Diversity = Interest

By | Monday, February 06, 2012 3 comments
Well, I missed a blog post yesterday. First one in quite a while, I think. But considering all the travel I was doing the past week, I'm going to give myself a pass this time.

Unlike most of the United States, I was actually doing nothing Super Bowl related yesterday. My travelling had me up in Chicago this past weekend and, as luck would have it, it was a friend's birthday and several of us got together for some celebrations. (It was actually Mom's birthday, too, but she wasn't in Chicago.) I was struck by the mix of folks who we dined with, even moreso later when I realized that we were in Black History Month. My friend's beau is originally from Zimbabwe. My S.O.'s parents were both born in Jamaica. The gent sitting across from me was Korean-American. Throw in a couple African-Americans and a few of us Caucasian folks, and there was an unintentionally diverse cultural group. (Well, diverse given that it was unintentional and there were only eight of us.)

And you know, it looked better to me. I was in some similarly-sized groups earlier in the week and, even though none of them were completely homogeneous, they all seemed like "a bunch of white folks with one person for token ethnicity." I happen to know that those groups were selected entirely at random, so that wasn't deliberate at that level, but the pool to choose from was a lot more limited with regards to diversity, so there was a built-in favoritism of sorts. That pool was so predominantly Caucasian in the first place that it'd be impossible not to have smaller groups also reflect that.

I don't want to get into the causes of that (as I'm sure there are a myriad of reasons, both overt and subtle, if not entirely subconscious) but I want to make a plea for comic artists who draw crowd scenes and groups of people. If you walk down the streets of an urban center -- New York, Chicago, London, Paris, etc. -- you're going to see a wide array of people. And those people are going to represent a wide range of cultural backgrounds, likely several in a single individual! And unless you're specifically trying to depict a fairly homogeneous group like some the Aryan Brotherhood or... well, I was about to suggest the Board of the NAACP, but they're a surprisingly diverse group, given the organization... unless you're trying to depict a fairly homogeneous group, it'd serve you well to draw a culturally diverse group of people.

The reason why I'm suggesting it isn't so high-minded -- it does, I think, deal with larger issues of cultural awareness and all but really, it just looks better! It just looks more interesting to see a bunch of different types of people. It looks like an image readers will want to spend more time studying. It looks like there's something going on in the background beyond the visual static that a sea of white faces would become. And it's got to be more interesting to draw, too! Even if you're a culturally insensitive lout, change things up a bit just to make yourself look like a better artist! Your faces will automatically look more varied, and you'll have more people talk about the nuances of your work instead of glossing over large portions of your art because they're so internally repetitive.

Want to keep people's eyeballs on your work? Give them something interesting to look at and not just another generic white guy in the background!
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Matt K said...

Unfortunately, working against your argument here is the fact that to all appearances, many people don't want visual interest. I can't be alone in working to design thoughtful, sophisticated layouts, and then having them art-directed into white-bread blandness as clients pick out any and everything which makes for a livelier and more interesting visual.

"Get rid of that textured effect, please. Just a solid color."

Those people don't count. They're stupid-heads.

FWIW, this was one of the very first things I noticed about Neal Adams even back in the days before I was entirely clear on telling one artist from another or associating their names with their work. Adams thoroughly integrated his crowd scenes with every race represented, and as you say it made the crowds look more interesting.