Tag: Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Posted October 29, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction / 0 Comments

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloudTitle: Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (Goodreads)
Author: Scott McCloud
Series: The Comic Books #1
Published: William Morrow, 1993
Pages: 215
Genres: Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction
My Copy: Paperback

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

I have been getting into comics lately and I am quickly discovering there is so much about this medium that I do not know. When trying to review a comic or graphic novel, I find it easy to talk about plot but talking about the art is difficult. I picked up Understanding Comics because there is so much to learn and I wanted a better grasp on the art form. And it is art, it might not be as highbrow as artists like Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet or my personal favourite Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, but it is still art. To exclude comics as an art form would be like removing Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollack or René Magritte from the art world because you ‘don’t get it’.

Now that I have had a little rant about art, let’s talk about comics and Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. This book is a graphical look into comics as an art form, exploring the history of comics and tries to explain the meaning behind the art. It starts off trying to define what a comic is, which I quickly realised was an impossible feat. McCloud ended saying “Comics are juxtaposed pictorial and other images in a deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer” but then went on to explain how problematic that definition can be.

A highlight for me was found in chapter two where Scott McCloud explored the vocabulary of comics. The chapter begins with explain René Magritte’s painting The Treachery of Images (1928-29), an artist I am a big fan of. I actually went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the hope to see The Treachery of Images, but it was currently on loan to the Art Institute of Chicago. What I liked about this chapter was how he took the meaning of this painting and expanded on it to help explain comics. He took something easy to explain and built upon that to the more complex ideas.

Reading Understanding Comics makes comics sound like highbrow pieces of art and maybe that is how we should view them. Instead of thinking about comics as a lowbrow medium, it is about time we experience the art and what it can tell us. In this book six major ideas around the art. Idea/purpose, form, idiom/style, structure, craft and surface; explaining how they can all work together to make great pieces.

There is a lot of information within Understanding Comics and I don’t think I have explored it all yet. It has equipped me with some new tools when reading and reviewing comics. The best thing about this book is the way Scott McCloud changes his art style and methods to explore the different ways you can execute the theories behind this book. I am glad he referenced all his work, especially when talking about other artists and how they write comics. The graphical representation of the art theory in the book helped me to understand comics a little better but there is just so much here that I will need to reread this a few times before it sinks in.


Spirituality and The Arts

Posted May 21, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Culture / 0 Comments

I just read an article from Time-Online called ‘The Spiritual History of English’, which talks about a book by Andrew Thornton-Norris of the same name. The book bases its arguments on the T.S Eliot’s premise that “culture of a people as an incarnation of its religion”. According to Thornton-Norris, literature is the result of liberalism in politics. He also claimed that previously “tradition prevented art or the individual – and relativism in belief” and as for modern art “Now almost every word that is written is a manifesto, a statement, a theology or anti-theology, rather than an unselfconscious work of art, a contribution to the tradition or communal enterprise, as it was in the Latin Classical tradition.”

I know spirituality has played a huge part in the Arts (eg. Caravaggio or any painter back then, John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy) in the past but does it play much of a part now?


Nec Spe, Nec Metu (Without Hope, Without Fear)

Posted February 22, 2010 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Art / 3 Comments

Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (1608)

A Religious art war was raging, between the Counter-Reformation and Protestants. Protestants believed that art was a distraction or an idol and should not be in the churches, one of the main defences for the Counter-Reformation was that not everyone can read and deserve to learn about religion too, thus the purpose of the art. The Counter-Reformation Church searched for authentic religious art with which to counter the threat of Protestantism, and for this task the artificial conventions of Mannerism, which had ruled art for almost a century, no longer seemed adequate, this was the beginning of the Baroque art movement. The Baroque style was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church which had decided that the arts should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s intensely emotional realism and dramatic use of lighting had a formative influence on the Baroque school of painting. Caravaggio grow up been told to be a painter you need to paint like the Mannerists (by teacher and mannerist Simone Peterzano), though for Caravaggio he couldn’t paint pictures of paradise as he had no knowledge of these things. Caravaggio painted what he knew to be real.

Calling of Saint Matthew (1600)

With paintings like Calling of Saint Matthew, you see nothing of Jesus but his arm calling out to Saint Matthew. “Jesus saw a man named Matthew at his seat in the custom house, and said to him, “Follow me”, and Matthew rose and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9). If you look at the painting you can see it’s a dark and gritty place which you would not see if this painting came from the Mannerist era.

Caravaggio lived by the motto “Nec Spe, Nec Metu” (Without Hope, Without Fear) he believed himself a sinner and it came through in his paintings. Probably the best painting to reflect that would be “David with the Head of Goliath”. In this painting Caravaggio is the head of Goliath; it is very rare for a self portrait to depict the painter as the villain. On the sword that David is holding is inscribed H-AS OS, in Latin: Humilitas occidit superbiam (“Humility kills pride”)

David with the Head of Goliath (1610)