The more disciplined among us are able to minimize that self-importance in service of the message we feel compelled to communicate; more often, though, an artist’s favorite subject is himself, and the message he ends up communicating is, “Look how clever/skilled/cool I am!”. This is so common in the world of comics as to be practically compulsory; artists and writers alike show off every chance they get. […] I’m constantly telling my students, “If the reader says, ‘oh look at the cool thing the author did,’ you’ve failed,” because attention is being paid to how you are showing something as opposed to what you are showing. But as with all things, such instances should be judged on a case-by-case basis, according to the intended function of the work. If Martin Amis truly seeks to convince us that his worldview has value, he should use language that draws less attention to itself; on the other hand, if the whole of Geoff Darrow ’s intent is to feed us eye candy, then all he needs to do is keep that sugar comin’.
Lutes, Jason. “Prose vs. Plane.” Coyote vs. Wolf. 2 May 2008.
I love Jason Lutes work (I’ve been reading Berlin for what seems like decades). His realist style is one thing that sets him apart from a lot of other comics artists. I disagree with the sentiment expressed in the the quote above (for more context go read the whole post). Art, any art, is more than just communicating some idea. There’s always an element of the artist drawing attention, not necessarily to themselves but to the work, the creation, the process, or the form. Lutes seems to equate formal/stylistic ostentation with attention grabbing for the artist. I don’t think this is always the case (though admittedly, sometimes it is, and generally those cases are quite obvious (probably the case with students he deals with)). Just because an artist has taken on a certain standard of conventional/realist stylistics that is ostensible transparent, does not make the work more about communicating content than a more experimental usage. And just because an artist experiments and draws attention to style/form doesn’t mean they are attention grabbing for themselves.