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The seventh chapter of the book by McCloud, which is called “The Six Steps” is devoted to the features of comics that make it similar to other forms of self-expression (162). To support his idea and draw a link between comics and other genres, the author introduces the broad notion of art; thus, McCloud defines the latter as any activity which does not take place due to the basic instincts of the humanity such as “survival and reproduction”(164).
The mentioned idea is illustrated by the story about cave dwellers demonstrating the intention to make art when they are not focused on the basic instincts. The author concludes that art is the way to play a range of roles and expand the limits set by nature. Describing the basic functions of art, the author sees it as the exercise for the mind, the activity helping people to lash out or express other emotions to calm down, and the pastime leading to discoveries. The elements of art, as the author states, exist in any occupation, whereas the so-called “pure art,” which is created without the mercenary purpose, remains an ideal (169).
The six steps refer to the stages of the creation of any artwork, which include idea, form, idiom, structure, craft, and surface (170). Despite the strict logical organization of the stages from the basic understanding of purpose to sharpening the specific skills related to the form of art, the author claims that many artists tend to learn these steps from the end to the beginning due to the seeming simplicity of the initial stages. Each stage in the process is interconnected with unique problems, and it often happens that the decision-making skills of an artist define his or her final style.
The eighth chapter of the book by McCloud is called “A Word about Color” and it explains the importance and the basic features of one of the most prominent tools used in art – color (185). Characterizing the role of color in connection with the particular genre (comics), he highlights the two factors: commerce and technology. Continuing on the nature of color, the author introduces the notion of additive primaries (the basic colors constituting the visible spectrum).
Colorful comics became extremely popular once they appeared, and the color was used as a tool helping to express the characters’ emotions. This is why the pride of place was given to the use of complementary colors. With the lapse of time, the colors of the costumes of the most famous characters turned to symbols representing them. The role of color is difficult to be overestimated as the latter helps artists to express moods, highlight key elements of pictures to make sure that other people will get the basic idea, and create depth, which makes pictures more realistic. Gradually, complementary colors used in comics to create contrast were substituted by more subtle hues, and it was the beginning of the new trend.
The author also believes that color has an important influence on the degree to which readers understand the key message identified by the author of comics. Thus, he states that black and white comics do not shift the focus of the reader’s attention to the surface of the image due to the absence of color. Obviously, the presence of bright colors acts as a factor that makes pictures look more realistic and detailed, but at the same time, colorful pictures are used to create the entire world, whereas black and white ones can present simple but thought-provoking ideas in a more effective manner.
The ninth chapter of the book by McCloud is called “Putting it All Together” and the author presents it to summarize the previous knowledge and explain the reason why comics are not easy to understand (193). A wide range of means of communication have been created due to people’s inability to understand each other clearly; the process of transforming information which always surrounds artistic process is extremely complicated due to the fact that there are no people who would see something in the same way.
Initially, the idea of a future picture appears in mind of an artist, but imagination is way more powerful than technical skills of any person and this is why it is almost impossible for any creator to express the idea in all its beauty. Enhancing their skills, artists can increase the percentage of the initial idea that is visually represented in their works, but the full understanding is still regarded as an unachievable goal.
Analyzing the primary purpose of comics, McCloud introduces the urgent problem of ignorance preventing people from achieving the end goal of communication (198). The nature of comics, as the author claims, is rooted in historical reality and this is why it is not the most appropriate way to see this genre of art as the recent invention; thus, he regards comics as the most current-day link in a chain of representation styles starting from the most primitive cartoons. Also, he highlights that readers and creators will always be partners in the art process and the primary goal of this collaboration lies in establishing a steady contact helping the idea to change its physical form with the imperceptible loss of meaning.
McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Harper Perennial, 1994.