For the past couple of months, I’ve been taking advanced cartooning lessons from the very talented and fun Tom Hart. It makes me feel a little bit like I’m starring in one of those “You, too, can draw this turtle!” commercials from my childhood, only because I didn’t know that you could actually take serious classes in this stuff until recently. (Tom teaches cartooning at SVA, btw.) Anyways, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had drawing.

Last night, we were reviewing some sketches I’d been working on for the first comic in a series (hopefully) to be titled “The observed weakness of gravity,” and I can’t tell you how wild and complicated combining images (over which you have ultimate and complete control) and words (see previous parens) is. My sticking point at the moment is that I tend to draw absolutely everything — elements, frames, pages — on the perpendicular. Everything lines up neatly with everything else, which doesn’t necessarily make for a totally engaging visual.

It wasn’t until we were breaking each of the images apart that it hit me why I do this: graphic design. For years and years now, I’ve had it drilled into me that every element in every design, especially in web design, absolutely must make sense in its placement and line up on some sort of grid. Even if that grid is uneven in places, it almost always exists. I’m sure the creative director of the agency I used to work for is thrilled that he’s beaten my subconscious into submission, but I’m stymied.

How does one unlearn all of this training in order to set art and stories free? Onward to breaking off the grid…