Every artist is influenced by their favourite works of art and/or comics and most artists can usually list a few of their major influences fairly quickly. But, of course, it’s more than possible to forget things that have had an early impact on your work. The things that you read and loved decades ago which almost seem lost in the mists of time.
Although it probably won’t help you to improve your art, it can be absolutely fascinating when you stumble across a possible clue about your early development as an artist and it’s certainly worth doing just out of curiosity alone.
Think of it as performing an archaeological survey on yourself (and, yes, I was obsessed by archaeology for a while when I was a lot younger). The results might surprise you.
Since everyone has different influences and interests, I can’t really give you any specific advice about how to find your forgotten early influences, but I can tell you how I recently found one of mine….
For quite a while, I thought that I’d only really “got into comics” properly when I was about twenty or twenty-one.
Of course, I’d read “The Beano” when I was a kid (and it probably had a slight influence on my very early art style – in particular, how I used to draw eyes for a while) but I never really considered that to be a “proper” comic that tells a story in the way that the wonderful graphic novels and narrative webcomics I read when I was in my early twenties did.
I was certain that I only discovered “proper” comics when I was about twenty.
That was, until I ended up reading some articles about comics on Wikipedia a few weeks ago and ended up stumbling across a page about Hergé’s “Tintin” comics. Then I remembered – I used to be a massive fan of these comics when I was a kid – I used to watch the “Tintin” animated TV series and I loved to borrow “Tintin” comics from the library and they were something that my parents bought for me occasionally too.
So, searching through some of my old things, I finally uncovered about seven Tintin comics (plus another one that was in the original French – I’m not sure when I got that one). Some were “withdrawn” ex-library books and one or two were in fairly good condition. So, I decided to take another look at them.
And, wow, they’re a lot more interesting to me now that I’m an adult – and an artist too.
The simple art style that Hergé used is extremely striking and some parts of it (eg: some of the scenery) are vaguely similar to my own style. It might be that, like me, Hergé was partially influenced by 19th century Japanese artists like Hokusai (and one panel from “Cigars Of The Pharoah” looks very similar to Hokusai’s famous “Wave” print).
But – reading his biography on Wikipedia – this seems very unlikely. If anything, he was possibly more influenced by traditional Chinese art than 19th cenutry Japanese art. Not only that, Hergé’s “The Blue Lotus” comic is very pro-China and anti-Japan too, although this might be due to the fact it was written in the mid-1930s when Japan was trying to invade parts of China.
Yes, there are some problems with Hergé’s art and I saw at least a couple of panels in “Cigars of The Pharaoh” which probably would have been blatanty racist even back in 1955 when the comic was first published (although all of this probably went completely over my head when I read the comic as a kid in the 90s).
This is especially startling, given that he seemed to be able to draw most types of people fairly well, but he could only draw black people as racist caricatures for some weird reason.
But, apart from all of this, Hergé’s general art style is absolutely fascinating and it makes me wonder how much of an influence he has had on my personal development as an artist.
Although I only really got into making art seriously in 2010 and then again in 2012 (although I can’t remember a period of my life where I didn’t doodle or draw little cartoons), it’s more than possible that my early experiences of reading these comics subconsciously shaped what I considered to be a good art style.
Yes, my seven or eight year old self couldn’t have articulated the fact that Hergé ‘s simplistic, yet also very detailed, “art nouveau”-esque drawing style (with some influences from 19th century Chinese and/or Japanese art) looked really cool.
But that fact probably lingered in my memories somewhere and could very well have had an influence on my artistic taste and the direction that my art style eventually took.
Yes, this is all speculation and I’ll never really know for certain. Even so, it fascinated me and has helped me learn a little bit more about myself as an artist.
So, why not take a look into your own artistic past. You’ll never know what you might find there….
Sorry that this article was slightly rambling, but I hope it was interesting 🙂