The artists who read this blog (and maybe even the writers, actors and musicians) will understand the statement Simple is Hard. This week I've drawn two cartoons (Santa above and Bengals Wild Card) with simple images that gave me fits.
Give me a hectic room filled with lots of action to draw any day. Busy images are very forgiving. But the pressure is on when the entire mood and nuance of a cartoon hinges on the exact angle, lighting and intonation of a simple image. Anyone who draws knows that even microscopically misplaced lines will cause the power of a simple image to vaporize.
I drew the Bengals booze bottle and car keys three or four times before I was reasonably satisfied that it was reading right. First came the temptation to draw the simple still life from a dramatic angle to lend it extra oomph. Those histrionics usually fail, as did my attempts. I had to keep going back to the thumbnail in my sketchbook to get a bede on the original concept as it continued to slip away from me visually.
Then the temptation was to letter the Jack Daniels label too clearly, which drew attention away from the point of the cartoon and planted the thought in the reader's mind, "Was Jack Daniels involved specifically in these mishaps?" when all it was meant to do was stand in as a symbol of alcohol and drunk driving. Even the car key, ultimately executed feebly, was a challenge.
Lynn Kahle at The Framery on Hyde Park Square here in Cincinnati, which handles my originals, tells me that people love the drawings I wrestle with. Invariably, on the back side of such drawings is an earlier aborted version. You'd probably find a few more in my trashcan. Some people ask her to frame the drawings so that the botched attempt on the back can be seen, too.
What do you suppose was the hardest part of the cartoon above? The fireplace. Go figure. It kept drawing attention away from the focal point (the cookies), so I had to simplify the brickwork and give a big halo to the table to keep the fireplace in the background where it belongs.
Cartooning lore passes down the story of a cartoonist with a minimalist style, whose editor became frustrated with his seemingly simple drawings.
"We pay you all this money and you hand me a drawing made up of six lines??" bellowed the editor.
The cartoonist replied, "If I could draw it in five you'd have to pay me more."