‘You Risk Falling on Your Face, But That’s a Risk You Have to Take’: Watch How Comic Artist Chris Ware Invents Characters Totally Unlike Himself

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Chris Ware: Someone I'm Not." © Art21, Inc. 2017.

The American comic artist Chris Ware is a self-described “nervous guy.” The New Yorker cartoonist and author of beloved series such as Jimmy Corrigan and Rusty Brown is the first to admit that he often feels self-conscious as an artist and writer, which is why he enjoys giving life to a diverse cast of characters whose experiences are completely different from his own.

In an exclusive interview with Art21 as part of the “Extended Play” series, Ware describes his experience in art school, when his teachers would warn him against drawing women, because they said he’d be “colonizing them with his eyes.” That didn’t stop him though, he says, because the alternative would be equally unfathomable. 

Production still from the Art21 "Extended Play" film, "Chris Ware: Someone I'm Not." © Art21, Inc. 2017.

Production still from the Art21 “Extended Play” film “Chris Ware: Someone I’m Not.” © Art21, Inc. 2017.

The discomfort Ware faces while trying to inhabit the mindset of someone different than him is worth it to “try and expand your understanding, and your empathy for other human beings.” 

In the video, Ware struggles to capture the gesture of one such character. “I have to try to somehow push my limits and my understanding,” he says, laughing, “and you risk falling on your face doing so, but that’s a risk you have to take.”

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s Extended Play series, below. 

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new season of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship Art in the Twenty-First Century television series is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s education programs at Art21.org.

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