"Live Off The Floor"
19 May 2016
Like most people since hearing the news of Darwyn Cooke's passing I've been reading interviews and articles about the man and his work and going back to look at what stuff of his I have on my bookshelf, which in my case is his fantastically evocative adaptations of the Parker novels by Don Westlake.
I was reading an interview with Cooke by Tucker Stone which you can find here and really liked this bit of insight into the improvisational approach both the artist and the writer he's adapting adopt towards the creative process:
But when I’m more or less fully prepared, I sit down and I do what I’m calling “live off the floor.” That’s penciling straight ahead, right onto the boards, lettering it and inking it, no white-out. If there’s a problem with something, I black it in. I’m trying my hardest to execute the artwork the same way Westlake made the scenes work. He sat down everyday until it was time to finish it. And then the next day, he’d sit down and do it again. He didn’t work off of an outline.
Tucker Stone: Yeah, I’ve read enough of those books now to grasp how crazy that is. Making it up as he went along — that’s just insane to me, it’s amazing.
Darwyn Cooke: Yeah! It’s stupefying. To a great degree, I’m trying to replicate that method myself, to leave it up to me and the brush. It leads to good and bad things, that method of leaving things as they stand.
"You just go on your nerve," as Frank O'Hara says. The page is the place where you work the story out panel by panel, trying things out and seeing what takes and what gets taken away to leave something you hadn't anticipated at the start.
In the page above I had only a very vague idea of what I wanted to include in terms of which characters needed introducing and what background elements I wanted to focus on. It was only through the process of drawing and redrawing certain elements - particularly the figure of the man on the street on the bottom row - that a completely new take on what the relationships between characters could be suddenly became really obvious to me, prompting a completely new direction for the pages that are going to follow.