Is Original Art Becoming Extinct?

KC and I, while organizing Christmas decorations last weekend, decided to sort through our box of original comic art. (We’d bought one of those giant Tupperware-like boxes and put everything in it when the cardboard storage boxes we were using broke down, but without organizing the contents much.) I found out that we owned some real gems I didn’t know about — including a page from one of the comics that changed my life, Scott McCloud’s Zot!; a two-page Lois Lane and Clark Kent sequence by Kurt Schaffenberger from a Superman Family Dollar Comic I read to shreds as a kid; a handful of Dan DeCarlo Betty and Veronica pinups; Keith Giffen drawing Hukka from Atari Force; and Star Sapphire’s introduction by Alan Davis from The Nail. We decided it was time to start framing some of these treasures, and we began with the page where KC was drawn into The Legion of Super-Heroes; an Andi Watson page from Slow News Day I was given as a thank-you for writing the Afterword for the second Love Fights; and Lea Hernandez’s chicken recipe, which is going to be a holiday present.

I’m digressing — and I will continue to do so just to say that OMG framing is expensive! I think the next batch will have to wait until I have a spare $500 laying around, so who knows when that will be — but it’s my folksy way of leading into this: we were wondering, while sorting through these tangible memories featuring whiteout and pasted-on labels (which had fallen off and gotten lost from some of the older works) and sketches on the back and scribbled notes in the margins, just how much longer anyone would know what these things were.

I was thus in sympathy with Tom Richmond, an illustrator for MAD Magazine, among other outlets, when he discussed how original art is disappearing as more artwork is done only on computer. Tom points out how this, in a way, is the commercial art field coming full circle, while in the comments others discuss that they’re gaining fidelity to their vision as they lose artifacts for resale.


14 Responses to “Is Original Art Becoming Extinct?”

  1. Russell Lissau Says:

    I have mused about this myself in recent years. I have a good-sized collection of original comic art, representing two stages of my life: The first chunk of pieces are from comics I either wrote about as a journalist or were created by artists I interviewed. The second chunk are pages from books I wrote. But the last 3 or 4 comics I wrote were done exclusively digitally — there is no original art for me to hang on my wall from those projects. It also means the artists in question lose potential income by not being able to sell those particular pages to collectors, which is interesting.

  2. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna,

    Animation cel collectors are going through the same transition. So much of even ‘hand-drawn’ animation is done on computer now. The best animation collectors can hope for are original concept art and character sketches.

  3. Ali T. Kokmen Says:

    I felt my own alacrity in original comics art collecting begin to wane when digital lettering became standard. For me, part of the fun of comics original art has to do with the medium’s unique juxtaposition of words and pictures. But when the lettering is digital and does not appear on the original art, the effect is somehow less compelling. The art artifact is somehow a lesser object than the printed piece, rather than an equal-or-better one. And that just feels wrong.

    Certainly, some original art collectors feel the same way. Some have turned their collecting toward sketches and commissions. Others, like me, have slowed down collecting considerably (in my case, I’m also priced out of many of the pieces most attractive to my eclectic tastes, but that’s a whole other thing…)

    With regard digital artists losing the potential income of original art sales, I know of some commercial illustrators who have made up a bit of the difference by selling prints of their work. Which is an option, though a print (even a limited run) doesn’t have the same cachet as “real” original art. (Plus, for comics artists, I imagine some publisher/proprietors might feel differently about an artist selling prints of a work than they do of them selling a unique piece of original art…)

  4. Hal Shipman Says:

    Which pages of Zot!? I have two, framed on my study wall. The Death of Drufus (#6, p26) and “Lead us!” (#10, p18).

  5. Tim Rifenburg Says:

    If you want to frame your work on the cheap (until you can afford better quality frames) I would suggest buying up framed posters or art from yard sales, discount shops (GoodWill or Salvation Army stores) and thrift type stores. Many times the art / posters are cheap and you can change out the art, for your art. (Plus the Original art you have looks good in the old style frames (in an art deco kind of way). Plus you are storing the art better and you can change out the art like a gallery. I’m envious of the Alan Davis page but like the good taste of the Decarlo pin ups. Great stuff.

  6. Johanna Says:

    Tim, that’s a good suggestion — but some of the pieces we started with are odd-sized and required special mats. I’ll keep that in mind for future, though.

    Hal, there’s one from #1 and one from #2, I think. The weird thing is, I don’t recall buying them, but it must have been at an SPX during the 90s.

    Ali, yeah, that’s the case with the Watson page — there’s no dialogue on it, which is a shame. I need to reread the story to figure out what’s going on on the page. :)

  7. John Platt Says:

    There’s still plenty of art to be bought and created — it just might not always be the art created for publication!

  8. Bill Williams Says:

    There are a few of us old school guys that still bang out drawings on paper because with computers you need the occasional do-over, but you never get the happy accidents. But we are now the exception and not the rule.

    When I went to the Austin Comic Con in November, I chatted with Mike McKone about his art. Years ago, I had bought a Teen Titans cover from him and a few other pages from that series. I was interested in art from Avengers Academy, but like most pros he works all digital now.

    Maybe the older stuff will eventually be worth what the high end art dealers are trying to charge for their inventory.

  9. Tara Tallan Says:

    The sad thing is, back when original comic pages were more commonly seen, I didn’t have the disposable income to afford them. Now that I can, they’re getting harder and harder to find! I did manage to pick up one of Steve Rude’s Nexus pages during his recent fundraiser, and I feel quite smug.

    But I, at least, am still doing my part to make sure there are original pages to be purchased. Huzzah for old school! ;-)

    Oh, also, Johanna, if you have a lot of things to frame, a mat-cutter is not too expensive and pretty easy to use. If you cut your own mats, framing yourself (either with frames you find at yard sales or new ones) is a breeze.

  10. Johanna Says:

    Oh, no, now we’re talking about arts and crafts! Too much for me. I’m just an appreciater. :)

  11. Grant Says:

    I was lucky that I collected original art in the early 80s. You could still get some great stuff for pretty cheap, and I’m talking a page of Ditko SpiderMan art for a hundred bucks, Kirby FF for 150, or Jim Starlin and Neal Adams art for 50 bucks. There is no way I could afford to buy original art for even the crappiest comic book now.

    I framed three pieces about 9 years ago and it was over 300 dollars. Ouch. I’d love to frame more, just can’t afford that luxury for the time being.

    Happy holidays!

  12. filmbeats Says:

    I thought even before computers and drawing tablets became popular that artists would often sell photocopies of covers or in comic pages they drew by hand (usually already inked but no color or shading). I only bought a few as a kid but they were all large photocopies. I’m guessing when ppl refer to original art they mean the pencil sketches without inking? I don’t see why artists can’t print out and sell the pages they’ve drawn digitally.

  13. Johanna Says:

    Original art usually means the penciled & inked work that the comics are printed from. They’re not photocopies, though. Artists could print out digital pages, but the difference there is, how do you know you’re getting the only one? There’s only one traditional original art board, but an artist could make many copies of the digital work.

  14. My Bunny Bathroom » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    [...] she’s helped me decorate. I earlier bought the originals of her three-part chicken recipe and framed them to go in the kitchen. (Where [...]




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