Sleep is setting in as I fumble together this post at the last possible minute. As you can tell from an obvious lack, it's been another week of distractions and amusements that left the blog on the back burner. So let's get small and talk about the encouraging outcomes of experimentation within limitations, because… zzz.
Drawing with pens is always limiting as there's little you can do to create gradients or draw over mistakes, as each line appears proud on the page in its stubborn existence. It's a great way to force the purpose from every mark; while pencil leaves me waving random lines over the page, ink makes me stop and think.
Furthermore, this week I got into the idea of making as few marks as I could to create some kind of meaning. It often works best with faces, as we're hard-wired to fill in the blanks when we recognise the signs of a possible face coming into view. Nobody mistakes a smiley face for anything other than a face, even if it's perhaps the simplest version of one. So how far can we go to express mood, or gender, or anything at all with a limited face.
I wouldn't call these doodles minimalist at all, they're just basic at best. The coolest thing I can say about these faces is that I like how you can pick out a few key elements of each, to discern some information about the person. Are they old or young? Male or female? Happy or sad? Trying to portray these subtle differences can be a lot of fun to try and mess up.
When I was in school I tried on a number of occasions to start drawing a comic strip, because I thought maybe I could do something like Apple Geeks, Penny Arcade, Mega Tokyo, or any number of other cool comics I read online. Fortunately it didn't take long to realise that those comics are good because they're made by talented people and I hadn't even begun to think about being talented at anything.
However, as I doodled characters and ideas for my own comic strip, I realised that there is a lot of skill involved with facial expressions on a simple comic character. Even some of the simplest art still requires a level of finesse and understanding over how to convey body language successfully.
These days there are countless amounts of comics online that feature varying levels of artistic proficiency (not to mention writing prowess), so I'm no longer intimidated by the thought of not being good enough to create something. Instead I would rather set myself the challenge of actually figuring out how to portray faces and emotional reactions in a way that normal humans can interpret.
There are still limitations of actually creating something as involved as a comic, so don't expect anything like that to happen. I just think the skill of simplifying expressions can be a useful one, as when we remove all the filler and detail, we're left with the essence of the thing we're distilling. That ubiquitous smiley face graphic shows how there's nothing more to a happy face than open eyes and a curved mouth. Change either of those elements slightly and you have a different expression entirely, like the controversial winky smile emoji that leads people to argue over whether it's a cheeky suggestion, or dismissive and rude. All that from the change of one eye from open to closed; it's genius.
Of course, I'll take pains to reiterate the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing, but I like to try things out regardless. As with the comic book ideas I doodled when I was in school, these ideas hold very little substance; they just exist for the sake of existence.
The last workers in my brain have already signed off for the night so I think this is where I leave you. I hope to have something with a little bit more meat to dig into in the near future.