Most translations of the Bible put Jonah in the mouth of a whale when he goes sailing that wildly wet ocean-filled day. (If you don’t know the story, a quick bit of research will fill you in quickly.) But ancient illustrations, like the one done by some old famous dude in some old famous chapel, put him in the mouth of a giant fish.
It’s elementary, my dear readers. Those ancient artists didn’t know what a whale looked like, but they knew what a fish looked like.
But if they’d had Google Image, an oceanic encyclopedia (an accurate one), or any number of research tools we have to day – oh the glory those pictures would have been for modern man. Not that they’re not glorious now.
Well, what does that have to do with today’s post? Everything, by Jove. Everything.
Research isn’t just for aging historians stuck in some secret corner of the Smithsonian. It’s for anybody who writes anything, who draws anything, who depicts anything to do with anything. Oh sure, as a writer you could try the trick I tried growing up, “I’ll make up my own universe with my own rules!” But, that universe wasn’t believable without some fact of real science, some actual real mechanism that real people could fall back to as a reference.
And as an artist, I realized quickly that I couldn’t make up my own anatomy. I had to learn how the human body was really put together, how it moved about, and how shadows exactly really do fall over the curvy canals of so-and-so’s luscious body.
It was all in the research.
Research is another reason why, if you want good art, being an artist is not always an easy job. Being an artist sometimes takes more than just sitting down and throwing a random picture out on a blank page. Sometimes it takes a bit, if not a lot, of research. A potential client came to me a couple of weeks ago wanting a porcupine on their cover, for example. It’s a good thing I researched a bit about porcupines, because the client wanted in fact an African porcupine – which looks different from an American porcupine. If I’d not looked into the matter, I may have ended up with the quill equivalent to Jonah’s Big Fish.
Research is one of the main reasons why Elfquest is such a popular comic. Wendy Pini, the main brain to the popular comic and graphic novels, studied Shakespeare. She studied film, directing, and when she was preparing to put the comic into motion she spent a long time studying wolves. I can’t imagine how shallow the series would be if there had not been real drama involving wolf hierarchy; stuff that really could happen in the wild. Stuff that made sense.
Akashik’s world is very colorful and has an enormous amount of detail to it because of the research that was put into it. Heavenly Bride is a better written story because of the research I put into how to put things together. And 10 Confessions? Well. If I can get that sucker off the ground, it may just be one of my best stories yet – thanks to research.
Here’s an experiment for you. Find an old dictionary and open it to a random page. Close your eyes and point anywhere on the page. Find the closest noun to your finger. If it’s something you don’t recognize, draw it without researching what it looks like. Don’t read the description or anything. Just go on nothing. This only works if you don’t recognize the noun, mind you. And when you’re done, then look to see how accurate you are -and I think you will see how important the effort of research is to writing, drawing, building, or really anything.
I guess that’s all I had to say for the day.