The Maturing Of Style

Media, Observatory

We know that we become most adept in the things about which we feel most passionate, and that as we age, we often get better at these things. Obviously in areas of physical prowess this is not the case, but for those in the creative arts it’s true that we improve with age. I’ve been lucky enough to have a publisher who has supported me for a long time, a degree of faith I’ve always tried to return by delivering the best work I could produce.

But our styles do change. Our prose becomes more sophisticated, our artwork develops a new level of subtlety. Graham Humphries has recently redesigned his old poster for the excellent horror-comedy ‘Return Of The Living Dead’, and the resulting new image is slicker and more stylish, very close to the look that Will Elder developed. But there’s something raw and energetic about his earlier painting that I like as well (click on image to enlarge).

My first novel, ‘Roofworld’, was a pell-mell assault on the senses which I have subsequently found almost impossible to reread. Now it seems to me naive and not terribly good – but a lot of people tell me how much they like my early work. Woody Allen was faced with the curse of the ‘early, funny films’ that he eschewed for something that he felt was more sophisticated.

But wheres the question – do we lose more than we gain?

4 comments on “The Maturing Of Style”

  1. J. Folgard says:

    Personally, I tend to enjoy most of my favorite writers’ output equally, be it for the ‘raw’ beginnings to the later, sometimes more polished works. As I read a lot of comics, there’s a funny thing with the artists: some of them will create pictures that will be sketchier, but more efficient with their storytelling. Others will produce artwork more polished & sophisticated than ever before -depending what effect they’re looking for. That’s why I’m so happy when I find an artist whose work I can enjoy regardless of the period. It’s like you’re following him /her during their career span, and you see the changes made consciously or not. I think this evolution of style is a good thing anyway, but you’re right: the ideal would be to enjoy both versions of the picture in this case!
    As for your books, sure i loved ‘Spanky’, ‘Rune’ ‘Psychoville’ or ‘Roofworld’ (still got them when they weren’t library loans!), they made me aware of your work, but I’m perfectly happy with your current output. But’s not comfort reading: I’m not a huge fan of crime fiction, yet B&M got me back to the fold while keeping the ‘quirkiness’ that I loved, reading your novels several years ago. ‘Hell Train’ was brilliant and pitch-perfect, it made me all nostalgic and hoping you might write one or two more horror novels in this vein -with Graham on cover please..? So, gain or lose I don’t know, but change is good, this back & forth between a trademark style and experimentation -as a reader, as a fan, I like it. Just follow the damn Muse! Cheers!

  2. Jez Winship says:

    Yes, I think I prefer the first. The hand is more strikingly twisted, and with its outline of glowing mist, looks like it is thrusting out of the poster to grab the viewer. The cartoon mad, popping eyes of the skeletal zombie and the general toxic gaudiness of the colours is more in keeping with the spirit of the film, too. The latter one is good, and the technique more accomplished, but the former gives more of a flavour of the movie it’s promoting.

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    Graham Humphries is really good and you can quite see the evolution of his personal style in these side by side. I like him.
    Will Elder and Jack Davis were EC giants and there were a couple more (Orlando?) who stood out, particularly in their renderings for EC’s SF comics and war stories.
    I recently finished Rune, Soho Black, and Darkest Day and enjoyed them. I could see how your style has changed. Your plots and your writing are tighter, your characters more detailed, and there may be less use of the multi-view point, although perhaps not. (Hell Train was again multi-view, but more episodic.) Nothing wrong before, better still.
    It’s fun to read an author from start to finish because you see his/her maturing, changing interests, getting better or getting worse. Not being able to reread what you’ve written early on, I’d think, is fairly normal. (John Dickson Carr understandably went down hill at the last: cancer, drink, painkillers and recycled writing. Sad.)
    Maturing is why so much early stuff gets burned by the author, his spouse, partner, children, caretaker after he/she dies, which is not always bad.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    The first work a person does that makes him feel there is promise becomes a sort of icon. You put it away and move on and then someone asks about the early stuff, you open up the vault and shrink back in horror at the clumsy appalling stuff. Burning early work is quite understandable. I wish I had advanced sufficiently far to recoil in horror.

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