When we let images be images.

Do we read images in the same way we read words on a page? While they can both easily transcribe the same idea onto paper I do not believe we follow the same rules while viewing them. This is something that has bothered me for some time when applied to the traditional rules of how we are meant to read comics.

I do not believe that you can place images on a page and expect the reader to follow the conventional, novelistic form of top to bottom left to right. Naturally ones eye will always focus on the most interesting, attention grabbing panel before skimming the page inevitably spoiling whatever it was the author and/or artist was intending to build up to. For example, If I knew that the main characters head was going to explode at the end of the page because well, I couldn’t help but see that first, then when I start to actually read panel for panel, top to bottom, left to right, I am only really doing so to find out why his head explodes. This doesn’t happen within written books because a page full of 10 pt Baskerville visually turns the page a nice, soothing, warm grey allowing the reader to read for hours in an almost meditative trance. Type designers make sure to avoid rivers, or large white spaces running down the page, because these rivers will distract the reader and carry their eyes away from their intended place. Within writing this is a terrible error. It will completely destroy the plot if the reader reads something out of place. So why hasn’t anyone attempted to try a different approach? As an artist could you expect the reader to skim the page of a comic without rules in a way that tells the story in the exact way that you had planned without spoiling the plot? I believe there’s a way and designers do this all the time. 

Every ad you see in a magazine has been carefully constructed so that the viewer will immediately be drawn into the image, see the product, jump to a few exciting elements before landing on the call to action inviting the viewer to buy the product. Designers are able to do this with a variety of visual elements and graphic techniques. This is what we call visual literacy.

Despite their complete make up of visual literature, comics have been deemed the stepchild to literature for as long as they’ve been in existence though, the stories they tell have been some of the most celebrated in the world. To make up for this some ad exec decided to start calling comics “graphic novels” in hopes that people would take them more seriously as if they actually were “real” novels. Well, they are real novels though the problem is that the images within them are trying to be words as oppose to being what they truly are; visual literature.

I recently experimented with the idea of bringing the viewer into a sequential page in a way that they will read it without the usual contraints of a westernized novelistic system. Before I go through a page breakdown of what I was hoping to capture I want you to look at this page and be honest about it. Though there is no real linear story to this page, more of pregnant moment within a larger story, I want you to let your eyes do as please and see where they go. Let your creepy little head pets off their leashes and let them be free to run around and see what kind of shit they get into. If that makes any sense; certainly a nice visual.

Ok cool, hope you liked it. If you’re like me then I’m guessing you started at the circle panel of the girl in the shower. I believe there are a few reasons for this and no, not because it’s a girl taking a shower. One, it’s the only circle shaped panel on the page. Two, because of the stampeding animals running from off the left side of the page, behind the panels in the center and then up and off to the right thus tying the image together and giving it sense of an open world while keeping you within the panels. If you noticed, one buffalo is facing the center image, the circle shaped panel. This background effect acts with a distinct purpose; to pull you into the page bringing you right to that first panel with the shower scene. So now we can agree that this shower scene is the probably the first panel.

Now, as I see it, after this first panel I am going straight up to the series of vertical panels. It’s possible to have a series of images within another series of images when they are distinctly separate from the rest and clearly read as a linear scene, i.e. floating astronaut above moon, house with moon in the background, tighter shot of the window of that same house, inside you’re back in the shower scene revealing a more intimate moment of the character previously introduced in the the first panel.

After landing on the shower scene we are left with the remaining horizontal panels situated in the top left hand corner and the bottom right hand corner thus giving the reader the conventional, novelistic feel of top to bottom left to right just in time to finish the page. 
When I created this page I imagined this as two separate events happening simultaneously. A woman in a moment of self reflection missing a loved one being the astronaut floating towards their impending doom as they fall into the lunar surface. With this being the case seeing the stampede of animals in the top left leaving the scene as the camera pulls out first or even last really doesn’t matter to the story. The viewer may choose to see the astronaut in the bottom right before landing on the stampede at the top left. Either natural decision the reader makes is completely based on impulse and since the events are happening at the same time the plot stays intact.

  1. neukunstgruppe reblogged this from ericscottpfeiffer
  2. troisenator reblogged this from ericscottpfeiffer and added:
    A fascinating read.
  3. laurenlyon said: !!!!!!! I feel like a kid who’s fighting the urge to slide down a slide for the tenth time. Ok, I’ll read it again.
  4. swrd-play reblogged this from ericscottpfeiffer
  5. ericscottpfeiffer posted this