Lights Out!

As I begin to write this week’s blog the East Coast is hunkering down in preparation for landfall of Hurricane Irene. Here in South Jersey all of the shore points have already been evacuated and Irene isn’t expected to hit for two more days! I live inland about forty minutes from the coast and I am getting nervous about the potential for the severe damage that can be caused by this historic storm. Today we received a rolling message from the electric company warning about the very real threat of drastic power outages and informing us that those outages could take days to correct.

Those of you that follow this blog know that Tuesday is the regular day for this to post and fortunately Bill Cucinotta will be finalizing the post from Philadelphia, which is also in the path of the storm but significantly inland. Thankfully the city is not nearly as susceptible to damage and outages caused by trees as we are buried here in the heavily wooded Pinelands, home of the fabled Jersey Devil.

I hope against odds that come Tuesday I will be able to enjoy reading this post and be able to visit all of my favorite places on the internet. More importantly I hope that everyone in the path of this storm fairs well and comes through this ordeal safely.

All of this talk about the lights going out is making me think about how dependant we have all become on our computers and other electronic conveniences for our information and amusement. I’ve started reminiscing about those simpler times when I looked forward to reading a stack of pulpy comics on a rainy day. I have to wonder how kids today will get by without power to supply their iPods, iPads, gameboys, cell phones, laptops and televisions.

Even the creative process grinds to a halt when the lights go out. More and more writers and artists are dependant on their computers as their primary tool with which to create. I know I’d much rather peck away on the keyboard, making corrections instantly as I clack along. The option of writing this blog with pen and paper is now just about as obsolete as writing it in hieroglyphics.

Regularly, I review old-school comic creating techniques, most recently looking at the basics of just drawing a line without the use of a computer program. Sure, artists are always dependant on tools to execute their ideas but in the past primary tools were simple and more dependant on the skillful hand of the creator than a complex program brought to life by the power grid.

Have we become so dependant on creating digitally that we are in danger of losing the freedom of our voice as creators when the lights go out? I think that Irene may teach us a brief yet tough lesson, especially if some of us are without power for several days. Besides the fact that milk will go bad in a warm fridge, some of us are about to find out that we need to maintain our ability to create with analog tools like paper, pencils, inkruling pens, brushes, nibs, and rulers.

The ability to create with our hands not cuffed by a computer will give us the opportunity for greater spontaneity, greater freedom and greater control of our own creative destiny. I am not insinuating that we should abandon the use of the computer for creating. Absolutely not! In many ways digital art has opened up an infinite number of doors for creative opportunity. I am suggesting that just as a little league ball player has the fundamentals pounded into his skill set to make him a better player, young artists should master the use of the rudimentary yet traditional tools of the medium to assist in making them better comics artists.

Someday, when and if the lights do go out, It will be the comics artist that has mastered the basic skills that have been used for decades that
will have the advantage and be able to create without the use of a power cord.

Making Comics Because I Want To

Gerry Giovinco


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5 Responses to “Lights Out!”

  1. True to form, The power is out here in Mays Landing, NJ. I just got word that we can expect our electric to be back about 11 pm on THURSDAY!! Thanks to great neighbors I am enjoying a trickle of power from a generator in the camper next door. We are also without our well water and the flood waters are rising in the middle of town as we anticipate the damn breaking at high tide. Thanks, Irene!

  2. Raine Szramski says:

    Yes yes yes yesyes. In a power blackout you should still have the ability to light a few candles and whip out the pencils, inks and paint and still be able to produce art unencumbered by a power grid, as Gerry says. Artists have been doing it for centuries. Why we shouldn’t abandon traditional media entirely for computers. (This also goes for reading a book in a blackout. You don’t have to recharge a book.)

    And I grew up in the Pine Barrens too.

  3. DAK says:

    I wrote an editorial in COMICS INTERVIEW once about how, during a severe storm that put the power out for what seemed like forever, on deadline, I dragged out an old manual typewriter I happened to have kept and voila! I was back in the writing business. Speaking of that mighty fine mag, everyone should order a copy of THE COMPLETE COMICS INTERVIEW from CO2/Lulu — the hardcover is best, because it lays open flat, and this is a big book, kinda like the bible…of comics. –DAK

  4. Joe Williams says:

    I think when the feces is hitting the fan during a hurricane or other major catastrophe, concerns about reading by candlelight or creating an encaustic painting of the Holy Family under the same conditions as 12th Century artist sort of fall by the wayside.

  5. Joe Williams says:

    …and the flint spear makers scoffed at the early forgers. We don’t need fire to make our tools!

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