I think it’s important for artists to be introspective. I think it should be the goal of any cartoonist or artist to take a step back, look at the world, and question and challenge all assumptions and normalities. So often little social stigmas and issues go completely unnoticed by a vast majority of the population, that I think it’s important to be reminded of where we are, how things work, and challenge the status-quo.
I believe that’s one of the most fundamentally important things about being an artist. It’s not the artistic skill level, it’s your ability to poke fun at stuff and make average people question their routines. While artistic skill is important, the average consumer doesn’t really care about artistic merits if the overall message is conveyed well. I’ve seen many stick-figure comics and supposedly “low-skill” artists resonate with people because of the message they’re sending.
And especially during times like these where things like racism, hatred of women, and systematic homophobia keep popping up in the news, it’s the perfect time to start questioning normalities and challenging things. When tragedies occur, like the stuff going down in Ferguson, we should use that as a jumping off point for further discussions and introspection.
So in that note I wanted to share with y’all a story I posted last night on twitter and facebook:
My Battle with Unintentional Racism
In a lot of my earlier gag strips and comic, I intentionally avoided including people of color or different races. The thinking was, at the time, that I didn't want to offend anyone. Because the characters in my gag strips were usually in the "wrong" for the purpose of the joke, I didn't want any of the strips to appear as if I was making fun of POC or different races. My fear was that if, say, the black guy was the brunt of the joke, I might be considered racist by those reading my comics.
While I had the best intentions of trying to NOT portray POC or other races badly, this was ultimately a form of white-washing. I wasn't even aware that it was a problem until one of my colleagues pointed it out to me.
There's a tendency when having a "token" character of any kind in a story to assume they represent the whole of their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, etc. And that's immensely problematic when writing gag strips and one off jokes where coloring a person's skin a certain way unintentionally colors the strip with racial overtones you had no intention of adding. But at the same time, we can't white-wash or pretend other races, people, genders, etc don't exist.
I've thankfully learned from my mistakes and now I often try to switch up the races and colors of my characters in gag strips equally.
The point of this story is, of course, that even though I was trying to be altruistic, I was unintentionally white-washing. It's very easy to let these things happen if you're not aware of them and they can be immensely problematic socially. So my advice is to try to take a step back and examine what you're doing. Just make sure you're not unintentionally alienating huge segments of the population, you know? I don't wanna say "check your privilege," but that's kinda what this is. Learn from my mistakes, as I have, and work towards making content EVERYONE can appreciate and enjoy.
So try not to shrug off these sorts of things. I know it’s very tempting to just ignore the bigger issues going on or claim that people are being “too sensitive” about these topics. But really, do your best to stop and look at things from another angle. Not only will it help you empathize with others (an important tool for artists) and foster creative thinking, but it might make you question what you’ve been doing or question what others around you have been doing.
Mood: Daily Needs
Listening to: Skyrim Soundtrack
Watching: Bob's Burgers
Drinking: Decaf. Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.