Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lesson Learned: Don't Force It!

It may seem like an odd decision to highlight one of my mistakes on my professional blog, even if it was many years ago. But, as my old friend Pete often used to say: I've never learned anything from my successes, I've only learned from my failures. It's even better is if you can learn form the mistakes of others. This cartoon comes from back in 2003, it was my submission to a local newspaper's cartoon contest, and despite the problems it was my first published piece. That doesn't mean that I won the contest, it simply means I followed directions, so my cartoon was published on the newspaper's website in the honorable mention section (the whole article has since been removed) along with  the sixteen or so other cartoonists who also followed the instructions. I don't remember the exact contest requirements, but I think the one's who were disqualified all had size related/layout issues. The theme of the contest was Portland history, which I have a huge passion for, so it seemed like the contest was tailored just for me. However, as the deadline neared, I had talked myself out of doing it, (actually it was the cruel little voice on my head that did all the talking) but as luck would have it they extended the deadline because of a lack of qualified submissions. So I defied the little voice and went for it.

I have always had a fascination with the Hotel Portland, a beautiful 19th century hotel which should have been preserved, but sadly, was torn down in the 50's to make way for a parking lot—Seriously! Today the site is Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland's Living Room, although they brought back some of the original ironwork, and the Starbucks on the square used some tiles from the original hotel for their floor, so at least some of it is still there. Anyway, I had this great idea about a mythical resident of the hotel who created a time machine and went forward 100 years to modern day Portland, only to discover the hotel was gone and the locals were rude and surly. I even had a great bit where he went to the rare book room at Powell's bookstore, and finds some of his books for sale. Well, as you can probably imagine the story came out to be about 8-12 pages of material, but I only had 4-5 panels to tell the story. So, of course, being the logical type that I am—yes, that's sarcasm, in case you missed it—I tried to jam all that material into a five panel cartoon, rather than coming up with a new theme or a different story line. The result is a disjointed story that really doesn't make a lot of sense, because so much of it had to be cut out. Lesson learned: don't try to force it. Artistically it is okay for the most part, but that single dark panel in the top corner with all the other panels being mostly light, throws the entire composition off balance. It would have been stronger if I had either used some darks throughout, or removed that big patch of dark all together. Oh, and I used the font Comic Sans, which is a crappy font even for cartoons. Well, that was a long time ago and I've learned a couple of things from the experience, and now, hopefully so have you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Not a complete failure, but it could have been much better.

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