Monday, March 15, 2004

Matters of Style

An ad for a local bakeshop has been appearing in newspapers during the past weeks, featuring a hunky guy holding a hat, and people have been asking if I did the artwork for that one.

My answer is yes. Guilty as charged.

My art influences run the gamut, from my favorite Adam Hughes, to Garfield’s Jim Davis, to Akira’s Katsuhiro Otomo. Hughes’ figures prominently here, primarily for the way he articulates human anatomy. Davis is there for the cartoony expressions, and Otomo for his backgrounds and “cinematography.”

There are a host of others who’ve influenced me over the years: Jim Lee is there, and so’s Brian Bolland. Ryuichi Ikegama’s style first caught my attention through Sanctuary, and Masamune Shiro’s Appleseed served as my first manga inspiration way back in the early nineties.

So it becomes amusing to think how my style has been described as “Filipino,” since only one Pinoy comics artist comes to mind as an influence, and I can’t even remember his name. His work I’ve seen in the pages of Pinoy Klasiks around twenty years ago (!), when the impressionable kid that I was would eagerly anticipate the maids’ coming home with new issues.

Anyway, the bakeshop ad question gives me a strong sign that I may have stumbled into a style that’s my own, a style that people can equate to me. Finding the style wasn’t a wholly conscious effort, in much the same way that we don’t consciously develop our penmanship. The depth of a stroke, the curvature of a line, the manner of shading, the interpretation of anatomy – all these are functions of personality, unique from person to person. A person can copy all he wants when starting out, but change is inevitable. (Even the pros like Byrne, Silvestri, Yu, and even Liefeld have shown noticeable changes in their styles.)

So when people complain about how some comics artists insist on copying another’s style, I regard it as a part of a process. Bryan Hitch (one of my recent favorites) started as an Alan Davis clone, while Terry Dodson’s first works matched Hughes’. Not to mention the millions of Lee and Liefeld clones who’ve eventually broken out of that mold. Again, change is inevitable, because I don’t think any true artist would find the label “copycat” encouraging.

(My current challenge: Making sure that the hunky men I draw don’t all resemble Dodong.)

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