Friday, October 2, 2009

Chris Kreuter

Chris Kreuter published his abstract comic-book, "Stray Thoughts," in 2008. I discovered his work too late to be able to consider it for the anthology. I was interested in finding out how he came to abstract comics, what his influences were, what the concept was behind the pieces he has made so far, and what new projects he is working on. Here are his answers, together with some images from "Stray Thoughts." This is the first in a series of interviews with abstract-comics artists of whose work I have learned only after finalizing the roster for the anthology.

I've never been ashamed to admit that when it comes to art, I’m kind
of a neophyte. I have no format art education, and while I was very
artistic growing up - I was never really exposed to a wide variety of
what's out there and what's been done. Luckily, living in New York
City these past four years, I've found it's impossible to not have
your horizons expanded. A few years ago, I became quickly enamored
with more abstract concepts; making my lines break from the more rigid
and structured nature my engineering and technical background had
developed. I found it liberating to play with this new method of
spontaneous expression.

My art started to become more and more abstract, and soon I was
drawing almost exclusively spur-of-the-moment, with no plans or
preconceived notions of theme in mind. The results were often dynamic
and exciting, and eventually I wanted to take this style of expression
a step further. I was going through some old sketchbooks, mostly full
of comic strip characters and ideas, which sparked a notion: What if I
could combine this method of spontaneous expression within the medium
of comics? This is how the idea developed for "Stray Thoughts."

Growing up, I loved the cartoons in the newspaper such as Calvin &
Hobbes, Garfield and of course Peanuts. The most important influence
of all these comics was that it wasn't the art that mattered as much
as the depth of story and character they depict. This lesson is
important for me to remember whenever I have self-doubts regarding my
artistic ability. Aside from comics, I try and immerse myself in as
many different styles and mediums of art as I can. It’s my intention
that my art never become stagnant by staying within self-inflicted
boundaries. I feel that like me, people are influenced the most when
they’re taken outside of their comfort zone.

When I had the idea to do an abstract comic, I honestly thought I was
being really innovative. Looking back, I'm really glad I never did
any Google searches for "abstract comic"...because I would have
either; A) Been influenced by other works, which would have changed my
approach; or B) Had my creative energy stifled, knowing I wasn't quite
as innovative as I thought I was.

When I was getting started, I laid out some ground rules for how I
would draw abstract art in a sequential format. The goal was to try
and keep consistency in style, so that the reader had the opportunity
to perceive a narrative in their own way, by playing off of their
existing conventions of how a comic is supposed to work. I drew each
page as part of a 3-step, free-form process. The first step was
drawing the panel frames, which I did one page at a time off the top
of my head. As the book progressed, I found that my page layouts
become much more complex and explorative. After the panels were
setup, I went straight to ink for all of the linework. I drew one
panel at a time, all off of the top of my head. Looking back, the
variety in the results reflects many different moods over the course
of the four months it took to draw the book. After the linework was
done on each page, I came back with color - which was just as
spontaneous as my linework. Looking back at the final product, it's
very interesting to see the interaction of the different color
combinations. I also feel that the vibrant colors help to unify the
book and give it its own unique identity.

Since "Stray Thoughts," the demands for my time have grown
significantly. I am currently doing a lot of graphic design work for
card & board games, which eats into the time and creative energy I
have. I have a day job as a sales engineer, which makes art a passion
and not a job (This is certainly true for most artists today). While
this leaves me with a limited amount of opportunity to create, it also
allows me the freedom to explore new directions and new ideas without
having to worry about income. Lately, when I do find time for
personal art, I’ve been doing a lot of painting and non-traditional
media. However, I have so many stories in my head that I’d like to
tell, so I’ve been back to drawing comics lately, both traditional and
abstract. I believe that both of these methods have a value, yet
abstract comics are different in the way they demand the viewer to be
an active participant, as it is their background and emotions that
dictate the experience.

Besides, one of the things I love the most about abstract comics is
that I don’t have to draw the same character 50 times from 50
different angles...I’m honestly not very good at doing this, and I
envy all the cartoonists who have the skill and patience to do this.

More of Chris's work can be found at his website,

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