I have told you before that I am a seriously committed surrealist. Not in the sense of “committed to an institution” sort of committed, but seriously committed. All cartoonists are by nature surrealists. Bill Watterson created Calvin and Hobbes around the idea that a toy tiger can come to life in the evil imagination of a child. Jim Davis created Garfield around a seriously self-absorbed and greedy talking cat. Elsie Segar created Popeye about a one-eyed sailor who drank from a magic pool to gain invincibility and maintains it with iron-fortified cans of spinach. To be a surrealist, you must put unlikely things together to make something fantastically super-real… so unreal it seems flawlessly real… er, how do you actually define surrealism without resorting to the dictionary definition about “juxtaposing severely mismatched items created with photo-realism”?
Surrealism is actually more real than realism. If you simply take a photograph of your picture idea, a picture of a birthday cake or a picture of a clown or a picture of your favorite bicycle’s back wheel, you are not showing the reality of life. You are only taking a photograph of a thing. You cannot get more than the physical, objective reality of that thing captured on photographic paper… or in a digital image (I am learning not to be a dinosaur even though I am old). Reality is so much more than that. It is the feeling, the evocation, the nuance, the… stuffy stuff-ness of stuff… and an infinity of other things that make reality seem real.
Take for a moment the whole notion of flying cars. I am trying to create a hero-worship colored-pencil Paffooney about Astroboy riding in a flying car. I am still puzzling out how I am going to make this scene look like the car is flying by juxtaposing something. (By “juxtaposing something”, I, of course, simply mean putting one thing next to another thing… but it is important for artists to use hundred-dollar art words wherever possible to prove that they are serious artists) (I, of course, am actually making fun of my own stuffy stuff-ness in that last parenthetic expression.) (Maybe juxtaposing parenthetic expressions with the phrase “I, of course,” in all three of them is a kind of surrealism?)
So, why am I taking on this silly topic right now? Right now I am a working artist in the midst of making art. I am not just a cartoonist… I also write novels… silly young adult novels about voodoo men and snow babies and incompetent alien invasions and fairies successfully invading a middle school in Iowa. I am suffering from six incurable diseases and am a cancer survivor… so I could drop dead of a heart attack or stroke any second… I may not finish most of the artwork I am now working on… and I am blogging… I need a lot more silly topics like this to fill 500 words a day for every day of 2015. I am writing this down in a published blog on WordPress because I need to put all my thinking down in a crystallized form to preserve it in case the opportunity to do so suddenly ceases. And all of that muddle of meaning is so surreal it hurts. I could do a better job than this of summing up and pulling it all together in a tighter package, but it is all about the messy business of surrealism, after all… another way of saying… “It’s about life.”