Monday, September 7, 2009

In Seth's own words: What I don't do

Seth said, c.1998:
"I was terribly pleased to receive an e-mail from a fellow artist (an excellent one at that) about a year ago who asked me if I projected photographs and then traced them to make my art. 'Heavens No!' I exclaimed with a hint of glee. Langdon and I use virtually no references, and I would never use a projector. That would just be wrong. Well, not exactly no references. I have a stack of reference books for flowers and historical detailing and a few car magazines, but pictures are never drawn 'as is' from a photo, and by and large I use those books to spur my imagination rather than as a drawing crutch. I don't use references for figure work (besides the occasional contorted face in the mirror) because honestly it's easier for me to work from my head than from life (or a photo). Photos lie. A person looking at a photo believes that the image is correct because it's a photo, But for a twisted pose even tracing a photo exactly may not leave a convincing piece of line art. Choosing the pose is just as important as drawing it right. Likewise, my interiors are pieced together as I go along. My moral fiber works against me in regard to references. Since I was in high school I have been afraid to death of plagiarizing.

"I read once that if an artist copies a picture from a book he is plagiarizing that photographer. I became more and more conscious of this as I got older and it got to the point where I wouldn't even work from photos I had takcn myself, at least not without feeling guilty. Bizarre, isn't it? I think I have gotten over the more extreme elements of plagiarizing-phobia, but the spirit remains deeply embedded in my soul. But don't canonize me yet. The only things that come out of my pencil are things that have gone into my brain via one sense or another, and there are certain works of mine that might (on close examination) resemble certain styles and subject matter of other artists I adore (by accident or on purpose). I can't even be certain of all of them, but I look back and sometimes they become embarrassingly clear."

I am posting a couple of pictures that may illustrate both Seth's use of his own imagination, and his mastery of perspective, the kind of thing that may have given the unnamed artist the idea that he projected photos onto his pages and traced them. On top is page 31 from issue 2 of Happydale, and on the bottom is page 31 from Flash: Time Flies.
Over the years he kept a growing library of reference books, which he used--as he said--for flowers, cars, time periods, and so forth. But after Vertigo Pop Tokyo he pretty much stopped using references at all. He said that he really wanted to do it all from his imagination. Tomorrow I'll post a couple of pages from Fantastic Four that would have been done without references at all, from his own increasingly fertile brain.

1 comment:

j_ay said...

I am with Seth 100000000000000000%.

Tracing makes me sick.
And it’s a HUGE plague in comics right now.
The terms “reference” and “photo reference” are now totally being misused, constantly, as synonyms for TRACING.

The obviousness really comes through in the drawings where clearly the “artist” didn’t have a photo to “reference” and then they have to actually, you know, DRAW it.
The differences are startling.