I have just started taking a module about Sequential Art in my University and we discussed about what Sequential Art is. This is my own definition of Sequential Art and I thought it will be great to share it among my fellow art-enthusiasts. Feel free to tell me about your own definitions as well!
Lecture 1: The 4 (self-defined) Criteria for Sequential Art
We had a discussion on what is sequential art in class today. I had thought long and hard and I finally come up with 4 criteria that I deem are crucial in defining what sequential art is.
I have to make clear that while each criterion may not entirely define what sequential art is, they cannot be non-existent or excluded.
1) There has to be a Flow
For sequential art, there has to be a sequence, a pattern, a flow. With that said, each panel has to be relevant and relative to the previous panel, in terms of meaning and logic, such that a flow can be established.
As for the flow, the meaning derived from the audience need not be exactly in line with the original intent of the artist. I feel that as long as the artist did put some meaning into his work, and the audience did get some meaning out of his work, it can be classified as a sequential art.
During the discussion, some students pointed out that the starting point and the ending point must be present and well defined. I beg to differ. As long as there is a logical flow through the series of panels, the starting and the ending points can be obscure and even obsolete. A good example is a "Chicken and Egg" comic strip; it doesn't really matter where the start and end are as long as a logical connection can be made between the panels.
2) There has to be an Order among the panels
The order in which the panels are placed are very important and crucial in sequential art. This is in line with my first point. The order brings out the Flow and the meaning between each panels.
If the order is messed up, the meaning is changed or even lost.
3) There has to be a Focal Point
The artist is trying to illustrate something, and a focal point has to be set so that we have something to latch onto while following the sequential art. The focal point does not has to be exactly the thing that the artist wants to convey; the focal point can be on another object that serves as a means to bring out the subject. With that said, it is possible for the focal point to be shifted throughout the flow, but the main idea is that focal points must exist at any point of time.
For me, I prefer think of the focal point as a guide to show the audience the way into the sequential art.
4) There has to be a Change
This point is brought up in class by another group and I actually agree that the change is very necessary.
By change, it can mean a change in time, space, focal points and even their perspectives. Something has to change in sequential art. The changes bring about the flow and with that they bring about meaning in the images. I'm sure we all expect changes in the images when we read sequential art so this is definitely something that sequential art cannot do without.