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Pink Sketchbook Volume One: GRRR!
posted October 22, 2004


Creator: Scott Morse
Publishing Info: AdHouse Books, $10, 32 Pages, 2004
Ordering Numbers: None

This is one of those books I very much like having received for free that makes me wonder if anyone will enjoy paying for it. It's not a production issue. This first volume in a planned sketchbook series looks slightly dubious from the outside with its pink paper covers, but the insides reveal nice paper and the occasional color plate. AdHouse selected an appropriate subject, too, as Scott Morse is one of those artists with undeniable visual flair and a growing fan base.

The best thing about GRRR! is that it removes Morse's figures from panel progressions and allows the reader to examine his art and locate the center of its appeal. For me at least, the classic facial exaggeration recalls mid-20th Century cartoons, something reinforced by the length of Morse's torsos and his ability to integrate outsized elements with mundane detail. A monster steed in dress flats becomes a funny story in a single drawing, while even a cliche like a horrifying creature and its pet kitten suggests narrative possibilities in a way that doesn't force too much attention onto the manipulative act of contrast. The color sections show off Morse's distinctive use of a small set of colors in setting a single-hued figure against a background of competing tones.

So what am I complaining about? Well, the book is still very slight, and with Morse specifically one gets the sense you're getting less a representative snapshot than something rigidly organized by theme or time period. It's a lie that reviewers hold onto that sketchbooks are review proof -- the packaging is important, the artist should be of interest specifically for the art included, and the overall concept ought to reveal some significant aspect of that art in a way that provides a portrait of someone's artistic strengths and weaknesses. In the end, the reader of GRRR! really doesn't get any closer to the heart of its subject matter, the artist, than they might in spending 10 minutes looking over a convention table's worth of sketches and prints.