Friday, April 29, 2005

Simpsons self-portrait & Criticism in Australian comics 

One of the comics groups was having a challenge where we each had to draw ourselves as a Simpson - below is my hasty attempt (which is oddly accurate in a lot of ways :)). I definitely don't think The Simpsons is for little kids, but it's a brilliant satire (though there are way too many episodes for me to ever follow it closely).

L had to dress as an Egyptian for school today, so Jill adapted J's Trojan tunic and I made and painted an Egyptian collar, by tracing an LP record (I knew I was keeping those for a reason) and fixing it with velcro to the outfit.

I'm about to have a week off from work to try to get most of the next Moth & Tanuki done (an 8 page first half of a longer story). I'm about halfway through with the pencils, but always get caught up in background drawing. I also bumped into Oliver, who is a young manga artist I've been trying to get to submit something to OzTAKU. It looks like he's close this time!

Criticism in Australian Comics

There's been a lot of discussion about the nature of reviewing lately, particularly with regard to local Australian comics. As I'm one of the major local reviewers (though I've decided to do less of this for a while), I thought I'd put down some of my thoughts about literary/artistic criticism in general, and with respect to our local comics scene.

What I wrote last week:

Fri Apr 22, 2005 11:39 pm

Criticism is a craft and a skill in its own right. As such, there is a need for substantial background, education and training, and for an apprenticeship period. It's no accident that the work of critics improves over time.

An ideal (and well-known example) of masters of the craft are local film reviewers, David Stratton and Margaret Pomeranz. When hearing their appraisal of a new work, one can confidently assume they have comprehended the nature of the work, where it fits in the ongoing scheme of narrative forms, the technical proficiencies exploited by the contributors, and the degree to which it has achieved its aims. No mere "fan" of the medium could bring so much to their review. There is a world of difference between this and an opinion piece - such as we often hear on radio - from some erstwhile young enthusiast (or potential trainee critic at the beginning of their learning curve).

Every work of art we create, including comics, falls - whether we like it or not - in place in a long, continuing movement of narrative forms, which have progressed through distinct epochs (in all artforms) over time. It's no accident that the Renaissance that enabled our advances in literature and science, also enabled our ability to draw perspective properly. To fail to comprehend any of the context of a work is to be unfair in your appraisal of it.

Where we stand in this industry, at this time, I think there is a need for a lightness of touch in public reviewing, particularly in print (which may even outlast the work itself), due both to the sensitivity of artists and the inexperience of critics willing to bother with this field. I think that peer feedback and exchange of ideas is of enormous benefit. Avi is a good example of an editor willing to not only continually work on improving his own performance, but to continually and quietly feedback to his contributors, contributing to their ongoing improvement, without humiliating them.

For my own reviews, I believe my approach until now has been the correct one, and my main hope would be that it might have helped potential readers identify some new Australian comic they'd be likely to enjoy.

If I've ever misunderstood a work, I would certainly like to hear about it. I don't see myself as an ideal "critic" by any means, and find being an artist myself can make for a difficult balance.

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