The (Annotated) 2002 John Arcudi Interview – Part Twenty-Three

Stout’s annotations are in italics.

THE MEANING OF ART

ARCUDI: This might get too personal…

STOUT: Too personal? Not likely…This is already like a Playboy interview – but without references to my sex life.

ARCUDI: Okay. Talking about people who, through their style and their technique, usually remove the viewer from their technique, do you think that says anything about their personality or their view of art or their view of humanity, or what?

STOUT: I think it says a lot. And one of the things I love about comics is there is such a diversity in art styles right now and storytelling styles. I have different rules or demands upon different artists depending upon how they are trying to convey what they do. If for instance, an artist works in a realistic sort of turn of the century storybook style, a lá the Pre-Raphaelites, Arthur Rackham or Edmund Dulac or an early illustrator-influenced style like Williamson, Frazetta or Krenkel – I’m thinking of guys like Kaluta, Wrightson, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Charles Vess, etc. – I apply a different set of standards to those guys than I do to someone who works in a more expressionist style, like say Charles Burns, Daniel Clowes or Brian Ralph, the guy who did Cave In. Different rules apply because it’s obvious that these first guys are trying to compete with the great illustrators of the past, so I’m going to be a lot more unforgiving when it comes to bad drawing. If you’re going to jump into that rarified arena, you damn well better have the chops.

ARCUDI: To make this more personal, what does it say about you, then? Looking at the way you draw, what does that say about you as a) a person; b) an artist; c) a misanthrope. Do you think that the techniques you’ve developed say anything about you as an artist?

STOUT: I think it speaks volumes. For one, it says a lot about how I approach problem solving, which is letting the problem dictate the solution and style, what I call the “Chouinard method,” as we discussed before. That has resulted in a remarkable diversity in my work. It has exposed me to more things in the art world than has your average comic artist. I get the feeling that people who like my work want me to experiment as much as I have. They seem to appreciate that I’m on this diverse artistic journey, and at least from what I can tell they seem to be delighted to come along with me. I think the joy for me and for my fans is the constant surprise of what I do. They – and I – never know what’s going to come out of me. It’s a double-edged sword, though. Because of that, for a lot of people it’s really difficult to identify my work — or even know who I am.

I just read an interview with a currently popular, very talented comic artist whom I had voted for one year for Comic-Con‘s Russ Manning Newcomer Award. I had to laugh at one bit:

Q: Do you know the work of William Stout?

A: No.

Q: He was big in the ’70s.

I guess I peaked early!

Experimenting and diversity are also what I call “The Slow Path to Fame”. If you want to become famous, draw the same thing over and over. If you keep changing things up, like I do, it will confuse your audience — and often make them uncomfortable. Most people like familiarity and predictability, hence their love of sequels.

I think that path would bore me to death. That’s not who I am. I truly enjoy diversity. I like surprising myself and relish attempting things that I’ve never done.

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