Abstract vs. Realistic




Realistic Vs. Abstract Art


In understanding comics Scott McCloud attempts to explain the gulf in visual detail in popular comics. He places these images on a continuum between the most impressionistic to the most realistic. The most simplistic image displays a geometric face. McCloud posits that this face acts as a general person, a short hand for human. It could be the reader, author, anyone. He continues to say that even when this amalgam face is given a name its symbolic nature is so powerful that the reader still identifies with the character as self. The urge to make a face from simple lines requires effort to give it life. A little of the reader has to go into it to make that happen. This is contrasted to photo-realistic images, which identify a particular individual. These require no effort to identify as a face, and consequently are more foreign to the reader.


McCloud also talks about how  the ultimate simplification of a symbol for face is language. The shapes of our words do not relate to the shapes of their meanings, the words are simply their meanings. This is contrasted to realistic artwork, where the form is meant to portray form only and little underlying meaning. McCloud uses this as a spring board to discuss a type of image which has no underlying meaning. Simple geometric shapes. Sometimes a square is only a square.


These points of reference are placed onto a continuum of realism, symbol and abstract geometry. Below the other readings in our course are placed on the same continuum based on their artistic leaning.

Scott McCloud Diagram

Scott McCloud Diagram

1 Red Tide

This style is the most dedicated to realism. Its characters have consistent depictions and little symbolic purpose,in addition  abstract concepts lack physical representations as in some other works.

2 Future Day (little geometry)

Like Red Tide Future Day often has literal representations of its subjects. However, often its characters are allegorical and the style is overall more geometrical.

3  Silver Surfer

Silver Surfer has a stylized art. Space is not represented realistically, instead energies are visible and take up space. Interactions between cosmic beings, such as intimacy, are depicted in surreal vignettes. The characters are also stylized into a simple and iconic geometric shorthand.

4 Understanding Comics

Scott McCloud uses a variety of styles when exploring the realm of comics. As he professes he chose a cartoon style as an accessible means to teach, it is  simplistic and geometric style.

5 Batman : The Dark Knight Returns

The character depictions in The Dark Night Returns are fluid and subject to change based on the tonal connotations of the moment. However the images are typically complex and impressionistic, the basic shapes making them up not easily identifiable.

6 Epileptic

Epileptic is a heavily symbolic work. Abstract concepts are represented as monsters and other visual short hand, while the characters themselves are made of basic shapes.

7 Contract with God (quarter geometry)

Eisner’s work is notable in that its words are often written in an illustrative style. The characters themselves lack rigidly defined appearances, and are drawn in a style that reflects their feelings over being. However, the hand drawn aesthetic of the novel disguises any simple underlying geometry.

8  Tantrum (half geometry)

Tantrum is divorced from realism in both narrative and its art work. The characters are simplistic and the main plot device and illustrative innovations are metaphorical.


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