Sunday, June 5, 2011

Autobiography Pt. 21

I've done hundreds of assignments in the Commercial Art field from Comics to storyboards to paperback covers. In every case I was hired to produce a portion of a larger creation. Even my paperback work was edited, art directed, and attached to somebody else’s book. As an inker my contributions were even less unique. I applied my best effort to each job, given time and cash considerations and am proud of almost all of it.
       Many artists whom I've known fail to have an understanding of how Commercial Art works. MY work above all seems to be their credo. I watched  Mike Baron tell Andy Helfer "Is this change really important, or are you just being an editor?"  How do you say eet?
"Monkey-wrench in the works."
Too big for his Mike Baron britches.
Okay, your are semi-famous, but that doesn’t give you the right. Look, we’re professionals here, not primdonnas
Look. I’m a camera. If you don’t want to see it reported later, don’t say it around me.             
Whether it's ego, or a misunderstanding of how it works (being paid for what is asked of you) it separates the amateurs from the professionals. When I accept a commercial assignment, I accept the idea that others will be working around me, and that my work must mesh with theirs and fit a standard. That my work must fit the demands of the job as a whole. In effect, I am part of the machine that makes the entertainment. To deny that another creator could do my job better would be egocentric. They might not be able to replicate my exact contribution, but they would be able to provide a similar service, for better or worse.
Or some state of Hell for Andy Helfer.
       When going into Commercial Art it is vital that this is understood. Otherwise, it leads to bruised egos and hard feelings, and may cost the artist any further work with that client. If I want to express myself, my vision only, I'll create a work for myself. That would be Fine Art.  It's as clear-cut as that. When you do a piece of a job, you are part of a unit, when you do it for yourself it’s Fine Art.
       Now the term "cog" has usually been used with the preface "mindless" but that doesn't really apply here. As a commercial artist I really am part of the machine, all of us working to a mutual goal. John Byrne takes joy in being part of the unit, a cog, and I understand where he is coming from, and agree with him. We work well with others, so to speak.
       Now, creators are sensitive creatures by nature, and the idea that they can be replaced at the twinkle of an eye sends them rushing into denial, or leaves them in a cold sweat. Many of the vets have faced replacement (myself included), but they were scarred by the experience. Loss of important (paying) free-lance work is traumatic, but the creators who understood the structure of migrant-work took it in stride. Some let it make them bitter, and many retreated from the possibility of another heartache by leaving the business and reverting to reader status, if that. The comics business puts you through the grinders on many levels, and without the proper attitudes about work, social skills, and a huge work ethic, the creator is bound to get chewed-up, yes trite but true, spit out, and sent back to California.
       Nobody teaches this, as far as I’ve seen.
 Commercial Art ethics undiscovered, and we are the poorer for it.
“Art Directors are whores!’ Mike Hinge.
       You can only get that from the working guys. Guys like Kirby, Adams, and Steranko.
       So, next time somebody hollers when you say the "C" word, it may be because they don't understand the superstructure of Commercial Art, which is a world away from Fine Fart.

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