Sketch Fridays #33 – Venture. Click to enlarge.

In what will be the first of a short series of Sketch Friday drawings, I turned to the sketchbooks of my youth to reinterpret the characters I created at the creative heights of my teenage years. I think a lot of creative people look back fondly on their teenage or early 20s years with wistful nostalgia, thinking things like, “I was so creative back then; what happened?” I go through those spells sometimes. I was coming up with so much stuff back then that it is inspiring and impossible to comprehend. Of course, as I flipped through my old sketchbooks I realized––as do many people going through their original creations from that period of time––how derivative everything was or generally undeveloped concepts were. I think the best way to describe that period is not to diminish it by calling everything a ripoff (though it mostly was), but it was a reactionary time.

Those characters and stories were what we call in pedagogical theory the “practice” phase. The first phase of a lecture plan is the Instructional where you give students new information and model it for them. It then moves to the practice phase where you give students the chance to try out these concepts for themselves. It won’t be perfect; in fact, most will simply repeat what they saw you do, but it’s still an important step to take before the concepts are internalized and made their own. Such was my teenage creative period. Not wholly bad, but not wholly good, either.

Back in those days––the mid 1990s, to be exact––Josh and I were creating characters like a bad habit. A lot of it was a reaction to the other’s work (mostly me to his) but it fostered some incredible growth as I look back over my sketchbooks. The prize character that helped bring my teenage years to a close was a character called “Venture.”

Venture from 1996. You can tell by the faint guidelines I spent the most time drawing his sword. And it’s clear Venture never skipped leg day at the gym.

With regard to the character being created during my “reactionary” or “practice” phase, Venture was a reaction to falling in love with the immortal tragic characters from the Highlander series of movies and tv show. It was also my first expression since I started to gain an understanding and appreciation for history and mythology, the former of which had previously been relegated to the realm of boredom. Basically, he was a character that allowed me to play with history and codify it in my own way.

Venture was a cursed hero. A vain adventurer who comes across a sigil that, with prompting, bonded to his face, encapsulating his entire head in a mask with the vigil subsuming his eyes, nose, and mouth. He suffocates inside of it and, when he awakens, is gifted with immortality, strength, and the ability to emit blasts of energy from the sigil during highly tense situations. Venture became the thread with which I started to stitch together my disparate and growing interests.

Did I want to tell a Conan-type fantasy story? Venture could do that. Did I want to tell a 17th century samurai story? Venture could be there. Did I want to retell the Arthurian legend? Venture can do that? Did I want to tell a story about the inability to interact with normal people despite a desire to? Venture was made for that. Hell, I could put him space if I wanted to.

To summarize, Venture became my first avatar or, to be more accurate, Mary Sue character. To that end, he never really had a story, per se, aside from an origin. I had a lot of vignettes he took part in, but when looking through my sketchbooks I found he never had an adversary or clear goal aside from getting the mask off at some point. The only constant is his inherent tragic nature, which I still like and, despite having long abandoned him, I think he’s still a pretty neat design.