When it comes to comics art, there’s an infinite number of ways for approaching the page. Be it working off another person’s script, or even your own, you still need to plan the number of panels, the layout design, and determine the pace of the book. Enter Jon Gusman, whose most recent work, titled Quest for Materiality, is altogether a different approach entirely. (The first of a three-part adventure, Quest For Materiality #1, out now, follows the protagonist Arga as she “navigates a cerebral landscape on her mission to bring the sacred elements together.”)
Heavily inspired by Raymond Pettibon and Mike Judge, Gusman takes a “stream of consciousness” approach to world-building, often with a zine/punk rock mentality. It’s a thoughtful approach that Gusman has developed across his portfolio, which extends across his Cauldron of Burgers press/line.
“If you ask me, art is the documentation of communication,” says Gusman.
To better understand the artist and the art, read below as Gusman himself walks us through his process, how he grounds a rather open-ended style, the materials he uses, and much, much more. It’s an intriguing snapshot into both the creative process and an especially talented artist.
“I don’t care to create something that is just meant to be looked at and appreciated for its aesthetic perfection. I want to immortalize a process and all the feelings/ happenings that came along with what a viewer has in front of them. But I’ve found a method that keeps me somewhat grounded while also letting me release whatever impulses I’m feeling at my table—
I start by documenting any semblance of a thought that could be expressed through one of the many mediums I work with. What this sort of method taught me was that there are no good or bad ideas, just ideas. Ideas that won’t leave you alone until you do something about them.
After mentally establishing a beginning, middle, and end of the story, I chicken scratch in a notebook (or on my iPad using Procreate) each page with little footnotes of what may be happening on that page that comes to mind. Generally, that will include tentative character designs, dialogue, and situations I think of while I’m working. I shoot to draw a page a day so that my gears stay greased and so I can have the physical book in my hands as soon as possible. By the time this is over, I have a full book’s worth of sketchbook paper rough drafts that are probably only legible to me.
That’s when I break out the Bristol paper and get to work on the final drawings. I study the rough draft and make sure the panels are sized in a way that emphasizes the content within itself properly. As in, if there’s a big motion, I want to give the motion the space it needs to be as powerful as possible. If there’s a big reveal of a new character or important scenery, I want it to be in the proper spot on the page so that its importance is emphasized. That is usually executed with a page turn or a larger panel following some smaller panels that build up to it.
The dialogue is the last thing to get worked out. The weirder and more dreamlike the dialogue is, the more I like it. The same could be said for everything that makes up my stories which is why I focus a lot more on the flow of the story more than the fine details that might make it feel more like a piece of literature more than a piece of art.
This whole process fully allows me to document the thoughts that are meant to be expressed at the exact moment they want to be. I’m a pretty chaotic person, but I’ve learned to navigate my own chaos pretty well.”
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