Saturday, March 2, 2013

Comics Inspired By Fine Arts

Two Angels (2013)
Soph Laugh

Even though I chose words instead of paint to fulfill the needs of my aesthetic palette, I have always been an artist at heart. Like numbers or letters, lines fill me with a sensation that my eyes eagerly follow. The longer I experience a masterpiece, the deeper I feel it. I may not express it with the remarkable command of depth, perspective, light and shadow Raphael imparted onto the world, but the warmth and serenity of his magnificent works are not entirely lost on me either. 

Surely no Pope would regard my Stick Figures in the way Pope Julius II regarded the grace and perfection Raphael's work portrayed, but my attempt at expressing grace represents, perhaps, another crossover between comics and the fine arts. Only this time, instead of comics becoming fine art, they are comics inspired by the finer arts. 

Two Angels (1483 – 1520)
One of the most prominent Italian Renaissance painters, created masterpieces that epitomized the High Renaissance ideals of harmony and beauty. From Urbino, Italy, Raphael was admitted to the workshop of the town’s leading painter at age 12 and quickly surpassed his instructor. Possessing a remarkable command of depth, perspective, light and shadow, Rafael imparted warmth and serenity to his magnificently lifelike figures. His most brilliant works include the stanzas inside the Vatican, and Madonnas which he portrayed with human emotions, as no artist had previously done. Pope Julius II had such high regard for the grace and perfection of Raphael’s work that at one point, he was inclined to make him Cardinal.

The First Kiss (2013)
Soph Laugh

The finer arts are often more defined by the feelings they evoke within us than they are by their lightness of form, though there is an undeniable difference between my comics and their original inspiration. 

The First Kiss
William Adolphe Bouguereau
Private Collection

The Annunciation (2013)
Soph Laugh

Even though it may not be self-evident, the feelings I felt when I drew these angels were, for me, every bit as powerful as the feelings I imagine Bouguereau and Leonardo da Vinci must have felt when they first sketched out what would later become their masterpieces. 

The Annunciation (1472 - 1475)
Leonardo da Vinci
Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Depicts the annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she will conceive Jesus Christ and is set in the enclosed garden of a Florentine villa. Leonardo originally copied the wings from those of a bird in flight, but they have since been lengthened by a later artist. The marble table in front of the Virgin probably quotes the tomb of Piero and Giovanni de' Medici in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, Florence that Verrocchio sculpted in this same period. Unlike the "Adoration of the Magi", which Leonardo da Vinci drew but probably never painted, "The Annunciation" is believe to have been created from start to finish by Leonardo da Vinci's own hand. 

My Stick Figure angels are but a vague rembrance of the softness I felt inside when I gazed into the eyes of the little girls that Bouguereau depicted praying - (below) 1878 and 1865, respectively.  

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1878)

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1865)

I recognize the differences in the form of expression and I know they are a world apart. In fact, the entire world of light and shadow exist between Bouguereau's beautiful depicted masterpieces of human emotion and the simple lines from which my comics emerge. 

Still, irrespective of the differences, I like to think that there is a common thread, an "alikeness" that seems to be changing the way society perceives and labels art, an alikeness that allows each of us to personally touch these masterpieces in a way that the museum experience - with all its crowds and restrictions - doesn't always allow for. 

Angel with Shield of St. James Scallops
St. Lawrence Church
Scallops are the symbol of St James. 
Reading Abbey was a pilgrimage place for Medieval Christians because it had the relic of St James's hand.

While my comics are by no means 'fine art' - at least not for me - they are a reflection of the finer feelings one has when exposed to things like 'truth' or 'beauty'. It is these feelings I revisit time and time again when I return to a museum to gaze into the eyes of a masterpiece. It is these feelings to which I ascribe my own version of truth and beauty. 

The Triumph of Galatea (1512)

Villa Farnesina (Rome, Italy)
Raphael completed this work for the Villa Farnesina, a suburban Renaissance villa in Rome in 1512. The Farnesina was built by one of the richest men of the early Renaissance, Agostini Chigi, who was a banker. This was the only painting of Greek mythology that Raphael painted, the story of the Nereid Galatea, who had fallen in love with a peasant shepherd, Acis. Galatea’s consort, after finding the two lovers in an embrace, killed Acis by throwing a giant pillar at him. 

When a truly skilled artisan expresses these powerfully subjective feelings, we are overcome by  feelings of pleasure and happiness. When a comic artist, like I believe myself to be, expresses these feelings, the comics we produce are more like simple reminders of the greatness ingenuity combined with adroit dexterity can produce. 

Despite the notable differences between comics and fine art, I can't help but think they are intricately linked to one another by our common heritage, by that which encourages us to seek out things like truth and beauty - even in comics. 

Norman Rockwell
Saturday Evening Post (cover) 
April 16, 1955
This painting was Rockwell's 286th out of 322 total paintings that were published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell's career with the Post spanned 47 years, from his first cover illustration, Boy With Baby Carriagein in 1916 to his last, Portrait of John F. Kennedy, in 1963. The original oil on canvas painting, 39.5 x 36.26 inches or 100.5 x 92 cm, is part of the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge, MA. It is part of the traveling exhibit American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell. Rockwell is also the first comic artist to which I was introduced as a child.


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