-By Dan dos Santos
An actual conversation between my 4 year old son and my Wife this afternoon:
Uno: Mommy, today I am 16 years old.
Wife: Oh good, you can go get a job then.
Uno: OK, I am going to work now.
Wife: What’s your job?
Uno: I work on the computer and paint.
Wife: What do you paint?
Uno: Wolves and girls with tattoos.
I don’t know whether to be super proud, or a little embarrassed that even my 4 year old has typecast me!
Of course, his observation is completely justified. Right now, on my easel is a painting of a girl with a wolf (the sequel to Patricia Brigg’s Alpha & Omega series). What was I painting 3 years ago, you ask?
It made me think about how much children learn through imitation. I know I spent most of my youth copying the drawings of my favorite comic book artists. I copied them repeatedly. It was through imitation that I learned to draw. When attempting to draw an original piece of art, I would often encounter a problem, and I would think to myself “Well, I remember seeing Jim Lee draw an arm like this once. And if I mix that with a hand that I saw Todd McFarlane draw, I can make my character look like this!”
Unbeknownst to me at the time, what I was doing was building up a visual vocabulary. I think most young artists do this with their influences, and often criticize themselves for not being original enough. But I disagree. I feel that the language with which you speak isn’t important, rather it’s what you choose to say with that language. So take bits and pieces from your favorite artists, and store them away. After enough time, you’ll learn to take that acquired vocabulary and write your own poetry with it.
A few months ago I came across a piece of art that a fan had drawn, attempting to imitate one of my paintings. This lead to me to run a few searches on deviantART. I was surprised to see quite a few copies of my work! This makes me incredibly happy. To think that I am now contributing bits and pieces to some future artist’s visual vocabulary is really humbling. Someday, they may be drawing hand a certain way simply because that’s the way I did it, little realizing that a little bit of Todd McFarlane is in that hand too.