Sunday, April 24, 2016

Webcomics: 21st Century Art — By Conrad Jeong

With the advent of digital painting, Adobe Photoshop, and the internet, webcomics have begun to steadily rise in popularity over the past few years. What once started as a group of frontier cartoonists embracing modern technology, they had established the foundation for webcomics to rapidly evolve, producing some of the most well-recognized artists today. This field is one of the few remaining corners of the art world that continues to grow, thanks to the rise of social media (Instagram, Tumblr, DevianArt, etc.) and the development of Patreon, a platform that allows digital cartoonists (as well as other creative thinkers) to receive a steady income through their work.

Part of the difficulty with traditional cartooning is the lack of forgiveness with ink as a medium. As such, cartoonists who create their works digitally are able to not only produce a much larger amount of work at once, but are also able to conserve on expensive materials. You have an unlimited amount of ink and paper, and with the quick press of "ctrl + z" you can undo any accidental marks you may have made on your work.

This further allows artists to expand their techniques used in their comics, allowing greater freedom and interpretation as well as "signature styles." Most cartoonists use ink to create lines and fill in colors—a very repetitive style that leaves little room for imagination. With the increasing availability and development of digital painting tools, however, artists are able to create their own illustrious worlds in their comic books, and perhaps leave their own mark on the industry.

At the end of the day, what makes webcomics unique is their accessibility. With the incredible sharing power of internet (and with the rapid decline of book stores), any cartoonist can find their niche audience in order to gain a reputation and ultimately make a living through their work. This allows the creation of unique cartoon styles, themes, and storylines that deviate from your typical works produced by the industry giants (aka the DC/Marvel superhero franchise). As such, many popular webcomics have begun to embrace a greater representation of diverse races, ethnicities, sexualities, and many more types of identities—from their creators as well as characters alike.

Tails by Ethan Young.

Copper by Kazu Kabuishi.

Extra Ordinary by Li Chen.

Johnny Wander by Yuko Ota.

Leftovers by Moose Lee.

A Redtail's Dream by Minna Sundberg.

I've attached some of my favorite webcomic series throughout this post. They vary in style, themes, and technique. Each with their unique set of "brushes" (presets used on digital painting tablets that mimic the type of brush stroke you want to portray), worlds, and characters, are all deeply alluring in their own ways. I hope you enjoy!

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