One of those quotes that stuck with me as I made my way through art school is a call for artists to “be of your own time.” (A quick search attributes this to Robert Henri) It’s something that I constantly try to hold myself to. Sure, I like a lot of older things more than what’s coming out now, especially in terms of comics. On the one hand I think this is good, using history as a big library to explore, favoring quality over immediacy. On the other hand, I’m wary of nostalgia in general, and even more so of losing touch with what is actually happening in the world right now. With comics, I am not satisfied that everything has been tried already, and am always on the look out for what the kids are doing.
That being said, here are 5 very exciting cartoonists that I can’t help but have my eye on as we step into 2010. Go to their sites and check out who they link to, because there is far more going on than just these few.
Not to play favorites, but this guy is my favorite. A French-Canadian genius, Vincent has the freshest approaches to comics I think I’ve seen, aside from Kevin Huizenga. But where Huizenga is more rooted in conventional cartooning iconography, Giard’s work is really expressive and abstracted, sometimes veering off into weird Bird-Land territory with his figures.
His blog is updated regularly and I can’t help but really be inspired by everything he posts. From what I can gather he is also pretty involved in the Montreal comics scene (everything is in French, so the only sense I can make from it is through wonky internet-translators). He also does these mind-blowing “3-D” animated drawings… go now!
Lala’s work is disturbing and creeps me out, but is too inventive and intriguing to ignore. Her drawings are stretched out and swelled like they’re in a lava lamp. Her comics are really interesting because they almost entirely toss away the convention of panel divisions and just let the figures flow and multiply all over the page in a hallucinogenic nightmare. You know, the good kind.
I also really appreciate how there is little division between her illustrations and her comics. I’ve seen a lot of interesting illustrators suddenly adopt a boring “comics” style when they do sequential work, presumably because they think that’s how comics are supposed to look. Personal tirades aside, you should go check it out!
Graham’s work is really really nice looking. He’s got this clean-line style that moves like smooth graffiti (an influence much more noticeable in his earlier work). I especially like his sense of color and the way he designs a page.
The main reason I think he is so worth following is his livejournal. Each post is a smorgasbord of obscure comics images, mostly manga, that are really valuable references. Honestly, the things he finds and puts up on there are mindblowing. Really worth checking it out.
Right now is a pretty good time to check in, because he’s spending some quality time over on the forums of Warren Ellis.
(Interesting fact — an old comic from Meathaus that I got a while ago before I really knew anything about the smaller indie houses has a little Brandon Graham story in it. It was cool to rediscover this the other day, since it has a lot of names that I have since gotten much more familiar with.)
Harvey James is another pretty artist (well, physically I think he looks kind of like my buddy Alex Martin‘s brother) but with more of a clear manga influence than Brandon Graham. What I particularly like about James’ work is that he can draw really pretty but then he can also make it psycho, with a full command of the spectrum in between. He’s also a really great designer with his work and man, not since Jaime Hernandez have I seen spot-blacks used as perfectly.
He also has a pretty lively journal that is worth a checking out. From what I can tell, he seems exceptionally nice and he encourages a lot of interaction with the lurkers. Last year he had a couple of really fun contests and other opportunities for people to submit their art.
(Interesting fact — you can find work by Harvey James, Brandon Graham AND Vincent Giard in Meathaus’ Go For The Gold 3. In general, this book seems like a good barometer for the state of the emerging art comics scene that I will be keeping my eyes on in 2010.)
Katie Skelly has this really simple flowing style that is really cute and appealing. She puts it to good use drawing 1960s stylized sci-fi nurses in a little series of mini-comics called Nurse Nurse (I love the covers, especially the color paper she chooses for them and how it works with the images). You can read some of it online thanks to Arthur Magazine. You can find some of her other work at her site, Calico Comics.
What really sold me was when she recently unveiled her newest project, “Bee Girl.” Take the name literally and throw in some cute drawings (fuzzy hands!) nicely colored, and man I am there. She’s updating it weekly over at her journal so be sure to read up.
So There You Go
A Canadian (Giard), two New York ladies, a Washingtonian (Graham, from the state, not the capitol) and a Briton (James), all making comics I’m excited about. I hope you can share in that excitement. [This was edited because I found out Brandon Graham was not from Canada]