WHY ART? by Eleanor Davis
WHY ART? gives readers a look into the big ideas about art and its creation. The writing delivers it in a unique format. The art suggests other big ideas while also enticing readers.
97 %
Unique and Catching

Art has been defined and redefined, created and recreated, and essentially labeled for decades. Eleanor Davis tackles the concept of art itself and the idea of making art. In WHY ART? we see this very dense subject explained, or demonstrated, through the comic.

How to Explain WHY ART?

WHY ART? explains many views on art itself. It also dives into the process of creating. The book begins by explaining classifications of art. It goes from color all the way to how art affects viewers. The comic goes over the effect intended by the artist as well as the implications that viewers will put on the art by themselves. Multiple art forms are covered as a part of this comic’s explanation of art. We see painters, sculptors, and even performance artists creating and presenting work. This comic is all about art, in every possible way.

Image courtesy of Fantagraphics Books

Writing Out Art and Writing About Art

WHY ART? shows, as a comic about art, how writing is an art form too. Eleanor Davis took a format and used it to serve the purposes of explaining art. She bent the reality of the comic through her writing. The format used for WHY ART? made it so that characterization doesn’t have much of a place within the comic book.

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Davis presented an almost essay-like format for the written portion of her comic. The first page of content in the comic says, “Why art? Before we can answer that question let’s explore some examples of different kinds of artworks.” This gives the feel of an essay, explaining something to a reader. However, this “essay” is very comfortably written. It invites the reader to explore the comic. We see this effect created through the less academic language in the comic, like the fragmented statement, “Fool people into thinking you’re a god.” Additionally, mixing fact with fiction invites the viewer to read the comic. At one point, Davis writes that edible art is art which has no taste. This idea makes readers wonder about the truth of the statement. Thus it drives further interest.

Image courtesy of Fantagraphics Books

There are some characters written into WHY ART? but they don’t appear until much later in the comic. When they do appear, we learn very little about them as people, but a lot about them as artists. This approach to characterization works well for the comic. Since WHY ART? largely focuses on a concept rather than a story, it makes sense that the comic doesn’t delve into characters excessively. The comic’s primary focus is on the idea of art. Its second focus is the effects of art.  With these two very broad points, there is little room for character development.

The Artistic Effect of WHY ART?

WHY ART? Mixes cartoonish illustration with more detailed, yet surreal, art. The cartoon-like illustration dominates the comic. However, the occasional use of more detailed drawings introduces the idea of artwork versus reality. The more detailed drawings tend to be of art pieces within the comic, rather than of the artists who created them. This suggests the idea that artwork might present itself as prettier than reality. Such a thought tackles not only art as a concept and not only art’s effects, but also presents reality’s effect on art. So, while the comic is primarily about the concept of art, it uses this idea to deal with concrete things. Reality is a cold hard fact. However, we see Davis using the broad concept of art to deal with reality. The detail we see in the artworks presents the idea that art can show beauty in an ugly world.

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The art of the comic is minimalistic. It uses few colors, and the colors used, rarely appear on the page. The comic favors black and white, with no gradient between the two. Additionally, the lack of detail in the cartoonish illustration creates an air of simplicity. This atmospheric effect makes it seem like the comic isn’t tackling such a broad and indefinite subject. In having this effect, it invites readers in, rather than scaring them away. They see this minimalistic and cartoonish art, and they may think something along the lines of, “this doesn’t look too complicated.” They become enticed into reading, and that’s when the art and writing grabs them. After all, not every reader is a great art connoisseur. Many readers may not have a strict or in depth background in art and art theory.

Image courtesy of Fantagraphics Books

Some Final Words

WHY ART? presents the idea of art and the idea of creating art. A lot has to be covered, since there are two pretty big topics to deal with. However, someone doesn’t have to know a lot about art to enjoy and learn from this comic. In fact, it might be better if readers don’t have a vast and extensive knowledge of art. Otherwise, what they had learned previously might get in the way of gaining a new idea from this comic.

The concept of art covered in WHY ART? is a fairly new one. There have been multiple concepts and definitions of art over many, many years. The way Davis approaches art shows her modern views on the subject. Strangely enough, I don’t see all modern art forms included in the comic. Davis neglects to mention photography and digital methods of making art. While still very new to the art scene, such works have definitely seen acceptance in the world of art. So, I find it strange that these works do not get mentioned. I don’t mean to say that it was a mistake not to include them. Honestly, I’m just curious as to why these were not included in the comic.

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Overall, WHY ART? Is a highly conceptual work. Readers see an essay-like format used to explain art. However, this format we notice intertwines itself with both fact and fiction. As ideas largely drive this comic, characterization doesn’t necessarily need a presence. The concept of this comic is also portrayed through the simplistic art. Additionally, we see a contrast between reality and art presented in the detailed illustration versus the minimalistic drawing. Readers can purchase WHY ART? at comixology, and they should. WHY ART? deserves to be read.

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