Is it possible for any art to present one personal
vision? Even if someone writes a short story,
prints up copies of it at Kinko's, and sells it
on the street, with no involvement from anyone else,
there is no guarantee that when it is read by someone
other than the author, that the authors original
vision will be seen. In fact, there is a strong
guarantee that the view of the reader will be very
different from that originally conceived when the
words were put to pen. The same goes for painting,
music, and any other form of artwork.
click to enlarge (74kb)
this is on the most basic level. Personal vision
cannot be communicated even when one person creates
something on their own. When other people enter
into the creative process, all of their original
personal visions for the project become increasingly
vague and undefinable. This is not to say that collaboration
is not a viable form of art, but the fact that personal
vision becomes co-opted is undeniable.
Perhaps the question that needs answering first
is, can someone truly create art on their own, without
any one else's involvement? Mediums such as film
are out, for obvious reasons. Music is pretty much
limited to street performers (and I feel bad writing
it off this way. Street performers do present a
personal vision, but that's a whole other column).
Painting and prose remain, but are still limited
for the reasons listed in the first paragraph. (Painting
perhaps achieves personal vision more often than
anything else, but a single static image in bound
to be misinterpreted by everyone except the painter..and
perhaps there in lies the beauty. Still, the topic
at hand is personal vision).
So, using the definition that personal vision can
be achieved in art that is created by one individual
and able to present a viewpoint to another individual,
is it realistic to expect personal vision from any
work of art?
Well, no, if you limit your definition of art to
the one's already discussed. Of course, if you consider
comics as an art form, then you have perhaps the
closest example to an art that can achieve this
First of all, we must establish that if this is
to be done in comic form, it cannot be accomplished
in the form most mainstream comics are assembeled
– a separate individual does every task, creating
a staff complete with a writer, a peniciller, an
inker, a letterer, an editor, and of course a publisher.
Of course, for personal vision to be achieved this
would be a comic written and illustrated by one
person, and published by that person as well. Believe
it or not, this type of comic does exist.
They are most commonly referred to as mini-comic's,
mainly due to the fact that most comics published
in this way are by people who only have enough money
to print a comic in black and white, and a great
deal smaller than a traditional comic, to save money.
Of course, many people choose this format because
they prefer the aesthetic, John Porcellino being
a prime example. And before I get thousand e-mails
from people calling me a moron, let me just acknowledge
that I know most (not all) mini-comics are shit.
Keep in mind, it's the potential of the form I'm
interested in. In fact, I'm not just interested
in it – I'm in love with it.
Comics are already the most intimate form of narration.
The artist makes a mark on a piece of paper, and
the reader sees this mark. The connection between
creator and reader is fascinating, since a personal
vision is being transferred from one person to another.
While some might say the same goes for prose or
painting, I disagree. First of all, comics combine
narration and pictures, thereby limiting misinterpretation.
Also, prose is taking an idea, and transferring
it into words, which is filtering it through a series
of symbols, immediately lessening the connection.
Painting also suffers, because without narration
and juxtaposition, painting is open to wide misinterpretation.
As I said earlier though, therein lies the charm.
But comics become even more intimate and personal
when they are self-published in mini-comic format.
Without a publisher, editor, or anyone else save
the cartoonist (writer/artist), we have a form that
can communicate an idea of personal vision like
no other. There is no middleman, except the man
or woman who sells you the piece of artwork, and
they of course play no process in the reading experience.
Perhaps the person at Kinko's is the middleman,
but that's nitpicking.
Unfortunately, mini-comics produce very few great
works. There are exceptions, but the best examples
of comic artwork (in America at least), are not
self-published. Besides R. Crumbs Zap, which was
self-published, the landmark work continues to be
brought to the public by the likes of Fantagraphics,
Drawn and Quarterly, and a host of younger publishers
such as Top Shelf and Highwater books.
But, an interesting development enters this debate
when you consider the scary state comics are in
at the moment. Sales are down, the distribution
system is fucked beyond belief, and many people
believe that comics will not exist in a matter of
years. At least, not in the traditional form of
comics shops, distributors and publishers. I disagree,
but I don't discount the possibility. If this does
happen, mini-comics will no doubt remain, since
an industry can be crushed, but personal vision
So, to summarize this long rambling, personal vision
is next to unachievable in any medium. Comics, in
their most basic form of mini-comics, come the closest,
but while personal vision is achieved through these
types of comics, one must question whether the personal
vision being offered is worth reading. Still, it
is a fascinating form, because, on a very idealized
level, it brings personal expression to the level
of the people at a small cost.
When we get down to the basics, art is the exchange
of ideas and personal expression. Despite their
flaws, mini-comics achieve this like no other form
of art, and they deserve a glance or two.
comics reach the same levels of expression as “high-art”,
or are they bound by the expectation of entertainment
value? Discuss Here
© 1999 by Austin English
English was born in San Francisco where he continues
to reside to this day. His interviews with alternative
cartoonists have appeared throughout the Internet,
most notably at www.indymagazine.com.
He also has a self-published mini-comic entitled
The Tenth Frame available for just $1.00. You can
contact him email@example.com,
or P.O. Box 460584 San Francisco, CA 94146-0584.