Adrian Tomine talks shop on Reverse Direction

“Adrian Tomine: Some Extra Bits” / Reverse Direction / John Seven / April 19, 2013

My article on cartoonist Adrian Tomine runs in today’s Transcript – he will be in town next week to speak at the Williams College Museum of Art.

Not included in that article is a section of our conversation that talked about various issues specific to the changing field of comics, and I thought I’d put those up here for those interested.

Adrian spoke about his alienation in art school and then we chatted how that dynamic had changed. Now there are art schools with cartooning students and shows like MoCCCA Fest are filled with art students producing and selling elegant minis at their tables. He agreed:
“I guess like any sort of marginalized or underground art form that starts to get a wider acceptance, there’s a whole new range of artists who are coming into the field now and there are people who would never have done comics if they were born 10 years earlier, just because of … I don’t know, maybe because it wasn’t as accepted culturally, or there is now more of a sense that you could possibly make a living doing it. So it’s interesting and as the field diversifies, there’s good and bad.”

I asked Adrian whether what makes cartooning different from other illustration forms was the requirement of writing ability as well, and he talked about how narrative and the writing component may not turn out to be very important at all:

“I feel like the jury is still out on how important writing and content and story are, because there are a lot of really talented artists now who are mind blowing in their visual abilities, and completely absent in terms of writing and storytelling and content in general.
A lot of them are doing very well and enjoying great success. It might be that this field is mutating into a form — that’s not a criticism. You don’t walk into a fine art gallery in Soho and criticize any painting that doesn’t have content to it and not full of narrative details. Some things are just beautiful on a visual level and that might be a direction that cartooning is heading in. Literally, there is a whole group of artists who would say that is their expressed goal, to separate from the old fashioned ways of storytelling and dialogue.”

Finally, I asked him how he saw himself in regard to this movement, and he had this to say:

“I’m pretty old fashioned. I think that if I had started doing comics more recently then I would probably have a broader set of influences and a different kind of agenda, even though, I’m 38 now and still coming from a tradition that I see my influences as being people like the Hernandez Brothers and Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, all these guys who are incredibly talented visual artists and I think have inspired everyone my age and younger in some ways, but I’ve also been very inspired by their amazing storytelling abilities and their interest in creating characters and crafting great dialogue, things like that. I don’t see myself at some point abandoning that completely and doing an abstract, visual comic. And that might be to my detriment, we’ll see.”

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