The State of MMWs: an update

There’s few musicians that have inspired me in my visual arts endeavors. For a long while I listened and consumed music as a very separate creative outlet than my visual art making until the last year when I started my Mark My Words series of comics that illustrated some songs that had stuck a visual sort of cord with me. They were the kinds of songs and lyrics that painted a clear narrative that I wanted to fill out with an added visual context of my art. It started as a creative exercise the same way that I did illustrations for each article I’d write on here. The exercise allowed me to springboard off of an already laid out narrative no matter how vague or specific. With that solid foundation I was able to focus more on visually conveying the narrative and experimenting with composition and color and panel layout. I could see what worked and what didn’t and adjust accordingly. I can’t say I’m proud of all the art that came of it especially considering it was really only for practicing my cartooning skill. Even though I should have probably focused on my fundamentals so I wouldn’t be so limited in my art making, I definitely don’t regret the time and energy I spent on those comics but lately, since meeting more creative folks in college I’ve been second guessing the work I created during that time.

Maybe I’m growing as an artist and no longer need to create on the backs of other people’s work. Or that I’ve learned enough from that exercise and I’m ready to move on and explore all facets of sequential arts and comics instead of just the visual aspect of it. I’m not sure.

Although, lately music like Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, and Ehiorobo’s rapping possess a visual flow unlike any of the indie-rock/pop music I’d engage with previously. For example:

I’m ’bout to tell the ‘fridgerator sup
Right beneath the Haagen-Daaz at brunch
Probably gotta pacify my tongue like
[sips]
That tastes pretty good

-Ehiorobo “Limeade”

It’s this seemingly endless string of concepts and ideas that don’t stay in a single place or idea making the organization of these lyrics into panels a trickier task. It’s a challenge I won’t back down from nonetheless but still, a challenge. It’s the kind of nonlinear narratives that have me questioning the nature of a conventional comic and the way we convey our information from left to right as a linear sequence of events. These raps, though, aren’t linear and are borderline not even narrative at times. It feels like the flow of events in these kinds of raps are more similar to an evolution. I can most describe this as the music video for The Music Scene by Blockhead.

The music video is an animation, the medium that has been best equipped to depict non-linear narratives or even non-narratives like in The Music Scene music video. But as a sequential arts nerd whose spends most of their free time studying this medium to figure out what works and what doesn’t I’m interested in experimenting with the medium like so many others have and studying what they’ve done to better my art making. One of the artists that I think exemplifies this is Tillie Walden. Her work is just phenomenal in how she tells stories in such a surreal way that, although it follows a somewhat linear narrative at times, she still experiments with comics and what the medium can be in a way that I really respect and admire.

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