Friday, December 8, 2023

45 Days Of CCS, #8: Kristen Shull

One of the things I like most about Kristen Shull is her genuine sense of curiosity about the world. She's not one to make assumptions, and this leads her to being open to a number of possibilities. In her mini Creative Spark, she talks about being around a bunch of programmers who thought using generative AI to create art was a marvelous thing. Shull spends the duration of the mini pondering if AI is just another tool that creates new possibilities, or a blatant appropriation of the works of others. She gets deep into the idea of which is more important: the creator or the creation? She applies this to problematic creators and how we should approach their work. At heart, however, she hits on the concept that art is a means to connect and communicate with others something from their own consciousness. AI isn't capable of that; it's like taking someone else's words and claiming they are your own expression. There is a fine line between influence and plagiarism, and AI, as currently constituted, absolutely bulldozes that line. 

Shull is quick to note that the urge for a shortcut to make the labor of art easier is hard to resist. She works exclusively digitally these days, something she started doing toward the end of her three year run doing a diary comic. When she started doing it, you could see the quality of the work immediately improve and on a consistent basis, as she was no longer running herself ragged drawing the other strips too quickly. However, working digitally erased some of the more interesting quirks in her drawing when she actually took the time to do them; you can see this in her fantasy work, which was done on paper. While her comics overall are pretty consistent in terms of drawing, they don't quite have the same liveliness they once had, and that might be related to her thinking of fantasy comics as a completely different kind of process. 

One thing that's certainly true of Shull is that she has a knack for creating a compelling personal narrative in the form of anecdote and connecting it to deeper feelings. Uphill is about her learning how to snowboard. She discusses being a skier in her youth and an athlete as a rugby player, but trying to snowboard absolutely kicked her ass. That feeling of wiping out in the snow again and again, of seeing no progress, brought her back to a rugby game where a superior opponent just mauled her team despite her best effort. Shull is at heart an action cartoonist, and the sequences where she's snowboarding and then playing rugby are not only exciting, but they work in perfect concert with the emotional narrative. At the end of the day, it was encouragement ("You're doing so well!") in both cases that kept her going, even if she didn't believe it. The design, the coloring, the placement for lettering, all contributed to this mix of dynamic action and thoughtful contemplation. 

For a bit of fun, Shull gave me a copy of Left Handed Shrek, a sketchbook zine featuring artists drawing Shrek with their non-dominant hand. There are some fun artists in here, and I tink I liked Coco Fox's drawing best, although Natalie Norris' was also quite cute. 

No comments:

Post a Comment