Monday, April 28, 2003

Insights Borne from Saturday

Last Saturday, the gang found itself at Café All Day for our regular discourse on Whatever-We-Felt-Like-Talking-About. The topic was storycrafting, entertainment vs. craft, formal criticism, and other bits the average barkada wouldn’t find itself bothering with. I enjoy listening to Dean talk about these things as he manages to compartmentalize a personally mystifying art into digestible bite-sized portions, and in doing so allows me to develop, at least theoretically, what I once knew on an intuitive level. Writing is another skill I want to be good at.

Compartmentalizing Knowledge. About a couple of years ago, I spoke before students on writing for comics. It wasn’t about writing per se, knowing fully well that I’m not the best person to ask when it comes to the craft. My talk focused primarily on being able to write with the limitations and opportunities of the medium, which includes an awareness of comics’ unique elements. In retrospect, the ‘system’ I introduced to the students are akin to the principles of graphic design.

Most newbie comics creators are aware of them on a subconscious level, but these elements were made more clear when I offered knowledge in sections. When a student is consciously aware of the immaterial tools at his disposal, he can make concrete creative decisions and can actively chart his growth. With what little experience I’ve had in teaching art, I’ve discovered that ‘compartmentalizing’ an abstract was one of the more effective ways in imparting knowledge. This way, they learn the skill that supports the art.

Learning to Draw. The challenge was offered to the non-drawing types of the gang, to resuscitate and develop their skills in drawing. I stress the word resuscitate; everyone has had the opportunity to interpret life visually but never found the passion to explore it. (No matter how you look at it, a stick figure of a person drawn on paper is still a drawing.)

Learning how to draw is different from learning how to sing. Unlike singing, there is no genetic or physiological hindrance to drawing (blindness being the only exception, I believe). There are people who are naturally tone-deaf, to the dismay of even the most effective singing teachers, and though some may argue that they aren’t gifted with a beautiful singing voice, they can still learn how to sing well enough to impress friends during karaoke sessions.

The biggest challenge for anyone who’s considered learning how to draw is the same as with learning any art form: overcoming discouragement. We all start somewhere. Whenever someone tells me for the umpteenth time, “I can’t draw,” my internal bitchiness would retort, “Because you never wanted to, you fool!” And here’s where my personal mantra comes in. If you want it enough, you’ll find a way.

Mature Themes. Where do ideas for stories come from? While surfing the Internet, I came across an interview with a comics writer who was asked this question. He answered something like, if you’re hard-pressed for an idea, STOP. Get a life. Experience things. Hang out with friends. Go to new places. Read. The brain has a way of connecting new knowledge with previous ones. Before you know it, a new idea has slapped you in the face.

For those who regularly visit this blog – all six of you -- you ought to know by now that reading long stretches of fiction gets my impatience cogs turning. I enjoy reading mostly for research purposes.

Anyway, I challenged myself last night by reading a piece of university research on a taboo topic, the kind of topic devout Christians would never think about reading unless hard-pressed. I call this a challenge because, though I’m not an overtly religious person, the topic pokes at my fears of the unknown, an aspect of life of modern life I’d rather not face. If the topic were the subject of a comic book, I would be seriously bothered by the thought of it.

I held on tightly to my sanity while I was reading the piece. I struggled to keep my objectivity because, after all, this was the product of scholarly research. I’m certain that I would never create a story revolving around the topic, but at least I learned something new and faced my demons at the same time. It was an exhausting eye-opener but I managed to finish it, afterwhich I distracted myself by reading about sexuality in ancient Egypt. A story in Egyptian mythology about the god Horus and his uncle Set doing the nasty was particularly interesting.

Inspired by One Night In Purgatory?

Got a text from Gerry Alanguilan, saying that he was able to watch the 'One Night In Purgatory' movie, directed by one Chriselle Galeno. I had heard about this movie early last year, when Gerry first got wind of it and told me about it, though none of us knew then who was behind it. I even asked Noel to fish. The film, Gerry revealed, had the essence of 'One Night...' which leads me to wonder if my comic book was a mere inspiration for the movie or a loose adaptation. The whole thing might even be just a serendipitous occurence. Whatever the case, Gerry asked for a copy (bless him).

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