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Depiction and demarcation in comics: Towards an account of the medium as a drawing practice

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Despite the insistence of many authors on the primacy of the visual in comics, there has been comparatively little attention given to the drawing practices that create comics texts. This article will argue for the value of, and make some initial proposals regarding the nature of, an account of comics production as a distinct drawing practice, not as a rejection of language-centred accounts, but as a necessary complement to the understandings they enable. Accounts of depiction by Kendall Walton, Michael Podro and Patrick Maynard describe a process of imagining into drawn marks, in which the viewer maintains an awareness of their own cognitive activity in taking the sight of the image before them as the sight of the depicted subject. Readerly awareness of this type is well-known to comics researchers through discussion of the cognitive effort involved in achieving what Scott McCloud famously describes as ‘closure’, yet such discussions generally begin with the assumption of the reader’s recognition of depicted scenes. A full account of this fundamental operation of comics reading also requires an account of the methods by which readers use what is perceptually presented to them to imagine events taking place within the images. Walton’s theory of ‘mimesis as make-believe’ will be used here to suggest the way in which fictional truths are generated by drawing styles common to comics. Drawing on the phenomenological grounding of Walton’s approach, I will argue for its compatibility with conceptual metaphor theory, and that the less obviously pictorial drawing conventions of emanata operate as visual metaphors that emerge from our embodied experience of the world.

Keywords: Ernst Gombrich; Kendall Walton; depiction; drawing; embodied cognition; metaphor

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of the Arts London

Publication date: July 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • Studies in Comics aims to describe the nature of comics, to identify the medium as a distinct art form, and to address the medium's formal properties. The emerging field of comics studies is a model for interdisciplinary research and in this spirit this journal welcomes all approaches. This journal is international in scope and provides an inclusive space in which researchers from all backgrounds can present new thinking on comics to a global audience. The journal will promote the close analysis of the comics page/text using a variety of methodologies. Its specific goal, however, is to expand the relationship between comics and theory and to articulate a "theory of comics". The journal also includes reviews of new comics, criticism, and exhibitions, and a dedicated online space for cutting-edge and emergent creative work.

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