In which our narrator enjoys a stain-filled breaking point

My interest in visual communication as a thing that people do for/to/with other people is, in the context of my life to date, a new one, one I did not see coming until maybe two years ago; partially schooled, partially felt, fundamentally stumbled into, it’s the sort of thing that, whatever genius or drudgery might actually going on behind my eyeballs, were I to open up my keyboard fingers and start blogging about it full-time, or even at a rate one might say begins to vaguely approach part-time, I suspect I’d probably at worst make a total ass out of myself and at best sound at least inoffensive even while feeling mostly like a total poser in the background the whole time. A little gained-relatively-late-in-life working knowledge of grid systems does not make for Steven Heller mark II, and I’m not entirely sure how well my 101 level art history papers from college would hold up in the cold light of shmermumbleteen years later. That sense of total-poser-feeling-ness would apply doubly to most any discussion of graphic novels, comics being something I did not grow up on, the way I suspect, rightly or wrongly, most adult-aged graphic novel/comic book people did. There was a stretch of years there in gradeschool during which I faithfully read the funny pages every morning–except of course for the boring ones for adults that used a lot more black ink and in which the people all looked like actual real grown-up human beings–and I had a couple Transformers comic books that never got me too far–as, if I remember correctly, I was gifted a set of issues one through three in a series of four, four being an issue I never found or, in those days before the Internet, had any clue how to find–but I was never sparked to make a hobby out of collecting comics or learning the back stories of comic figures the way one might collect, say, baseball cards with the hope of striking it rich by getting that mint-condition rookie card that would some day net one a million bucks. And while my interest in literature has both deepened and thinned over the last decade, and my interest in graphic design and art (because I am young enough and naive yet to suggest there’s no discernible difference between the two, even while I know well that saying such things in the wrong company would be much like tossing a lit grenade into a dynamite factory) and the creation (whether personally or by others) of both has grown steadily over the last few years, the graphic novel, the comic book, that creature that one could safely suggest might in some way be the absolute marriage of the two (or three) realms, has lagged somewhere back with my interests in breeding sea monkeys. If you put the things in front of me, sure, I’ll stir up the waters a bit, as I’ve done with a couple graphic novels along the way, here; Asterios Polyp for one, Black Hole for another–but I’m not exactly going out of my way to make friends at this party.

That said: holy shit, you guys, David Mack.

I discovered his work today via a post on Imprint (a designer community group blog I think is going to turn out to be worth following in the long run) about comic artists relating their work to graphic design (read as: their work is graphic design), which itself is an interesting post, but, whatever, enough about that for now, I’m over here being totally gobsmacked by Mack’s work, what I see of it on his website at least. (It’s only the stack of books on my coffee table that’s temporarily preventing me from creating a stack of books on my coffee table.) Stunning stuff, particularly the works which use some mix of watercolor-y wash work and collage-like elements. Stuff like that Death print I linked to up before (want! want!) and this and this and this and…you get the idea. Want.

I admit I was probably doomed to be a bit partial to this sort of thing; since being introduced to the actual practice of design via, of all things, watercolor paint, I’ve held a certain special yearning for the brilliant colors and translucent stains they make so good on, and my girlfriend’s interest in collage, along with a trip through found object art in a 3-d design course, have all rubbed off on me to good effect. I think. (If one considered “feelings of crippling guilt when disposing of good clean cardboard” to be a good effect.) And while I know there’s more to his work than these elements there’s enough there to draw me in and get me looking at what else is going on there: shifting styles, new approaches. I’m not even touching the idea of story telling yet: I guess, I don’t know, actually, but I guess there’s story telling happening here. I’m not even looking at the words on these pages yet, other than, as, yes, there are words, integrated into the spreads; they’re of the work, intrinsic to it, but I’m not actually looking at the story they tell yet, much the way I’ve managed to scarcely heed a single word of the lyrical content of a single song I’ve heard in the last twenty years though I wouldn’t give up my favorite vocalists for the world. So for all I know the stories totally suck, who knows, but I know as much that looking at these well-constructed pages, built up each in interesting, dynamic ways, makes me want to keep looking, longer than is perhaps necessary or healthy; and that tells me I’ve learned a thing or two along the way here about what design is and does.

All that said: I’m still feeling pretty poser-like, and I have to imagine Mack’s work isn’t the only work of it’s kind out there. If anybody would care to educate me on other designers-as-comic-artists/graphic-artsits-as-designed, please, the comments are open, and my eyes are yours to fill.

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