Archive for the ‘Communications Lab’ Category
A lot of the topics that are covered in “Basic Sequence” strike me as very obvious but I can’t remember how many times I have had to do some form of story-boarding in order to explain an information graphic to somebody. The purpose of the reading was meant to aid future preparation for video shoots but I find that many of the ideas translate well to graphics. For the more elaborate graphics that I have done in the past (for interactives in particular) setting up a proper sequence is crucial to the success of the narrative. Beyond just a pleasing image, efficient use of key concepts like transitions, can really help the narrative along and keep the viewer more focused on the what is really important.
I have to admit I was a bit overly confident with my understanding of comics as I started reading this book. I grew up on comic books. At one time (for a long period of time) I seriously considered a career as a comic book illustrator. I drew all the time and everywhere. All of my math classes in school were “studio time.” So as I started in on this book I figured there was not too much new material that I needed to be aware of. Well, I was wrong … sort of. McCloud really does a good job intellectualizing comics. Intellectual in the sense that he uses a lot of historical references and does a fantastic job and categorizing and sequentially labeling our understanding of comics.
I say “sort of” because a lot of what he points out is (I think) intuitively understood by comic book readers everywhere. They (I say they because it has been a while since I have read one) may not consciously think about the empty space between frames (the gutter) that lets them conjure up their own sense of the action or how the panel-to-panel transitions are different (but so similar) from comic to comic. The role of the successful artist/writer is to seamlessly weave the reader through a story using an arsenal of tools. They may not know them by name or understand their history but they get it and they respond to it. Some comics evoke more of a response than other but that’s what’s great about comics … there is something for everyone.
Oddly enough, I may have not taken the path as a comic illustrator but I did end up in another career that was all about visual story telling. I worked as a graphics editor for nearly 10 years for newspapers and magazines. What is a graphics editor and what do they do? Essentially, it is visual journalism and the blaring difference is that my subject matter has been reality based. For the most part. When the book went into great detail about the sequencing of the art I immediately thought of a graphic that I did on a UPS training facility where they train all of their new employees. Talk about sequential! They even have a timed sequence on how to stop the delivery truck and exit it with a package in hand (see below). So maybe in the end I was able to live out some part of my fantasy of being a comic book illustrator.
What I found most interesting and thought provoking is the context of aura. Benjamin’s first mention of aura, “that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art,” initiates the idea to say that those artworks that are reproduced lack the uniqueness of something that is a one-off.
As a sculptor I agree 100 percent. Seeing Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence and the copy that sits outside the Palazzo Vecchio evoke very different feelings. The copy itself is a work of art but it lacks the “aura” that the original has. The deterioration of a work of arts aura is tangible and noticeable in many other works of art whether a painting or sculpture. But what about a viewers perceived or residual aura of a work of art? People still retain the memory of the aura and often times seek to retain or reference it. That’s why museums sell prints! John White Alexader’s “Repose” is one of my favorite paintings in the whole world and I myself own a print. I did not buy the print to recreate the aura of the original but wanted to have relive the experience of the painting. Now, if I had never seen the painting before and became the owner of the print I am sure it would not have the same presence as the original but having seen it and experienced it I can remember its aura. So the aura of the painting, in the context of having already seen it, remains.
In this age of mechanical reproduction, or production, that we live in we still do respond to an aura of reproduce objects. The iPhone (I hate to say) has a certain aura to it. Incredibly reproduced and consumed by the masses it still retains a certain aura that is very personal to the individual as well as to the masses. There is ownership of the phone, which makes the experience very personal, but collectively it posses an aura to the masses. In this case it is its mechanical reproduction that emanates its aura. That make sense?
Being an active participant in this world of mechanical reproduction I often seek to recapture the aura of a work of art (or object) that has “withered.” I guess this is why I like to create art. Take for example the mass production of music. I am a fan of jazz but I have always thought that when it is converted to digital the music loses some of its warmth (aura). In an attempt to regain this warmth (aura) I have a few albums that I copied to music reels to be played on my reel-to-reel. Digital to analog. A little obsessive, yes. But it brings me back to what I feel is the true essence of the music, as I remember it. I suppose I could find the records and play it on my turntable but the reel-to-reel is too much fun!