a point I hadn’t considered until it was pointed out to me. The panel acts as a “general indicator that time or space is being divided.” We use our ability for closure to perceive the relationship between time and space, to lengthen or shorten a moment in time. This can be done by the framing of panels (i.e. the size, shape, and borders of frames). Something as simple as the size of the frame can represent time or how long a moment within that space is. An amazing feat to manipulate time!

“As we’ve seen, the interaction of time and comics generally leads us to one of two subjects: sound or motion.”

Sound and motion add to the illusion that comics create. This illusion is the experience of sensory appeal. We become involved with concept of actual time, action and reaction, dialogue and sound effects. The experience involves the reader to become a component in the story itself. We are pulled into the story and it is fluid and familiar because we make it that way (with the direction of the creator, of course). The experience is unique with comics… even just reading this text has deepened my understanding of the complexity and creativity that goes into creating one. And Scott McCloud has proved once again that there are no limits to which comics are bound.

“Indeed, words and pictures have great powers to tell stories when creators fully exploit them both.”

McCloud explains how different combinations of pictures and words create different responses for the viewer. These combinations are word specific, picture specific, duo-specific, additive, parallel, montage, and inter-dependent. He explains and gives examples for the seven he is familiar with but also never limits comics to these. He goes on to explain that “when pictures carry the weight of clarity of a scene, they free words to explore a wider area,” and vice versa, comparing it to alchemy. You can see change occur in a scene just by mixing up the combination used. This is precisely why comics are such a mystery to me. A creator can create a different feeling with the same picture or script by altering how they are combined for a totally different effect! Comics truly are a remarkable medium for art, story, and creativity!

08 June 2010

Unraveling the Complexities

In Chapters Four and Six of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art Scott McCloud discusses how time is handled in comics, and the interplay between words and pictures in comics. In Chapter Four his examination of time in comics explains different techniques creators use to manipulate time, and convey it to the reader. Chapter Six explores the different ways pictures and words work together to make comics as we know them.

McCloud demonstrates that in comics time is a complicated notion. In some cases one panel could take up thirty seconds of time using dialogue to pace the reader. That same one panel could be broken up into multiple panels and give the same effect. He shows that time can be manipulated by the shape of the panel itself. Some changes, such as making the panel extend past the edge of the page, give it a timeless feeling making it feel like more time has passed. He also explains a unique feature of comics, that the past, present, and future are visible all at once on the page, unlike other media such as TV and movies. As usual McCloud discusses possibilities not yet explored by comics, such as letting the reader choose which direction to go thus varying the story. McCloud also discusses the use of motion in comics, and techniques creators have adapted to display motion.

Comics use both words and pictures to get their point across, and McCloud dissects how the two work together. He first explains the mere fact comics use pictures and words make them seem nothing more than “a diversion” to some. That classically, the “Great” works of literature and art were kept at arms length, anything that sought to combine the two might as well have had “For Children” stamped on it. After the usual history lesson McCloud develops more on what he said from Chapter Two regarding comics as a medium or “vessel” rather than a style or genre. He then identifies seven ways words and pictures can be used together in comics: word specific, picture specific, duo-specific, additive, parallel, montage, and interdependent. Finally McCloud explains that as either pictures or words take up more of the job of explaining whats happening, the other can be free to make explore artistically.

The examples of manipulating time by changing frame size and shape on pages 100 – 102 are very interesting, and as usual very funny if you read what exactly the two men are talking about. However, my favorite part of Chapter Four is the experimental “choose your own story” on page 105 in which our dear Carl is given another chance at life. The way this page is interactive shows how progressive McCloud is.

Chapter Six seems to be what McCloud couldn't fit into an already bursting-at-the-seams Chapter Two. In many ways he is building on the same concepts introduced in that chapter. It did add to it another method by which to examine comics, the seven ways pictures can combine with words. McCloud loves to give us these tools, and I can see why. It makes something that seems simple, and that we might take for granted, and breaks it down to show the complexity of it.

Both chapters successfully unravel complexity where at first I perceived none. This seems to be another major theme of McClouds. Apparently “Understanding Comics” partially means understand how complex they can be, and not taking them for granted.


YES! McCloud indeed does his fantastic movement with his book yet again! From Chapter 4, explaining 'Time Frames' to Chapter 6, talking 'Show and Tell'. It doesn't seem as though he fails to grab his readers attention because he stays on topic to what he is trying to explain to his dear ol' readers.
In Chapter 4 McCloud explains that each panels is a still frame then changes his mind that it's a panel still moving in time. I agree to disagree. Why? Because it is all still frame, the picture does not move like a film would or a cartoon. It just stays in one spot on the piece of paper, right? No, it continues with different images and phrases that take your imagination along, moving each image as a cartoon or film would. Indeed some panels are caught in single moments as though you can invision what they are telling you. Maybe I am have a broad imagination or something but when I look at a picture I can see all the different things happening in the in between, like I am actuallly there and know exactly what is happening. When panels in a comic move a person like that, the artist is indeed doing something CORRECT! Right? Well, YES! This is what I get from McCloud in Chapter 4. It's almost like he wants you to agree with everything he is trying to explain but also telling you not to and to just have your OWN i m a g i n a t i o n! :)
In Chapter 6, I love how McCloud uses an example that can pretty much get anyone's attention. The example was how comics are best with words and pictures, like PARTNERS in a DANCE and pretty much each one takes turn LEADING. Of course this grabbed my attention on a whole new level and my understanding of comics become more clear and out loud in the library I said, "OH! I get it now!" (How embarassing! LOL!) But, McCloud goes along saying that each partner knows their role/part and they support eachother's strengths. Very true!
"When pictures can carry the weight of clarity in a scene, they free words to explore a wider area."
This is true because when you can put a picture to any words, it gives the meaning balance. Another thing McCloud points out is that the mixing of words and pictures are alchemy than science. Another thing that amuses me on his theory about that is the word, 'alchemy'. Why? Because it is EXACTLY what McCloud had said from the beginning what he believes comics are. A seemingly magical POWER! Well, not in those words, but believeing comics have some sort of POWER that needs to be let out and shared with the world.

Chapter 4 and 6

In Chapter 4, McCloud's focus is on 'time frames' in comics. He begins explaining that time in comics is infinitely weirder then normal. Each panel in a comic shows a single moment in time with the space between the panels which helps create an illusion of time through closure. But a single panel can look like a single moment but in fact be the opposite. The example on page 95, there's a single frame but time isn't still in it. The metaphor that McCloud uses is a rope with each of it's links representing a few seconds and in the picture each person making a comment represents time going by. The panel itself helps represent time in its own way. A panel acts as a general indicator that time or space is being divided and the shape of a panel can actually make a difference is the readers perception of time. For example, 'Bleeds', meaning the panel runs off the page, escapes into timeless space leaving the reader in it's lasting presence or establishing a mood. Another concept that McCloud covers in the ability of motion in a panel. On page 108-109 there is a great picture that establishes the act of movement there each panel. The different positions of the man allow him to look like he is running and jumping over the hurdle, landing and running off again. The only thing lacking is a sense of how fast this particular action (him running) is. That's where Zip-lines or Motion lines come in. Zip-lines are attempts to represent the paths of moving objects through space. There are different types of motion lines, the examples given are the main character or a focus point is the focus of the panel and the background is blurred across the page, the Japanese loves this particular style. The second type is the opposite of the first, with the background in focus and the character or main focus is blurred as it moves across the page. In Chapter 6, Show and Tell, McCloud explains the earliest words, stylized pictures, were used with similar pictures to magnify its purpose. Some art, dating back to 15,000 years ago, are considered to have a pictorial representation, detailed, while others are iconic, acting as symbols, more along the lines of primitive language. As words grew to be more specialized, abstract and elaborate, pictures grew in the opposite direction: less abstract/symbolic and more representational and specific. Finally, most modern writing came to represent sound only and lost any similarities with the visionary world.

Time Tells All....

McCloud opens chapter 4 with and example of a single frame in which the unusual passage of time in comics is accurately represented. The conversation depicted in the word balloons makes it clear that the events occur over several moments, even though the reader's eyes view the panel as a snapshot of a single moment in time. McCloud explains that people have been well trained by photography and " representational art" to see any single continuous image as a single instant in time, but time in comics is actually more like a rope. Each inch of rope represents a second. McCloud then winds the rope through the image to demonstrate the analogy on page 96. In chapter 6, McCloud details the history of the written word and pictures. Young children are expected to read books with lots of pictures, but they are also expected to grow out of this habit as they mature. This process helps them become a better reader and fully grasp the meaning of letters in a sense. Traditional thinking holds that truly great works of literature and art are best appreciated when viewed separately. This helps the reader understand the written work presented to them a lot easier. In general, works that combine both words and pictures together are looked upon as simple diversions or examples of commercialism. McCloud gets upset with the idea that combining words and pictures together is somehow " base or simplistic". McCloud believes that comics would be more highly respected if people did not have this attitude toward combining the two art forms.

A brief overview:

  • Comics allow time frames to get tangled up. ( chapter 4)
  • In comics, pictures and words work together in an appropriate balance to show and tell a story. ( chapter 6)
Time frames of course are a period of time in which something occurs or is expected to occur. Time really helps give the reader the whole reading experience. By using time frames in comics I feel we are given the full experience of motion and sensation which helps the reader not lose interest. I believe time frames are an essential part in forming the comic. In chapter 6, the chapter consists of " Show and Tell". This process shows how pictures an words work together. I believe over the course of the next few thousand years, they diverged. Letters sacrificed visual representation for writing ease ( and, later, printing ease) and pictures grew richer and more complex until looking at them was more like looking at reality than at thoughts. Comics to me have always been hard to understand as being " serious" but one thing is certain, no matter how bizarre the workings of time in comics is the face it presents to the reader is one of simple normalcy. Or the illusion of it anyway. I guess it really all depends on your frame of mind.

Receiving Information Through Comics

"The artform--the medium--known as comics is a vessel which can hold any number of ideas and images"

Scott McCloud first defines comics in this elusive way before evaluating Will Eisner's definition "sequential art." Keeping his first observation of the limitless possibilities of comics, McCloud is satisfied with the new definition of "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer."

The first chapter relays important information of what makes a comic and what should be excluded in our definition of comics. It is important to know an artistic style (i.e. a cartoon) does not make a comic. In the same sense, there is no specific vernacular for comics. There are no uniform genres or topics to be covered in comics. Everything and anything goes. That is, as long as it still remains a pictorial sequence that relays information (we have a definition for a reason, people!). One example McCloud uses to exclude in this definition are single paneled cartoons (like The Family Circus in everyday newspapers). Cartoons may have comic qualities, but there is no such thing as a sequence of one and therefore they may not be included for this purpose.

In chapter two, McCloud discusses how comics use a combination of pictures, words, and icons to convey information. Pictures are important in focusing the attention to certain details. Focusing on certain details (and not on others) keeps the attention of the audience within what the artist/creator chooses. Focusing on certain details will make a picture more iconic. Icons represent the person, place, things, and ideas in comics and are an important tool in comics. If comics are the language, “words, pictures, and other icons are the vocabulary.” McCloud shows us a spectrum of realistic drawings to cartoons—an iconic abstraction scale, as he calls it--the final piece at the end of this scale are words. Words, which represent as pictures do, do not look like that which they represent. The way pictures are received, words are perceived. This is an important piece of information to remember. This is the basis for “the picture plane.” The picture plane uses the same iconic abstraction scale to reach from reality to meaning. Within this picture plane, any language, any art form, any means of expression can be found. Common use of onomatopoeia, changes in font, punctuation, and other literary tools can make the experience more involved for the viewer. The importance of this vocabulary (pictures, words, and icons) in the language of comics is this: how we receive and perceive comics involves us completely. It is our job to create the understanding of comics, the creator focuses on details to lead us in a direction but the viewer takes all the necessary steps to go in that direction. Seeing comics this way will widen the perspective of the viewer. The complexity of comics is amazing and something that I have rarely encountered in any other form of expression.

07 June 2010

“What Are You Really Seeing?”

In the first two chapters of Scott McCloud's book Understanding Comics: The Invisibe Art the author undertakes the task of first defining “Comics” then setting up a vocabulary to examine them, probably to aid the reader in understanding the subsequent chapters of the book. As David Kunzle did in The Early Comic Strip: Narrative Strips and Picture Stories in the European Broadsheet from c.1450 to 1825, McCloud first gives comics a proper definition. In Chapter Two he identifies terms used in analyzing comics, and also sets up principles in which he will chart comics in their artistic style.

Unlike Kunzle, who took a strict four point definition of comics, McCloud choose a definition that boils down to one sentence: “Juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer.” However, like Kunzle, McClould examines the roots of comics, as they fit his definition specifically, and finds examples in a picture manuscript discovered by Cortes, in the Bayeux Tapestry, and in an Egyptian tomb dating back to 1300 B.C. He also examines more modern “Comics” including non-traditional examples that fit his definition such as Max Ernest's A Week of Kindness which is a sequence of collages that is definitely sequential, thus meeting his definition. McCloud ends the chapter by stating that “Our Attempts to define comics are an ongoing process which won't end anytime soon.” This seems to allow for the definition to be rewritten as new forms of comics are created.

In Chapter two, McCloud identifies some terms and ideas that will apparently be necessary to understand in order to proceed in the book. He explains the word “icon” and how it pertains to comics. McCloud also demonstrates “the masking effect” in which an artist will use simplistic looking characters in very detailed realistic backgrounds, explaining that we can more easily identify, or mask, ourselves with a simplistic character. A triangular chart is used to show how comic style can be charted as it pertains to Reality, Meaning, and the Picture Plane. By using this chart McCloud makes it apparent how comic styles vary, and how they are alike.

The book is written in the comic style, with picture and text, and McCloud takes full advantage of it. In doing so he shows us the power of the medium. The visual examples are excellent, and necessary to show some of the complicated notions he is explaining. There is also quite a bit of humor in the book, which makes it very easy to read.

The definition McCloud creates in Chapter 1 seemed to be more logical than Kunzle's. He uses “intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” rather than “a story which is both moral and topical.” Granted, I don't believe McCloud was as concerned with qualifying his definition as Kunzle was, considering what each of their books is about. Nonetheless, I do like McCloud's definition more. The historical perspective that he uses is also as fun as it is informative, fitting in well with the rest of the book.

One of the most interesting parts of Chapter Two was how McCloud demonstrates that in a simplistic drawing of a face we can most easily see ourselves. I was blown away at how well he was able to show a concept that I had lived with my whole life but was never aware of. Yet when he asks “What are you really seeing?” about a simple face drawn by combining a circle with two dots and a line, my instinctive answer was “myself.” McCloud then shows how when we are engaged in conversation with another person, while we have a very realistic mental image of them, the mental image of ourselves is far from realistic, more simple, like a cartoon. The connection makes perfect sense. When I read Calvin and Hobbes as a kid I was Calvin. I could easily imagine myself crusading around in costume as The Dark Knight. When the features are obscured, even by a costume, you can easily relate to the character, even become the character. In showing this McCloud has really revealed to me the power of comics.

06 June 2010

Chapters 1&2

Wow, Scott McCloud, what a great book! (so far)
I love how he begins the chapter on the phone with a friend explaining he's next move and how the friend puts him down, " Aren't you kind of young to be doing that sort of thing?" I shows the typical reaction that everyone has when comics are brought up. He continues the chapter by explaining what a comics is, where it steamed from, how they are understood. At first I was a little uncertain of how this book was gonna make its point but by the 5 or 6 page I was hooked!! Its easy to read about a subject then put your thoughts together about what you just read but if there is any confusion at all, then the material becomes less effective. Through the use of comics you can read the material then use the pictures as a backup to fully understanding what is being read. I really enjoyed how McCloud threw in some examples from our historic past to further explain his understanding and passion for comics, which in turn gives the reader the same understand and passion for what is being read. (Wish we had comics in my history class, would make it a lot more interesting and fun to learn!!) In Chapter 2 McCloud explains how the Japanese provide excellent examples of the differences of different types of details and images that can be used in a comic. It never occurred to me that as a reader that the drawings were draw to complement the reader or better yet allows reader to personally identify with the content at hand. Also how some characters are draw so the read develops that edgy, non-personal connection which plays into the story's plot/theme.

Comics in English!

“If we could find one, might give LIE to stereotypes and show that the POTENTIAL of comics is LIMITLESS and EXCITING!” –Scott McCloud

Reading the Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 in the book, “Understanding Comics, The Invisible Art,” really opened my eyes to what comics really are. Scott McCloud allowed people to see that from the beginning he never really agreed with what “Comics” really were. McCloud allowed us to see that he saw them as, “bad art work, stupid stories, and guys in tights.” Up until the 8th grade when a friend introduced him to a different collection of comics and within a year, McCloud was obsessed. By the time he reached the 10th grade, he was already an artist for a comic. He even felt there was some sort of remarkable power lurking in comic books that needs to be out in the open!
McCloud shows us in his book, that most comics began before the turn of century but it ventures further back to around 1519! Found in Pre-Columbian was a picture manuscript by Cortes around that time. It usually shows from separating words from pictures but easily understood. McCloud goes on to explain the history in vivid detail and what it led up to was that there will be many ways to define COMICS and the process will not end anytime soon.
In Chapter 2, it explains the vocabulary of comics. The more I read into this chapter I was more interested in the pictures. I was lost in the way the faces would change and how it went from a far more difficult drawing to an easy and more complex drawing. The faces is what took my attention because on page 29 he starts to show how you can change it and I see when it came to drawing himself, he used a far more easier and complex drawing. One thing McCloud said that sums up the whole chapter (in my opinion) would be this;
“All the things we EXPERIENCE in life can be separated into TWO REALMS, the REALM of the CONCEPT and the realm of the SENSES.”

p.s. this looked way more "comic" on microsoft word! LOL!