Sunday, March 3, 2013

Daniel Clowes

          Daniel Clowes is an American comic book artist and screenwriter, perhaps best known for his graphic novel, Ghost World, and its film adaption, which received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Clowes was born in 1961; he started reading comic books inherited from his older brother as a young child and, after attending the University of Chicago Laboratory School, graduated with a BFA from the Pratt Institute in New York in 1984 (Daniel Clowes). Although he produces mostly graphic novels, including the anthology Eightball which ran from 1989 to 2004, he has also created artwork for album covers (see: Supersuckers’s The Smoke of Hell), film posters (Todd Solondz’s Happiness), as well as other forms of illustrations. Clowes’s work can be characterized as dark and cynical, and disillusionment with banal everyday life is a recurring theme in Clowes’s work.

In the early 90s, Clowes, along with several other artists, was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company to design the packaging for a new soft drink called OK Soda, marketed towards a new demographic of adolescents (“Generation X”) that was emerging along with grunge during this time; the product aimed to utilize irony to target a group of youths who were disillusioned with commodity culture, featuring “blank deadpan characters on the can that sort of represented the dull ennui of the average consumer” as well as sardonic slogans such as “What's the point of OK? Well, what's the point of anything?” and “OK Soda may be the preferred drink of other people such as yourself.” Although OK Soda failed as a test product, the cans have become collectors’ items, and the brand has gained a cult following of sorts (Clowes).
              In terms of his artistic style, Clowes utilizes caricature to create his (almost always) misanthropic characters. In his drawing, Clowes works heavily with subtractive drawing: "I tend to overfill every panel so I go back and erase a lot; or when inking I won’t ink half the things in the background. Often, I’ll ink all the buildings in the background and then go in with white-out and remove half of them, so that it reads in the way want it to read without being cluttered or fussy (Sullivan 143)." Clowes also works with different modes of perspective, sometimes using two- or three-point perspective and lighting to create depth, but also often flattens out his images to create congruency between his form and content. He also frequently uses stark black backgrounds to create contrast between foreground and background, as well as "air pressure, smog, clouds and various optical effects [to diffuse] and distort the way you see things in the deep background, especially in the urban America [Clowes tends] to be drawing" (Sullivan 149). Clowes produces most of his works by hand—his lines and letterings are drawn and edited on paper and then scanned; final corrections and color are done digitally.


"Back to the Drawing Board: How Dan Clowes Creates His Worlds on Paper." Interview by Darcy Sullivan. Daniel Clowes: Conversations. Ed. Ken Parille and Isaac Cates. Jackson: University of Mississippi, 2010. vii-xvi. Print.
Clowes, Daniel. "Portrait of the Artist as a Middle-Aged Man: A Q&A with Dan Clowes, Cartoonist Extraordinaire." Interview by Jonanthan Valania. Phawker. N.p., 3 May 2011. Web. 1 Mar. 2013. <>.
Daniel Clowes. 2012. Web. 1 Mar. 2013. <>.
"Introduction." Daniel Clowes: Conversations. Ed. Ken Parille and Isaac Cates. Jackson: University of Mississippi, 2010. vii-xvi. Print.

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