Many years ago, I saw an interview with Jimmy Page. I can't remember where I saw it, what he was wearing, who interviewed him, but I do remember something he said, something interesting, enough for me to move it into the "keep this" bucket in my head. I can't remember it word for word, but it went something like this: when the interviewer mentioned years of playing guitar and writing music for Led Zeppelin and musical experiences into the early sixties, Page responded with something like, "I still can't play everything I can imagine, I still can't play everything I hear in my head."
I thought it was interesting enough to remember, and I still think so. Of course, I could be delusional, and making up stuff just to keep my blog going, but stick with me another paragraph or three.
I bring this up because I have had two people ask me if I've ever considered writing and illustrating a graphic novel. You have the storytelling, you can draw, why not do both? Sounds reasonable, I told myself, and so about a week ago I started asking around, what should I be looking at if I want to create a graphic novel? I know nothing about them. I see the section growing at B&N, but I've never read them. Which ones should I be reading?
If you're interested, take a look at one of the most stunning that I came across, The Blade of the Immortal series by Hiroaki Samura. (More on Hiroaki Samura). Keep in mind my perspective of near total inexperience, but I was really taken with Samura's elegant and distinctive use of the pen. There's something clean and unique about his imagery, no big manga eyes, no heavily inked panels, no mutants, no freakishly oversized muscles. Beautiful work.
Art is a common topic with a good friend of mine, Jeff Hayes, an amazing artist who works mostly in oils with a wide range of subjects, landscapes, figures, still life. And Jeff works exclusively from live models or scenes. He requires the immediacy, the real, the direct experience for his work.
Now, I'm a painting hack and a dabbler compared to Jeff. I've never used live models for any drawing or painting I've done. For landscapes, I just think them up and draw. For people as subjects, I look at books, magazines, or real people from memory. And, importantly for this post, nothing I draw or paint comes out the way I really intended. Nothing. This, of course, makes illustrating a story very difficult, if not impossible. I'll stick with pulling everything from memory, and continue sketching and painting when the mood strikes me.
This is pretty much the way it works for fiction writing as well. I think it has to, right? We're talking fiction writing, not journalism. It all comes out of my head, not directly from reality. It's an amalgamation of experiences, interesting twists on real events, people, places, but ultimately, it's all in memory, the way I remembered something, the way I imagine it, fiddle with it, combine it, remake it. Those are the things that go into my writing. Like most writers (and busybodies), I also people watch and listen, and then write down notes in my journal. I may overhear an argument in a grocery store, and someone will say something worth repeating. Most of the time, it's me daydreaming, building a story idea or envisioning a character's look or behavior.
So, Jimmy Page got me thinking about the gap between what we artists imagine in our heads and what goes down on paper, canvas, or whatever you're working on. For me, there's a much larger separation between imagination and actual for drawing. For writing, I get much closer to the story I imagined.
And dammit, I'll admit it, that Plato was on to something in Republic 10. He wasn't right, but that doesn't mean he wasn't deep in the ideas (lowercase i) with which he was working and trying to build into a cohesive whole. Plato, in essence, said that artists are working two removes away from reality. For a bunch of wacky reasons that we don't need to get into here, Plato thought that there's a world that's really real (world of Forms), there's the world we see when we look around (world of particulars, a shadowy copy of the Forms) and then there's what those artists are creating (a distorted version of the particulars, a warped copy of a copy. ooh, gross).
I'm going to use something along the lines of Plato's range as my model for representing this.
Or, if we go back to the beginning, here's what I think Jimmy was saying:
Although, I don't know where "real" plays a part in music. I don't know if either of these make sense, but enough for now, leave some material for another post.