Powr Mastrs 3 (2010), page 13 panel 1. CF.
Comics art places such a massive emphasis on "style" that sometimes it can get hard to talk about the stuff at all without using that word. Even at the most basic level, you can undercut the panels by putting them in the big boxes of "cartoon style" or "realistic style" and letting that suffice. "Style", as it's all too often laid out in comics discussions, has the opposite effect of actual artistic stylisms: it robs the work of individuality, assigning it to a junkheap of other artists whose drawings hit the eye in only the most tangentially similar of ways.
Which is why CF's art is so interesting. It seems to fall neither here nor there, not traditionally realist, but with none of the usual cartoon drawing inflections either. It's at no great pains to do anything but depict the actuality of its subject: no crosshatching or shading to "real things up", no iconographic shortcuts. There is only the picture in the panel, looking not as it looks in real life or as it's typically set down in comic books. CF's drawings look like drawings, the captured forms of real or imagined things. And yet nothing of reality's visual noise or imagination's evasiveness makes it into the images. Everything is natural, sprung from a single source, uninterrupted by story or influence or the workings of the mind. About the natural, CF says "I'm trying to appeal to this part of nature which has a terrifying quality. But it's kind of beautiful at the same time." There is no mechanical element or over-construction to the pictures. All that's there is the lines and the blanks, the whites and the blacks, pure and unadulterated. "I always liked seeing raw pencils in comics," he explains. "I would always wish that was the comic. Cause it's magic..."
And it really is. It's easy to see an alchemy on CF's pages, where the homogenizing element of craft and the authorial voice imposed by cartooned stylizations are both stripped away. One primitive tool, the pencil, puts everything down, and then it is done. If there is any authorial voice to CF's linework, it comes from not from the artist but the tool he uses. Seething inside each sleek, perfect line is the humanity inherent in the pencil itself, roughness and expression screaming from the grit and constant irregularity of the graphite trails. No line or black space runs completely uninterrupted: look close and you can see scratches and scuffles, a million individual variations which cannot be counted one by one as a part of the artist's intention. If CF is behind these blips of imperfection, it's as their conceptualizer, the mind that accedes to them -- not the actual hand making them. The lines' forms and symmetries are straight, balanced, perfect. The tool itself, the way it goes down onto the paper, is what brings the chaos. Pencil does not slide across the page like ink, it does not throw perfect, silent blacks and move on. It's dust. It lingers, tiny particles that actually move with every breath of air that hits them. It has an energy of its own. To CF, "energy has nothing to do with people or ideas. It's like an invincibility formation." And there is something beyond the human in the drawing. It simply exists first, a pure visual, and only imparts story or character second.
Where the human mind behind the art comes in is with the composition. "Composition is the most important thing," the artist says. "It dictates everything. Composition's so weird... those power structures... that's why one corporation succeeds and one fails, composition. And if you don't have it you will perish. That's why they're constantly trying to destroy artists and discredit artists, because it's so powerful." There's no evasion to CF's compositions, whether the layouts of the total pages or the pictures in the boxes. They present themselves. The subject exists as the center of each image, and everything proceeds from there, the logic of the drawings trumping the overly familiar style rules of most comics art. The panels are naked, totally open with what they show us, addressing their subject matter in the simplest and most direct way possible. If a similarity with other artists' work creeps into CF's drawings, it's here: Jack Kirby chased the same unadulterated purity, and Moebius found a similar Zen simplicity of presentation. The look of the work itself has less to do with either titan of comics art than that of many others (to my eye its delicate forms and gravity-defying dreamlike quality is closest to Winsor McCay) -- but the connection exists, and on a deep level. It all draws from the same sources of "raw forms becoming more differentiated tissue. They're a form of energy and they've always been with us."
But the things that go into the drawings -- those subjects -- are important too, and CF pulls from a seemingly endless font of visual ideas that occupy the same raw, vital space as the substance of the lines themselves do. The forms and objects are never completely divorced from reality, but they aren't the solid certainties that most comics art deals in exclusively. CF draws people and environments that, like ours, are alive, constantly growing, expanding and withering, forever locked into a process of transformation, changing into something we've never seen before. Even his machines shift shapes between the panels. His abstract designs mirror the contours and motions of light and darkness through the air, or the shapes that dance behind our eyes when we close them. It's all real, it all exists, it's just rarely made it onto the page before. CF draws in thrall to the world, mixing its rarer, stranger elements into new things inside the panels. In his surrender to his tools, his exhibition of free imagination, his willingness to let his art be dictated by outside forces, he paradoxically becomes one of the medium's most individual artists. Other things speak through him. "I feel like I'm always trying to stop drawing and stop making anything," he says. "I'd like to quit. I don't think anybody can be good at anything until they decide to quit."
CF quotes taken raw and jumbled from a slideshow presentation at Family Los Angeles.