Zero Shades of Gray

By | Thursday, December 05, 2019 Leave a Comment
Here is Jef Mallett's Frazz strip from Tuesday...
Frazz comic strip from December 3, 2019
It's a significant point and stands well on its own.

Interestingly, though, Mallett added some commentary about this strip over on Facebook...
Shading my pictures the way I do it, with hand-drawn parallel lines overlaid by another layer or more of semi-perpendicular accent lines, is kind of time-consuming. Which doesn’t sound terribly smart, given how much I struggle with available time. Sometimes I ask myself why I do it. Surely I can tell the same stories with a little less visual depth and complexity.

I do it for you guys, of course. My readers deserve my best effort. And it’s a way of competing — of course we compete — with other features. But do I do it just for you guys?

But then, after years of doing it that way, I finally come up with a punch line like today’s, and maybe I just gave myself my best explanation yet. I’m just a great big believer in gray.
What I find particularly interesting about that is: Mallett is NOT actually using any gray. His linework, as he describes above, is all solid black marks on a white page. The artwork can run in just black and white, and his shading is still plainly evident. There is nothing in this strip -- even the colored version -- that is actually gray. Mallett is using the black lines to simulate gray, but there's no actual gray there; that a reader might see it as gray is just an artist's trick.

And this actually kind of undermines the point of his comic. Despite not using shades of gray, and relying exclusively on black/white, the content is still extremely apparent. Directly contradicting the "you can't really see anything" line. Obviously, Mallett's not deliberately trying to undermine his own message here and thinks of his shading process as applying actual gray tones (although I'm sure he's intellectually aware of his only using black lines to indicate gray, he's still views the shaded areas as gray) but it makes for an interesting point about how black and white can still represent gray even if there's no gray present.

And I'm not just referring to colors there!
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