Grinding It Out

And Then One Day #9: Page 12 (Elephant Eater): Panel 1: After a week long hiatus, Ryan Claytor returns to his weekly online publishing schedule. At the halfway point for this issue, I must say that I’ve enjoyed the different dynamic that reviewing a page at a time has offered. It’s allowed me to slow down and appreciate the craft more intensely than I probably would have/will when reading the entire issue in one sitting and focusing more on the overall narrative. This page is a good example of why it’s sometimes a joy to slow down. The first panel is something of a benchmark, at least in my recollection of Ryan’s work, in that I think this is *the* smallest scale that the creator has ever worked at. For me, the smaller the figure scale gets, the more detailed and nuanced the aesthetic becomes, and the more I enjoy it. There are a couple of flourishes here that just sing. First, notice how the line weight of the bird on the right side pulls your eye instantly to that creature. From there, the bird’s flight path drops your eye down to the second bird perched on the rooftop. From there, if you follow the line weights diminishing toward the horizon, your eye is pulled to the center of the page, with the cluster of the tree and the pole with the banners attached to it. From there, your eye is pulled yet again to the clever dotted line that becomes noticeable as it traverses the page from right to left and drags your eye across to focus on the two protagonists walking through the panel. The action is balanced, the panel is balanced, and it’s a compact exercise in beauty the way that Ryan has just masterfully controlled your eye movement and sensory perception of the page, without you even noticing it. Ryan and I once discussed the Latin phrase “ars est celare artem” in an interview. “The art is to hide the art.” He achieves it here; the reader is so ensconced in the dynamic that they don’t even consciously realize the pathway of their eyes has just been manipulated by a modern master. Man, that was just the first panel! Let’s charge on…

Panel 2-3: It looks as though panel 2 might just never end. There is so much depth and detail in the distance that you actually can’t identify the vanishing point on the horizon. It’s almost like it gets half the scale, then half of that, then half of that, then half of that, and just keeps receding into infinity, so small that it goes on forever and the naked human eye just can’t detect it. The trees, the buildings, and the clouds form this little vortex of illusion in the distance. By the time we get to panel 3, it becomes clear that Ryan is going to slow the pace of the larger story down and take us through a scenic stroll. Also notice how every panel here is operating at a different figure scale. How’s that for variety?

Panel 4: This is the figure scale I most associate with Ryan’s work historically. This degree of camera zoom is really in Ryan’s wheelhouse and has been his bread and butter over the years (how’s that for mixed colloquialisms?). With all of the experimentation going on in this page/issue, it’s nice to see a familiar return to what fans of his work are already most accustomed to. It’s a sensory anchor that comforts us and prepares us for whatever delight is sure to come next!


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