So congratulate me. I finished penciling the last page of my book today.
That’s not to say that I’m done. There are still twenty pages waiting to ink and colour and then all of the compilation at the end, but none-the-less, a milestone has been reached!
I won’t make the same mistake that I made when, after months of work, I finally finished the thumbnails for this story. I remember sitting down in a comfy chair on my back porch, cracking the spine of the big black sketchbook that contained all my labour and reading through the story from start to finish.
I was done in fifteen minutes.
It reminded me of the time a friend and I decided we were going to bike around the coast of Cornwall. We rented a couple of old clunker three-speed Raleighs, hoisted our army-issue backpacks onto our backs and set off. For two days we crawled up and down the indented coast, clawing our way out of one fishing port after another as we followed the undulating coastal road. On the third day we woke up exhausted, packed the whole thing in and caught a train back to Plymouth.
In fifteen minutes we whisked by all those hard-gained miles and were back where we started. Fifteen minutes. It was a bit like that.
I have to remind myself that it isn’t the single reading that justifies all the work but the cumulative hours and hours of all those readings by adoring fans that make it all worth while. That and the fact that there’s nothing I would rather be doing in this world than drawing comics.
And this is merely a slender eighty-page volume. At the moment I’m working my way through Craig Thompson’s graphic novel, Blankets. Six hundred pages of beautifully rendered black and white drawings. Now there is a labour of love!
Really, these comic book artists should be canonized. Not me – I’m taking a bit of time off to pursue a childhood dream – but I’m thinking of those who have made a career of it, pouring their hearts and souls into pages and pages of drawings. Don’t think for a minute many are getting rich on it. Personally I think comic book artists are the great unsung heroes of contemporary art. The very best are the modern day counterparts to artists like Durer, Rembrandt, Doré and Goya - consummate draughtsmen who could render beautifully and prolifically. Today’s comic book artists keep alive a tradition centuries old – the art of drawing. And they continue to stretch and explore the boundaries and possibilities inherent in visual story telling.
So take a bit of time the next time you read a graphic novel. Take a moment to get beyond the words and into the visual story that the artist has laid out for you. It’s a sumptuous feast, not to be bolted down quickly but savoured and appreciated. And remember that it was a remarkable amount of work that made that meal possible.
They deserve to be congratulated.