Lovefool 10.29.12 | Love Art? Do Art.

When is a stick figure not just a stick figure? When it’s Randall Munroe’s smart, hilariously perceptive webcomic xkcd, which does so much with so little that it has Lovefool pondering the very nature of creating art.



Nerdlings! Hello! I made it back from St. Louis, safe and sound and after getting what may be the best night of sleep I’ve gotten in, like, a year. There were Adventures! And I got to hang out with a bunch of friends and my family and I even managed to have a very sedate breakfast with JG,FE, Mrs. JG,FE and Squishykins. But now I’m back and I missed you, dear nerdlings. Let us take a moment to thank JG,FE for his lovely guest turn, but I am firmly back behind the keys here at Lovefool, Inc. and I am a little cranky about something I’ve noticed lately and, hey, I want to talk about it. Good thing I’ve got this column, yeah?
So let’s talk about art. Specifically, let’s talk about xkcd, since it’s an excellent (and the most recent) example of what has gotten me so irked. xkcd is, of course, per its tag line “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language,” and you know what? It’s drawn in stick figures without faces. But it still manages to make some deeply profound observations and depict some of the most touching moments we encounter in life. It also makes fun of hipster dating and has lots of funny science jokes. There’s no storyline, it’s usually just a single strip type deal, but it’s sweet and hilarious and awesome. And the artist manages to convey all of those things with stick figures that don’t have faces, which I think makes him extraordinarily talented. And, yet, I see some of my friends who are, admittedly, very talented artists who can draw wonderful things, saying that xkcd “needs an artist.”
To do what? xkcd has posted some of the most swoonworthy strips I’ve seen out there in webcomic land and Randall Munroe, King of the Nerds, manages to get his point across eloquently, if simply. There’s never any question about what’s going on, never any doubt about the mood of a strip. But there is a persistent hum of this low-level, quiet criticism that xkcd needs something else, that it doesn’t quite make the grade.
But I have to confess as to what’s got a bee in my pretty floral bonnet. Last weekend, I ran into someone I haven’t seen since we worked on a film production when I was…18? So it’d been a while. And I had been smitten with him and he had been…not so much, which I naturally took him to task for out on the patio at Off Broadway after a show that one of his bands had apparently opened. At one point, he turns to his friend and says something about a throwaway line that I had put in the script as basically a favor to my partner in crime at the time and I let it go then but, when I got back to Omaha, it really bothered me, for some reason. So I sent him a brief Facebook message explaining that I didn’t know anything about the band and had put it in for my friend and it was kind of a wink-wink-nudge-nudge type of thing that maybe shouldn’t have stayed in but…
And he responded with “art is tricky,” leaving me huffing for a full day and a half. I hope he thought he was being funny. A few days later, I saw two different people in two different conversations talking about how they couldn’t get into xkcd because of the art, or lack thereof, and it got me thinking—how many things am I missing out on reading because whoever could be creating them is convinced that art is hard? Sure, I’m never going to draw super-elaborate gorgeous pieces like some of my friends can, but I happen to know that several of my funnier Post-It note doodles are up in various cubes at my workplace. Why? Because my terrible drawing of a vampire (no hair, in sharpie, just a smile with two fangs and dots for eyes) and a bad pun made someone laugh. And, yes, Randall Munroe can’t draw a dreamy look on someone’s face, but he doesn’t have to. He gets the point that there would be a dreamy look involved across rather nicely.
I hate discussing art as a concept because it invariably ends up with me sounding like a jerk but this is Lovefool and what I have to say is this: if you love something, do it. Yeah, you can’t play barre chords right now, but how many songs are just three chords and the truth? You can’t draw great noses yet, but you can draw a vaguely nose-shaped thing and get the point across. You’re not published, but you still have a story to tell. And, dammit, I want to read it. Make sure there are kissing bits, though. Not too explicit because, well, you know, but you’ve got a story to tell, a song to sing, a picture to draw. Stop thinking that you can’t and put a kissing bit in it so I can write about it. | Erin Jameson

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