Wednesday, November 14, 2007

That's What Christmas is All About, Charlie Brown

“In truth, don’t all lines carry with them an expressive quality?”(124) Last semester, while I was studying in Paris, I took and Art History course that met every Wednesday for two hours in the Musee d’Orsay (for those who have never been—PLEASE GO—and for those who have already visited the museum I’m sure you know what I’m talking about). It’s home to works of the master’s of their trade: Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Seurat, and the list goes on…Several of these artists (if not all), mastered the technique of the expressive line, and communicated with their audience through their tones and brushstrokes, rather than expressly through the subject of the piece. McCloud references their work, and how the use of line conveyed abstract emotion in a concrete detail.

It is not difficult at all to group these artists into the category of “masters of their medium”, but McCloud challenges the readers to look past the proclaimed masters, and specifically references other artists, like Charles Shulz. I naturally consider him a very talented artist, but would never think of comparing him to Monet. McCloud pushes me to ask myself…why not? He is, after all, “a storyteller, a creator who has something to say through comics and devotes all his energy to controlling his medium and refining its ability to convey messages effectively”(180). His lines should then be considered expressive, too: McCloud notes their soft curves that reflect the mood of his stories of “Peanuts”. A Charlie Brown Christmas is a perfect example of McCloud’s point: when Linus stands on the empty stage, illuminated by a singular stage light, and tell what the true meaning of Christmas really is, he is clearly voicing Shulz’s opinion of society’s commercial take on a sacred holiday. But from the soft colors, to the smooth lines, to the Linus’ calm voice, Shulz is making his point approachable to adults and children alike.

As McCloud notes in his last chapter, “the wall of ignorance that prevents so many human beings from seeing each other clearly can only be breached by communication”(198). Each of these artists, including McCloud are combining words and images to express their thoughts and ideas—in a way that is certainly still subject to individual interpretation—but it is better to say it, than not say it all.

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