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Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Bit on Drawing and Cartooning

I have observed that drawing is one of the forms of art that the largest number of kids try their hands on. However, it's one of those, which suffers a horrendously large number of dropouts too. Among the grownups you will find almost every body saying 'Ya! used to draw in the childhood. But then ...'

On the contrary, you may find a plenty of people retaining, and often even developing, their interest afterwards in their adulthood in various kinds of performing arts: music and dramatics in particular.

Drawing is a private art. Stardom either doesn't come or comes very late. The process of drawing is a lonely toil and mostly very boring for the impatient.

But I feel what makes drawing a particularly difficult thing to master is the big gap between being skilled and being artistic. After working hard for years, the rewards from copying another work are limited. Creating original art is the real challenge. And is very very difficult! Having a skillful hand is of course the bare necessity. The second level, which borders at artistic is the ability to break down a given drawing into components and handle them dexterously.

But what qualify drawing as an art -- which essentially has to be a medium of expression of something original -- is the third level. It is the power of observation and the power of imagination.

When the subject of drawing, whether a painting, a sketch or a cartoon, start popping out of the real life surrounding, it's an entry to the wonderful world of art. The artist's interpretation of the real world translates the beauty already present in the world, into a form that is visible to even an eye which is not so astute as the artist's. That beauty could be present in the colour, tone, composition, shapes. Or the beauty could lie the subject being depicted and the style of depiction. It could be an emotion, an event, an idea, a story, a joke or satire. Or just in the abstract something which can exist only in the mind.

But even further, when the mind starts conjuring magical realities in spite of the real world, the artist has really arrived.

Drawing deals with the most predominant sensory capability: sight. Yet, there's so little formalisms available. It's said that 'sound' directly connects to the soul. Perhaps that's why music could be so well formalised. Just a thought, that was.

Cartooning is a difficult form of drawing. It has to tell a story, joke or pun through a picture. Its casual appearance makes it look easy to draw. I think we grow up thinking of cartoons as a bad form of painting or sketching. Moreover, most of us hate drawing human figures in our childhood, simply because they are harder to get right, and harder still to get impressive. This removes cartoons from our good books early on, since cartooning is not just all about drawing people, animals and all living creatures, but about distorting them beyond proportions. And through the distortions, the essential features of the subject aren't just to be preserved, but have to be accentuated. I think, this habit of cartoonists to show as if drawing living creatures, which already is a more difficult thing for beginners, is such an easy thing for them, intimidates many. What's funniest about a cartoon for an onlooker is the put off for the aspirant cartoonist.

I feel that the state of affairs in the field of cartooning in India is very pathetic. We have very few cartoonists to reckon with. R. K. Laxman, of course. But he has had his career. After the stroke he got a couple of years ago, he has put up a brave fight and has continued to draw. I can only feel my reverence for him growing with his passion for his trade. But unfortunately, the draughtsmanship in those cartoons has deteriorated, and quite expectedly so. One side of his body is now paralysed. His movements are severely restricted by the after-effects of stroke.
We have Ajit Ninan and Mario Miranda. We have SD Phadnis, but he's now quite old. I am sorry but that's it about the list of Indian cartoonists to reckon with! :( You can count them on your fingers!

1 comment:

Pritesh said...

Hi! Sujju,

A very crisp blog. And SO much has been said in such a small space. I think I am one of those who identify with this loss in drawing human faces due to the sheer complexity of human expressions. Of course, I'm trying my hand at it now, trying to brave the mental blocks I've held up for years.....

And I like that statement about Art being personal. It is indeed extremely difficult to come up with an idea, a thought, a concept.......and more difficult is putting it down in some form of Art........

generally, the hurdle in putting one's thought down is the LOSS IN TRANSLATION. I may have a brilliant idea but may not be able to paint it as well as I could! This probably takes a basic artistic talent and a lot of practice..........what can I say, I'm still a learner..........