I often joke that drawing comics pays only enough money to buy beer with. Unfortunately, it’s one of those true-life-story jokes—there really is very little money in writing or drawing independent comics like ‘Moth City’. However, they do sometimes lead to commercial work, which is another great reason for us creatives to keep pushing our own projects amongst the hassles and obligations of careers and life.
The two images above came about as a result of my experiments in comics and live in a similar art-zone: flat colours, inky blacks and a mix of loose but careful brushwork. This style is miles away from my painterly origins and quick digital character designs I did alongside many peers in this book.
It didn’t feel natural for a long time, this artistic reinvention, but I feel like I am slowly but surely edging towards my own style. Only about 10 years too late, eh Tim?
The idea of illustration ‘style’ is much prized in the land of commercial art, as opposed to the concept art used in movies and games. Obviously anybody who creates makes something uniquely them, but the entire purpose of concept art is to get across the ideas in the illustrator’s head—the actual design and all the thought behind it. Film Directors and Art Directors are trained to look past the use of pretty lighting and stylistic techniques to see the intent behind the work, to see the actual ideas.
Now that I find myself living more in the world of commercial illustration, I hear a lot more style-based language, ‘That’s too painterly. Too comics. Too hipster’.
It can, I’m sure you can tell, be a bit painful to hear, this illustrator-as-commodity approach. But working for commercial clients is a bit like trying to sell them a painting for their living room. Sure, they might like your Gauguinesque approach to colour and shape, but if it doesn’t fit their existing modernist furnishings (that is, their brand) then they won’t buy it.
In that world, picking a commercial illustrator is often less about the ideas of that artist and more about the style that they choose to work in. Which is possibly why comics and beer are such good bedfellows, and I’m lucky to take a strong interest in purchasing both.
I don’t have as much time to be making comics anymore, but making art for breweries at least pays me enough that I can buy both beer and comics again. I’ll call that a win.