I must simply state that I admire you, artist to artist and you are an inspiration to me when I feel like I can't keep drawing Ever Night.
THANK YOU FOR BEING AWESOME.
Also, I love your articles, they always make me think and question my own art, style and comics in a good way.
OK MAX I would like to ask you why dont you make a samurai picture or samurai comic.
As I've seen lots of people make a samurai comic. With manga artist I see it is kind of a trend...so why not you, I mean yeah crazybee is like a ninja but I like it when he fights with his fist and a bat AND then you like using the fist in all your comics.
For example your sentai comic, he looks like a fist fighter
IS it a problem for you to create a hack n slash samurai comic because I never see you make that kind of violence. Did you set your mind on a simpler kind of violence like of that in cartoons or no?
I like samurais!
I’ll probably make a character with samurai tones sometime. No I have no problems with hack and slash, I just prefer blunt force fighting.
Hello, Maximo! I really enjoy the articles you write pertaining to artistic misconceptions, but I feel obligated to revisit your "no rules in art" thing on a few points.
When you talked about asking for advice as far as principles go rather than rules, you listed reasons why people enforce "art rules." I think this part is a little confusing. It sounds as though you're saying that people who critique or encourage certain art principles are backlashing, establishing superiority, etc.
Now, the way I interpreted this was that you're saying, people try to apply certain principles to artists as hard, fast rules. For example, if an abstract artist drew a picture with exaggerated proportions, someone saying, "The anatomy is bad. Arms should be so-and-so length, and the mouth is too small," etc... that would be a good principle, but being applied as a rule to something for which it's not applicable. Is that what you were trying to say?
I'm sure you're not saying that critique is wrong or bereft of certain guidelines, because you're an intelligent artist who I'm certain knows the wonders of a good crit! But the wording of that area of your article is slightly confusing to me. It makes it sound like anyone who is trying to apply principles (whether erroneously or otherwise) to a picture is just bitter/jealous/backlashing/etc., so if you please, I'd love to hear a little more elaboration/clarification on the topic!
Also, the thing about drawing from real life versus not drawing just cartoons... That seems like a complicated and tricky area to me. Would you agree that it depends largely on the KIND of "cartoons" (or whatever other style) a given artist is using? As someone who grew up learning from The Powerpuff Girls and what-have-you, I do agree that it's a little unfair to expect everyone to learn realism off the bat. I also think it's unfair that artists who have mastered realism are often the only ones given any respect.
But when do you think it's appropriate to suggest for someone to learn from real life? Let's say, for example, there's an artist who draws from the influence of his favorite comic artist, whoever that might be or entail. He draws thin limbs and strange muscles, and he has potential, but his anatomy needs some help. In that situation, would it be wrong to suggest for him to study realistic anatomy before stylizing?
I am personally not a fan of perfect realism. I enjoy stylizing. But I was able to become a LOT more comfortable with stylizing once I started learning realistic anatomy. I understand that the entire purpose of art is definitely not to just replicate real life, but knowing how to imitate real life first really helps with everything else. But who all should be learning realism? Everyone? What if the artist wants to do something completely different? I feel like there's a delicate balance between the worn old excuse, "It's just my style!" and the misconception that the only good artists are the ones who draw the most realistically. It seems there's some gray areas there that I don't really understand, so I'd appreciate hearing your insight on that subject as well.
Thanks for your time! These are some subjects that I feel strongly about but am not entirely sure how to express my opinions on.
"Hello, Maximo! I really enjoy the articles you write pertaining to artistic misconceptions, but I feel obligated to revisit your "no rules in art" thing on a few points."
-Hi! sure, let’s get to it!
When you talked about asking for advice as far as principles go rather than rules, you listed reasons why people enforce “art rules.” I think this part is a little confusing. It sounds as though you’re saying that people who critique or encourage certain art principles are backlashing, establishing superiority, etc.
-Unfortunately I am not a great writer so I understand I can be confusing my apologies.
Now, the way I interpreted this was that you’re saying, people try to apply certain principles to artists as hard, fast rules. For example, if an abstract artist drew a picture with exaggerated proportions, someone saying, “The anatomy is bad. Arms should be so-and-so length, and the mouth is too small,” etc… that would be a good principle, but being applied as a rule to something for which it’s not applicable. Is that what you were trying to say?
-Yes. basically people will take the rule without knowing the basic logic of their rule ( the principle ) and it’s used ineffectively and quite often used for abuse, and if they used it as a principle it could not be used as easily for abuse.
I’m sure you’re not saying that critique is wrong or bereft of certain guidelines, because you’re an intelligent artist who I’m certain knows the wonders of a good crit! But the wording of that area of your article is slightly confusing to me. It makes it sound like anyone who is trying to apply principles (whether erroneously or otherwise) to a picture is just bitter/jealous/backlashing/etc., so if you please, I’d love to hear a little more elaboration/clarification on the topic!
Oh I think critique is VERY VERY valuable. But I feel like you should take a look at how it’s said and the motive behind it. I try to find friends I can trust who will give me meaty critiques because they want to help me, these people are actually rare and very valuable. The chances I can get a helpful critique from just anyone are much lower…if I had to toss out a number only maybe 3-4% of what people say I find helpful, and I try to become friends with people who give me helpful input. People who are helpful understand the principles that will help me, the people who are not just parrot rules they’ve heard with little to know actual understanding of why that rule isn’t actually applicable.
Also, the thing about drawing from real life versus not drawing just cartoons… That seems like a complicated and tricky area to me. Would you agree that it depends largely on the KIND of “cartoons” (or whatever other style) a given artist is using? As someone who grew up learning from The Powerpuff Girls and what-have-you, I do agree that it’s a little unfair to expect everyone to learn realism off the bat. I also think it’s unfair that artists who have mastered realism are often the only ones given any respect.
But when do you think it’s appropriate to suggest for someone to learn from real life? Let’s say, for example, there’s an artist who draws from the influence of his favorite comic artist, whoever that might be or entail. He draws thin limbs and strange muscles, and he has potential, but his anatomy needs some help. In that situation, would it be wrong to suggest for him to study realistic anatomy before stylizing?
-I think it’s appropriate to learn from life when an artist realizes that this would benefit him in the goals he or she is trying to accomplish. Would I bother to tell someone who draws funny gag strips to learn anatomy if their comic is funny? Certainly not, I’d rather them focus on their humor, pacing, etc. Style is the motivation of your work, no matter what you will have “style” to your work. People saying it’s possible to draw without “style” don’t really know what that word means, and it becomes a dirty word and loses it’s proper meaning. If someone trying to draw people with anatomy, I would suggest many principles that might help them like gesturing people in public and why that will help them instead of “Don’t stylize learn anatomy” as that horrible bit of advice is riddled with flaws. I would try to not imply what the artist can or cannot do and instead try to point out tools/principles that they could use to meet their goals.
I am personally not a fan of perfect realism. I enjoy stylizing. But I was able to become a LOT more comfortable with stylizing once I started learning realistic anatomy. I understand that the entire purpose of art is definitely not to just replicate real life, but knowing how to imitate real life first really helps with everything else. But who all should be learning realism? Everyone? What if the artist wants to do something completely different?
-I’m not sure anything is “perfect realism”…I mean I’m not a fan of portraiture, those seem more studies than they are actual artwork. Who should be learning to draw from life? Anyone who finds it useful to their goals, which is a good majority of artists, but it it NOT all artists. I’m not sure anything is “completely different”…Everything is just a mix of our previous experiences, a “original” artist is a better remixer / idea stealer.
I feel like there’s a delicate balance between the worn old excuse, “It’s just my style!” and the misconception that the only good artists are the ones who draw the most realistically. It seems there’s some gray areas there that I don’t really understand, so I’d appreciate hearing your insight on that subject as well.
-Our brains train us to categorize everything, to label things good and bad, to speed up our lives and make us more efficient. That’s how we work, but the more we question ourselves and our own logic we realize that it’s not reality, nothing is absolute. There are no rules to art, and yet people both ignore and abuse that concept, the extreme version of that is the person who thinks “there are no rules” means “there is nothing to learn because if there are no rules I don’t HAVE to do anything” These people are self destructive and I don’t see how going from that extreme to “There are rules you HAVE to follow them until society deems you worthy enough to break them” is any better, especially the motivations behind the latter are usually the most self serving, yet easily hidden.
Thanks for your time! These are some subjects that I feel strongly about but am not entirely sure how to express my opinions on.
-Although I am not quite proficient in expressing my own ideas, I keep trying and with practice comes improvement :) Goodluck!
Stone: “Uh… I get what you’re saying but you said it wrong. There are rules in art, but the point is to use them as guidelines, not to enforce them rigidly. True mastery is to take those rules and bend or break them to effect; AFTER you learn them. What you’re implying is that artists can wallow in their own ignorance and you’re giving them a blank check to basically tell anyone with true knowledge to fuck off if they don’t like their opinions. The standard of art in America is already abysmal. By taking up this banner of blatant naiveté and with your massive following that, by and large seem to celebrate naiveté, you are creating a movement based on willful stupidity.”
"Uh… I get what you’re saying but you said it wrong. There are rules in art, but the point is to use them as guidelines, not to enforce them rigidly."
-Actually what you’re saying is said wrong, There are no rules, only principles to success depending on what you are trying to do, which means they can never be taken rigidly, they can only be used or not used.
"True mastery is to take those rules and bend or break them to effect; AFTER you learn them. What you’re implying is that artists can wallow in their own ignorance and you’re giving them a blank check to basically tell anyone with true knowledge to fuck off if they don’t like their opinions."
-Principles give you the tools to break rules, so why teach rules when you can explain the basic logic of the principle? Or is that too hard for people who want to “teach others”?
"What you’re implying is that artists can wallow in their own ignorance and you’re giving them a blank check to basically tell anyone with true knowledge to fuck off if they don’t like their opinions."
-I’m not implying that, but yes people can do that. That’s not what I’m recommending, what I’m recommending is people take a positive approach and stop taking smug comfort in misinformation they don’t understand. LEARN THE PRINCIPLE NOT THE RULE.
"The standard of art in America is already abysmal."
-Really? What the fuck do you expect dude??
"By taking up this banner of blatant naiveté and with your massive following that, by and large seem to celebrate naiveté, you are creating a movement based on willful stupidity.""
-There’s already willful stupidity, it doesn’t need my help. But I find willful stupidity far far less egregious than people who expect others to follow their preconceived rules and use their misconceptions to ride a high horse.
-There are no rules in art, yes ignorant people will hide behind this fact to explain why they won’t learn or try, but it doesn’t mean it’s not true. There are principles of art, the basic logic we should be teaching instead of rules, and a principle can’t be abused in the same manner as a “rule” which ALWAYS breaks. Basically we should teach BASIC LOGIC, not RULES.
The most annoying thing about instructors insisting that you stop drawing "anime" or whatever happens to be the hot art to hate, is that if you try to defend your art you'll instantly be labeled as the fledgling artist afraid to leave their nest and explore new things. Even a sound argument will just sound like an excuse in their unduly-jaded eyes.
In the end this may not be all that bad of a thing, since it never hurts to leave your comfort zone and experiment. You can always draw what you like in your free time, and in a way it'll even prepare you for drawing stuff you may not like to draw in the working world. But the reasons instructors are against you drawing what you like is too often simply because they don't like it.
I do feel bad for the very impressionable, fresh artists that are convinced by their instructors to never draw that way again. But at the same time, I guess if they're that impressionable when it comes to art, they probably wouldn't have stuck with what they were drawing for long either way.
It would be nice if instructors didn't try to make general rules for all of us to follow, even if it may be unpractical. What growing artists need is direct advice to make their art accomplish what they want. Everyone misses something different in their art and a vague principle or rule to follow will only help so much.
Maximo, I just read your post about the "no rules in art" and I have to say that it tingled all the way to my fingertips when I read that. Not just because I like drawing what I want, messing up anatomy and perspective because I enjoy it but mostly because it was nice and inspiring as hell to see someone stand their ground on this topic.
It’s actually pretty tough to fight on this, because people have all these weird misconceptions that everyone should grow in art the same exact manner, they all want to do the same kind of art, and they all want to be the best professional artists ever.
That’s a lot of misconceptions to clear up before getting them to understand what I’m saying.
I liked your writing about the rules of art. Sometimes I will ironically tell somebody that they are "breaking the rules of art" when they do something especially unique or impressive to me but it is always in jest.
I think that your definition of art may be a little bit lacking. My definition of art has always been "directing somebody's attention for experience's sake." I feel your definition, which makes art out to be a highly personal endeavor, may exclude art that is commissioned, politically motivated or simply uninspired. What are your thoughts on this?
I really do feel that art at it’s core is a highly personal endeavor, music, art, poetry, writing can all be art in that regard. When art is commissioned or politically motivated or just practice that is the craft side of art, practicing art craft helps us express ourselves more efficiently when we do art.
Basically both are art, but the less of yourself you put into it the more “Art craft” it is, and the less “Art” it becomes, it’s a huge gray area.
And if anyone tells you otherwise, they are completely missing the point of art:
“To express one’s self”
But people do this all the time, they hear the first nugget of knowledge and try to stretch it a mile. Today someone was telling young artists NOT to learn from my friend’s work, which was fucking insulting to me because I’ve learned from my friend’s work. The problem is they think they know “rules of art”
For Instance someone told them they needed to “study anatomy and not draw using cartoons / anime” Then they shout everyone down to do the same, COMPLETELY missing the point. They seem to think the main purpose in art is to replicate life, when that’s only 1/3rd of the possibilities, the other 1/3 parts are math(shapes design layout) and language( simplifying, symbolism) , and they are just as important as replicating life even though most people are simply impressed by the first. Everyone seems to think anatomy is the golden ticket in art, if you master this one area then you’ll be a “good” artist. What about people who master storytelling, color, motion, or graphic design? Are they they not rewarded for their efforts?
1. A fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning
1 : a prescribed guide for conduct or action
(edit)I don’t think people quite get what I’m saying, I’m not saying art is structureless, I mean it’s VERY VERY important how you deliver information. Case and point:
Rule: In comics moving the camera 180 degrees is awkward, don’t do it!
Principle: The reader can be prepped for Subjective view using cues to avoid confusion.
If I follow the rule, I just never turn the camera 180 degrees, I know I shouldn’t do it, I’m told what not to do I just don’t know why. With the principle I am told what is possible and given more comprehensive logic as to accomplish my goals, in fact using the principle it’s entirely possible to flip the camera 180 degrees without confusion if I properly prep the viewer.
A rule tells you what you should do, a principle is simply a fundamental truth. Instead of preaching at other artists, just stick by your core beliefs and build on that, if someone asks for advice point out principles “hey if you want to do this, _____ principle will work” Instead of “You are doing that wrong ______ rule says you can’t do that”
There are a few reasons why people enforce their “art rules” on others.
1. Want to help others improve (highly unlikely, although the best cover up option)
2. Want to backlash against what’s popular
3. Want to establish superiority
4. Want to draw a line of what’s “good/bad” art. ( But good and bad is subjective, people are all impressed by different things, and if we were impressed by the same, it would be BORING )
5. Want to enforce their beliefs or sufferings on others
You can usually tell what their real motivation is by what kind of person they are, there are certain tells of motivation like, the more bitter and alone the less likely they are out to “help you” in extremely rare cases it might be tough love, even art teachers are no exception (sadly).
PS. Side note, if you went to art school, the school you went to, the degree you have only impress people who don’t know any better. So chill out with the bragging about it, you look like a tool.
So Tokyopop is shutting its doors, and I wanted to take the time to express my thoughts and feelings on the matter. I first took notice of Tokyopop when they started doing Rising Stars of Manga books, whenever I was in the book store I’d pick it up and flip through it, and every time it got me fired up to compete with these other artists, some I actually knew. At the time I didn’t even want to do comics for a living, I wanted to do concept art for videogames. But I sat down and punched out a chapter that won for RSOM4 despite my obvious lack of storytelling and unrefined art (it’s still getting polished up even now ). I was cautiously excited, my time with IC entertainment ( Iron Cat ) had taught me how quickly things could go to hell despite promising beginnings, so I guess they were surprised at my reaction on the phone of “Oh yeah? I won? Cool.” as they made note of it in the RSOM4 book.
At this point I was hesitant to give them any rights to my characters, as I had read the contract and noticed “hey if they end my series there’s nothing I can do, I won’t get to finish my story…” So when I got to work on Andy Helm’s story “Bombos VS. Everything” I snatched up the opportunity, I thought “Perfect, even if this doesn’t pan out I can get experience and pay”. Andy had left the project after doing about 70% of the roughs for the book, and it was essentially a first draft write. Although I did make some edits and changes, I had no writing chops at the time so I never touched the story, which is a shame because that’s what that books gets the most flack for, despite my weakly formed, wobbly, experimental art. People still think I wrote that book, because Tokyopop didn’t put Andy’s name on the cover ( which he preferred to the best of my knowledge. ). But despite how unready I was, I was currently in Joe Kubert School and after RSOM4’s notes about my confusing storytelling I started reading “Scott McCloud’s Making Comics” and I learned a lot from my editor ( also by arguing with him on certain points. ). The whole experience changed my world view on comics, and I thought “YES! I can do anything with this medium, comics can be anything I want! This is a worthy aspiration! I will do this with my life!”
So I got my 12K for finishing up my first graphic novel, I made a friendship with my editor Alexis ( even though we butt heads, but it’s pretty cool having an editor you can argue with and still be friends and work together. ) I started seeing my work in stores, and I started signing books at events. All very cool, except…When I went by the bookstores I wondered a lot of things. I wondered “hey I mostly see shojo-ish titles in this isle, if people aren’t advertised properly how will shonen fans even know to look here? I started asking questions about books that didn’t quite fit in with the Fruits Basket, Love Hina, Dramacon, etc. and It turns out many books that I thought were quite good and better than my current work in Bombos ( King City, MBQ, The Abandoned, East Coast Rising to name a few ) were not being continued. Then it pretty much dawned on me that Bombos wasn’t going to be returning as it was a book that broke the mold of Tokyopop’s current stock and trend. I noticed only the books that were already selling well to their audience got promoted such as Dramacon, I luv Halloween and Bizenghast. Which seemed backwards to me, the books that needed the promotion the most were the books their current audience had no interest in. So even though I was touring cons and signing books, I already knew that wasn’t going to last, I knew I had to shoot for more freelancer work instead of pursuing original content, besides at the time I had next to nothing for writing skills at the time.
During this time I was meeting all of the tokyopop staff the ones I knew the best were Alexis, Rob, Luis, Elaine, Mandy, Lillian, Hope, and a few others (later on I met Brandon and Tim they were cool too ). Even though I felt awkward at first hanging out with a publisher at conventions they made me feel welcomed and at ease. I started looking forward to hanging out with them. Then there was Stu, my first impression of him was “huh? this old guy with the odd hair is running the company?” After that I had did some research on Stu apparently Mixx had some big drama about co-founders being left in the dust, and then there was “Levy composed lyrics and songs for Tokyopop projects, including the theme songs for Initial D, Reign the Conqueror, Rave Master, GTO, and the soundtrack for Tokyopop’s Princess Ai franchise.” More like he was using his projects to boost a career as a DJ. These combined made me feel very uneasy about the man running the show and all these decisions started piling up, Placing a gruesome horror series like “Parasyte” next to a magical shojo series “Sailormoon” in Mixx, Using the word “Manga” as a marketing tool and running it into the ground, over producing books and low quality checks, books unfinished, scatter brained pet projects left unfinished, no attention to who his audience actually was, what they expected, …It dawned on me the guy was just chucking stuff at the wall and waited a half a second to see if it’d stick or not. There was also a heinous assumption that all manga fans were the same, and liked the same things, and if something didn’t sell it must not be “good”.
Now despite my mistrust for the head of the company, I saw people pointing out problems WAY less problematic than what I just mentioned. The talking heads of comics were complaining about the contracts. The contracts were basically fair in my opinion, there were a lot of publishers you could work with that would let you keep your rights, such as Oni and Image, they also wouldn’t pay you very much at all, or at least until the printing of the book was covered and made enough royalties to pay you way after the fact. Tokyopop was offering a different kind of trade, big money upfront ( about 15K a book ) in exchange for your IP, which I thought was fair but it wasn’t for me so I never pursued it. What made me ache was all the people who signed the contract had their series canceled, and didn’t see any of this coming. So the word was spread that “Tokyopop contracts were unfair” and I went out of my way to stick up for them in this regard. I guess it was just more fashionable to side with artists then pick at more pressing issues lurking behind the scenes like the overproduction, weak advertising for books that needed it, and cancellation of stories without resolutions.
While I was working on Ghostbusters the Tokyopop layoffs occurred, and all but a few people were left of the staff I was so fond of. At first I was simply upset because I knew all these people worked hard and I adored them. Then I heard that Stu was making a movie company and split his assets and I was pissed. Tokyopop lost money on overproduced returned books and Borders closing which is understandable, but he took the opportunity to bail on his comic company to fund his movie company. Even though my editor buddy Alexis was unfired he wisely got out of there ASAP and I started looking at different avenues/publishers for work. From there it was all down hill, a Otaku reality series, Losing many of their best IPs, leaving a bare bones staff at the publishing side of Tokyopop while he pursued movies. Stu basically used and abused comics/manga to become a DJ, and then when I suppose his aspirations went a little higher than “DJ” he murdered what was left of his company so he could be in movies.
Tokyopop was essentially a great comic company with a brilliant staff who loved comics run by a guy who didn’t understand or care for comics. I met my best friend and rival there, I got my first editor who actually cared to see me succeed, I made a lot of friends, publishing contacts, gained money and experience, I have love for Tokyopop and none for Stu Levy who squandered a good thing.
Two friends fighting, the stubborn one who always stands firm because they don’t want to lose isn’t the strong one, the one who is willing to lose the argument to save the friendship is the stronger one, because they are lowering their stature for something they think is more valuable.
On the flip side of the same situation.
Two friends fighting, one of them always folds because they are afraid of losing a friend, or afraid of how uncomfortable it would be to fight back. When they take a stand for themselves and face those fears to let their friend know they will stand up for themselves or that this issue is worth fighting their friend for, that is also strong.
The adversary could be humans, it could be nature, it could be your inner self, it could be anything…As humans it is in our nature to follow the path of least resistance, no one likes to break their comfort zone even if that comfort zone is hurting them but the person willing to step outside what they’ve become accustomed to, to fight for what’s more important is strong.
"Why do people care? It's just a drawing, it's just a comic."
When you’re trying to make a point about art or comics or whatever, and you say,
"Why do people care? It’s just a drawing, it’s just a comic." You de-value the thing you’re usually sticking up for. You’re essentially saying "No one should have an opinion, or have emotions evoked on art or comics because it doesn’t matter, it is lower than shit."
On top of that, just because you think it doesn’t matter doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter to other people. Other people might actually foresee consequences you cannot.