Monday, December 07, 2009

“Because I Couldn’t Trust You”

This is a cartoon of a scene from a television show about an actress pretending to be a cartoon character.

Back when I first became interested in Karen Kilimnik I put up a post about the odd trend in contemporary art to copy one medium in another. To “use” or “re-interpret” an existing image. At the time I was very conflicted about the practice. I liked—very much—some of the images but I couldn’t see any point to the practice and I couldn’t come up with much of an esthetic justification either for the practice or for why I liked the images so much.

I called my post, “The Abandonment Of Meaning.”

I stayed interested in the issue and a short time later I tried it myself, doing a colored pencil sketch of a scene from Mythbusters in a post I called, “Kari Loses An Underwire From Her Bra...”

I’ve done a few other cartoons based on still images off DVDs but I can’t say I’ve made any progress at all with the philosophy of this issue. I still like such images. But I still haven’t worked out any esthetic theory that makes sense to me.

So I’m going to keep doing it and keep thinking about it.

Today’s image comes from 23:07 into the season three episode of Smallville called, “Truth.” I’ve talked about this scene in another post where I used a cartoon image from Smallville, “What Is It About You, Lana?” Here is a chunk of my earlier post:

* * *

In this little scene, Lana is talking to her best friend Chloe. Lana’s parents died in the meteor shower and when Lana’s aunt left Smallville, Lana was able to remain in town by moving in with Chloe. They are good friends, but as we see, Lana has secrets even from Chloe. In “Truth,” Chloe is exposed to a failed LuthorCorp experiment [do they ever work?] and discovers that everyone feels compelled to tell her the truth. At first Chloe is thrilled. She’s a proto-reporter and getting the truth from people is her dream. But she starts to experience the downside of the truth during this talk with Lana:

CHLOE: Is it just me or did I completely clear out the lunch crowd?

LANA: No, it was you. Ever since you turned the Torch into your own gossip column no one can stand being around you.

CHLOE: Well, at least you’re still talking to me, right?

LANA: For now.

CHLOE: Okay. What’s that about?

LANA: I applied to the Paris School of the Arts. They have a full-time high school program and if I get accepted I start in the summer.

CHLOE: Wow. I guess I’m out of the loop. When did you decide this?

LANA: I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. Everyone has their families, you know, and I’m not sure where I fit in.

CHLOE: But I always thought we were your family.

LANA: Oh, come on, Chloe. I know what you and everyone else thinks of me. That I’m driven and self-involved. I just can’t wait to get out of here and go somewhere where people don’t judge me.

CHLOE: I never said anything like that.

LANA: You never had to.

CHLOE: Why have you never talked to me about this?

LANA: Because I couldn’t trust you.

Chloe, in tears, turns and runs out of the room.

That’s a pretty cool scene.

* * *

I still think that’s a pretty cool scene. In my earlier post I spoke about this scene in the context of how the writers treated Lana’s interesting character. Today I wanted to draw this cartoon because I was thinking about the interaction of these two characters, Chloe and Lana.

They are both smart, cool characters. But they both have issues. Lana has trust issues. Chloe is a writer, a reporter, and she always puts reporting first to such an extent that she doesn’t see how her work shapes her personality, shapes her interactions with her friends and shapes how they think of her. When Lana, pushed by Chloe’s exposure to the truth gas, tells Chloe the truth, that she didn’t share a big part of her life with her because she couldn’t trust her, it comes as a huge shock to Chloe—it was something she never would have imagined because she is so wrapped up in her own concerns—that a friend of hers wouldn’t trust her. Chloe runs away in tears.

Chloe, seeing herself as a writer, thought her exposure to the truth gas was wonderful. What reporter wouldn’t dream of people being compelled to tell them the truth? But then Chloe experiences that same truth compulsion causing her friend to break her heart.

I like this scene because of the complex interactions between these two friends. But also for personal reasons.

Like Lana I have trust issues. It doesn’t happen all that often, but once I become convinced I fundamentally can’t trust someone I shut out that person from my life. I find it hard to even talk to such a person.

Like Chloe I often find myself surprised to discover that something I’d regarded as wonderful, something I’d regarded as purely positive, ends up breaking my heart in some way that—in hindsight—would have been obvious to me if I hadn’t been interpreting my own life in some one dimensional way.

I know not much of this background thinking gets captured in a cartoon image. I still don’t see any existential point to creating images like this. But subjectively anything that drives this kind of introspection can’t be bad.

This is one of those topics I’ll be coming back to if I ever make any progress thinking it through. Or the next time I do a fun image.

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Typically when someone in the fine arts “uses” an existing image they copy the image in a photorealistic technique. They copy the image using computer software or a digitizing tablet or, more traditionally, they project the image onto a support and then work directly on the projected image.

Although I don’t know that Karen Kilimnik works that way. Her work is typically what critics call “painterly” which means less slick.

But I don’t do tracing at all not even of any kind.

When I do a DVD image I simply pause the image on my TV and then draw the image, freehand, on a sheet of paper. So this isn’t photorealism. There is the endless lack of realism from the limitations of my drawing ability and, more to the point, I specifically don’t use a drawing rectangle with the same aspect ratio of a TV screen. I approximate the aspect ratio but I don’t copy it.

I still don’t have an esthetic theory to support this stuff, but I do have some practical thoughts that I keep in mind when I work.

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