Monday, August 01, 2005

The art of obsession

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was blogging about my need to draw and write and make things. I can’t say I’ve done much in the time since then. It’s not just the usual reason of desire turning into apathy or self doubt chipping away at enthusiasm. One of the key factors has been time and my job at the moment has eaten into a lot of my time, and to be honest it’s also left me feeling worn out and unable to concentrate. But I’d still like to be doing my own work and I think I’m about ready to try again. But here’s what I’ve been thinking about recently. What do I want to do? After reading an interview with Richard Sala recently and having a conversation with Danny about it what I’d really like to do before I start planning 5 new books, a series of diorama’s, models, puppets, comics and a range of clothes is try and figure out what kind of stories I want to tell.
It goes something like this.....
In this interview Sala is asked about why he essentially does the same thing all the time and he responds by explaining that he has no choice and why would he want it any other way. This is what Sala does, if you like it, fine, if you don’t, buy something else. He make the point that artists follow and are enslaved by their obsessions and when they deviate from them the final results are rarely as good (he uses Hitchcock as an example claiming, fairly accurately I’d say, that Hitch’s best films are the ones that feature his usual obsessions) Later in the interview he talks about a cartoonist having a go at doing the kind of work Sala does and producing something less than good. The point for Sala is that there are artists who don’t have obsessions, they like everything and try their hand at it all without every tackling these things with any real depth.
All this got me thinking. I’m that depthless guy. Sort of. I do have favourite kinds of things I keep coming back to. But the problem is that I tend to be easily distracted by other stuff, if it’s a brilliant piece of work I want to emulate it, if it’s just a new shiny novelty I want to emulate it too. Maybe I’ll try and work this new kink into my usual interests no matter how uncomfortable (Oh, I just read a really great slice of historical life dealing with really down to earth events, I must do that, but how can I introduce a zombie into and have it be a funny too!!??) or maybe I’ll forget about my usual interests for a while until I realise I may have liked this new thing but that doesn’t mean I actually have any facility with it.
In my conversation with Danny I deleted (our conversations are held in ‘cyberspace’ dont’cha know) an analogy I made that my interests are like my bookshelves. If I didn’t have regular ‘spring cleans’ and take my books to charity shops or give them to friends my shelves would look dreadful. There may have been a great range of titles but most of them would’ve been rubbish. Working in a bookshelf gives you an amazing amount of access to all sorts of stuff, damaged books are distributed among the staff, advance copies and the handy discount available to staff. The problem is that it’s incredibly easy to pick up any old tat, and I have. Things that really are crap, or things that looked interesting for all of five minutes have all spent time on the shelf before I sent them to a more deserving home. You see it’s one thing to have broad tastes, to enjoy looking at something you wouldn’t normally look at, but when it comes to doing your own thing you can’t afford those kind of distractions, they muddy the waters. Danny called it a wood for the trees kind of thing and as that was exactly the same as what I had been trying to say and a less rambling than what you’ve just read I saved him the trouble of reading it (except you probably just did read it didn’t you Danny? There is no escape!)
It’s funny that part of what I want to do is mix up my interests into something else, such as I wrote about in my post about Sala, or the way in which Daniel Clowes did in his fantastic Lloyd Lewelyn strips (amazing) and Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron and Charles Burns does (keep an eye out in the bookshops for Black Hole as Random House/Pantheon have nabbed another creator from Fantagraphics) in his work. But when it comes to adding extra stuff to the mixing pot of genres, images, things, trends etc the stew tastes like someone took a dump in it.
Expect a post about what I REALLY like soon.

1 comment:

Danny said...

Thing is, it's a good analogy... I remember when I was back at O*t*ak*rs just grabbing any old thing that took my fancy because it was there, but without a lot of focus or consistency, or due attention to sorting the wheat from the chaff.

I guess it's a question of trying to find a happy medium between staying true to yourself, and the things you genuinely find interesting, and being open to new things.

I would hate to be completely closed off to new ideas and influences, but there is the question of how you interpolate them into what you do, and to what degree they dilute whatever initial impetus you have for doing what you do.

And before that, there's thee messy process of realising what it is that you do...

Flipping heck... it's riddles with in riddles... wheels within wheels...