Art in Graphic Novels

An odd criticism I occasionally encounter regarding a manga volume is "the art is bad because it is incomplete--sketchy." This is in reference to art that is impressionistic or neo-expressionistic.

I have seen quite a lot of manga art that I didn't care for. But the reason had nothing to do with the style being bad. It had everything to do with personal taste.

That is, there are certain styles of art I don't care for--like cubism, for example--but that does not mean that cubism is an inherently bad style. It isn't. I can admire Guernica even if I have zero desire to hang it in my house.

When I read this type of criticism in reviews, I start thinking that Paglia has a point: not training students in art makes them witless.

Here's a run-down of styles/schools of art (barely scratching the surface): Impressionism, Fauvism, Pop Art, Pre-Raphaelites, Realism, Surrealism, Italian Renaissance, Northern Renaissance, folk, Primitivism, Gothic . . .

Graphic artists are either trained in all these styles or know about them, either by education or simply by mucking about (I don't know what it's called but . . . ). Good graphic artists remind me of the best essay writers I teach: they don't tell me, "This is how I write. You'll just have to accept it." They say, "Oh, okay, I'll give that technique a try and see what happens." Playing with words and organization--style--fascinates them.  They might decide that the technique doesn't work for them, but they aren't closed off to what it might do for them.

Yes, manga styles are more complex than this :)
Graphic artists develop their own styles as do writers but that development isn't the result of operating in a vacuum (I go into a country field, throw up the arms, and let the muse speak to me!). It is a result of being part of a community.* I can disagree with a writing style--such as stream-of-consciousness--and develop my own because I know what that style is.

One can only wish that readers had the same background and respect for art.

*Interestingly enough, the latest research on so-called genius/invention backs up the idea of inventor+community. Contrary to old-fashioned stereotypes, people like Einstein do not function sans colleagues. Madame Curie, for instance, was part of a much greater community of scientists (including her husband, of course). They wrote letters to each other, refined ideas, tried different approaches . . . 

Same thing re: Silicon Valley, where the participants not only got inspired through collaboration but blatantly stole from each other as well.

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