Monday, March 31, 2014

Eerie emerges

Just as in days yore, I believe it was a year or so after Creepy got established, along came Eerie..

Now if only Vampirella would return in a large black and white magazine format, with elegant horror-style artwork, my adolescence will have re-asserted itself completely.

Forgot to post this ink hand from last night

I couldn't call it a night after the rather dismal torso drawing, so this time I fixed all the problems I recounted with that one and did something at least a bit more satisfying. I really need to do a lot of feathering and hatching and develop the hand/eye coordination needed to make all the lines perfect  - smooth, arced exactly the same and ending at exactly the right point.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bridge. Man.

Attempted ink drawing - Lessons learned

Man, this is really hard when you're not copying!! And when you're actually trying to use some kind of sensible inking techniques, which you are completely unfamiliar with (in terms of using them that is).

Lessons learned:

Drawing big is much harder than drawing small. The brush lines were so long I had to lift my wrist off the board, and immediately lost all semblance of control. Like I was drawing in a car going over ruts and potholes. It's also harder drawing bit with a pen. Hard to keep fine control over feathering and hatching etc. 

You really need to design the image thoroughly in pencil before opening the ink. You need to know exactly where the edges of every shaded area is going to be and I think you should probably go ahead and do your shading the same way in pencil as you will in ink. Or at least outline the areas carefully. 

The only time you want the paper taped down is when you're ruling borders. Otherwise I want to be able to move it around, turn it to make it easy to get smooth lines at any angle. 

I put some ink in some kind of little plastic lid I found that's wide and shallow - a little bigger than the lid off a plastic milk carton. And I stuck the lid down with a little bit of kneaded eraser so it stayed put. This made it so much easier to dip the brush effectively - it's impossible to do it in a bottle with a tiny little neck and they're always opaque, so you have no idea how far down the ink level actually is. You end up either getting no ink or going way up the ferule. And that's not good. The lid didn't work for dipping pen nibs though, too shallow. Those seem to work ok in the bottle. 

I used the eyedropper in the lid to transfer ink to the lid and then back into the bottle. It works, but damn, you lose so much ink this way!! Every time you draw. Dollars down the drain. 

My brush is trash now. I learned that when the tip splits into two points the way it did yesterday, it means you let some ink get too high up in the bristles, near or in the ferule, and it dried there. That's a brush killer. Though you can still use it for fill in in big areas of maybe for special effects. 

2 things occur to me that I should start doing - 1, draw in pencil exactly the way I would in ink. Do it a lot. 2, draw in ink - copying the work of masters I want to grow up to be like, and don't pencil first. Don't worry so much about getting everything right - proportioning and precision etc… it's just to get yourself used to the language of inking, the kind of mark making needed. Most of my shading in the above drawing is terrible for various reasons - though toward the end I started doing it better. That's when I switched to the Hunt 102 steel nib (the bronze extra-flexible ones are too damn flexible - can't control them well enough). 

Now I remember how easily plate bristol likes to tear when you peel off tape! 

If you won't be doing any wash, then maybe use non-waterprook drawing ink? Not sure on this one, just a thought. I think the waterproof india ink is what really kills brushes. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cartoonist's Materials FAQ and advice from Dave Sim on nibs and brushes

Cartoonist's Materials FAQ

Dave Sim on nibs and brushes

The Dave Sim Memorial Note From The President Archive

^ This last one is an index of articles Sim wrote in Cerebus.  Great stuff.

Fun drawing gadgets

Here are some of the more nifty little devices I use that keep drawing fun and exciting (which it already is, but these add some zip and zing):

This is the Moleskine sketchbook I'm doing my Bridgeman studies in, with additional single-pen Quiver attached to make it super convenient - the pencil is always handy!

Bells and whistles - aside from the excellent binding that allows the Moleskines to lay flat enough so you can draw effectively across a spread of pages, they also come standard with a ribbon bookmark to keep your place and an elastic strap to hold the book shut.

These are what Im using lately for my graphite drawings - from the bottom up my beloved 2mm Staedtler Mars Technico clutch-type lead holder (it's not a mechanical pencil because it doesn't auto-advance the lead when you press the button) - then a similar clutch graphite holder but the Art Alternatives one is 5.6mm - very thick and chunky! Makes drawing come out very painterly - no hard thin lines. Like charcoal in a way, but less messy. And finally a clutch-style eraser at the top. I was getting tired of sharpening pencils with an X-Acto knife and sanding sponge, the floor of my studio was starting to look like a circus tent, with sawdust everywhere and getting tracked through the house.

I also use the Staedtler to pencil my ink drawings, though it's really too thick and imprecise - I've ordered a .5mm cheap pocket mechanical pencil for that.

And I dug into the basement and found my old drafting board and triangles. This is just a board with foldaway legs that sits on top of a table. Just cleaned these up and put them in place, haven't used them yet.

Inking rant by Jim Shooter

The Inking Rant

Key points:

1) Control of the tools, that is, being able to make the pen or brush make exactly the mark on the paper that you want it to every time—nothing accidental.

2) Mastering technique. You need to know what to do with the tools to make hair look like hair, glass look like glass, sand look like sand, etc. If you tried to develop your own techniques for every occasion, it would take you decades. Better to learn from your favorite inkers.

3) Creating the illusion of depth. Depth is the key to clarity. Inkers control black, white and gray, that is, the extremes of VALUE, lightness and darkness, and to some extent, gray, the middle ground. Value—lightness and darkness—is THE most effective tool for creating the illusion of depth.

Pencilers and inkers—use a ruler. Use templates. Never freehand any man-made or machined object. Do not cheat. Do not fake it. Get it right. Yes, it will take much more time—for a while—until you polish up the skills. But, better one good page than ten bad ones.

Shooter's idea of what spotting blacks means seems to be different from what I see elsewhere, which is just to place some solid blacks in the drawing to give it solidity. He seems to think it means randomly placing blacks. I never thought it was meant to be random, but in service to a plan like creating depth or clarity. 

After Ortiz

Done using Dr PH Martin's Hi Carb Black Star ink (blackest ink I've ever seen by far!) on vellum finish bristol, using W&N 7 series #1 brush and whatever the steel Speedball nib is I have lol. I can see the vellum bristol was wrong for this - it needed a slick surface - in places the ink goes spotty. Plus my brush has a tendency to split into two points after a while - did it just before I started on the decorative brushwork in the bg. So I ended up using the pen for the stuff on the left. I also need to lower my drawing board a ways - I was actually holding the pen upside-down a little bit while drawing this! Surprised it worked at all really, but it did. 

Ortiz is a master of layout/composition - he observed the rule of alternating values in the planes, dark foreground, light mid and dark bg - but neither dark planes is filled in mostly solid. Many artists would have made that foreground figure a silhouette. He seems to know just how and where to let in some light, and I notice he never just 'fills in' - it's always done as lines, and he lets them break up in places so you can see it. I have a tendency to be too heavy handed with darks, need to learn to state them simply and minimally, a thick line or two rather than 'coloring in'. Let in some light and air. And I'm really surprised how dull and un-tailored his fine lines are here - they're very blunt and laid down unevenly on purpose. But I also notice all the shapes made by the fine lines taper at both ends. Very controlled. 

Hand casts

Lol it blows my mind that this foam hand I bought on eBay is in a total Bridgman pose! Too cool!

Bridgman hardly prepared me for drawing graceful female handses though..

Friday, March 28, 2014

Breath of Bones: a Tale of the Golem

Just found about about this via a Bud Plant Comic Art email…

This is excellent art that reminds me very strongly of the Spanish Invasion artists working for Warren publishing in the 70's and early 80's. And that's my highest praise. 

Bridgeman before breakfast

Well, one spread of pages was before breakfast, then I decided to fix all the rest of the pages again to make them more durable, and while the whole book was drying I hit up Taco Bell..

From last night

Boots and tuts

Here's boot camp for artists:

And a collection of excellent comic book drawing/ inking tutorials:


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Stop Photoshop from snapping on you (the Control key gives you back control)

I've struggled with this forever, and have never been able to find a solution. The main reason I need it is to align layers when I scan something too big to fit at one go, so I have to scan it in parts and try to align them later. I have a couple of stitching programs made for panoramic photographs that can sometimes do it, and when they work they do a great job if it. But with drawings they can often be unable to match things up, forcing me to tackle it manually in photoshop.

And the problem I always run into is that, using either the Move tool or the Free Transform tool, I can move things around smoothly until the edges of layers get close to each other, and then suddenly it jumps a couple of millimeters to line those edges up. Incredibly frustrating - as usually that's when I'm getting very close to getting a perfect match, then suddenly Photoshop decides to wrench control from me and put things where it wants. Just like when my computer decides to 'autocorrect' whatever I'm writing without informing me.

Well I've finally discovered the solution, and it's super simple. It was actually written wrong in the tutorial I looked at, but I figured it out anyway (hint, whenever a tutorial says to press Command in Mac, try Control if it doesn't work, and vise verse). Possibly Command works in CS, I only have Elements, so it might be different for me.

Here it is - when sliding one layer around on top on another, when Photoshop tries to take over, press the Control key. It's that simple. Photoshop relenquishes its death grip and lets you push things around however you want.

Have the top layer set to Difference to see what's happening, or reduce opacity or whatever method works for you.

Here's a link to the tutorial, which shows several other methods, none of which worked for me:

Prevent Photoshop from snapping to the edges of documents

Little hint - when you get it lined up, release the mouse or stylus before letting off the Control key, or it will snap to the edge anyway, pissing you off to no end. Now if only I knew a solution to the fact that when I release the stylus it always wants to pull a little to one side or the other… Holding it as perpendicular as possible and pulling straight up rapidly seems to work sometimes..

I just tested, and this also prevents lines you're drawing from snapping to the Guide lines. I had turned off Snap To Guides some time ago, but it still kept doing it, making it impossible to draw anywhere near a guide. It's a little annoying to have to press the Control key while drawing, but at least it works.

Bridgeman + ink doodlins

The point of interest here is the big patch of heavily 'weathered' ink. Tried out various methods for making white marks and tone over ink, including razor blade, sandpaper, and 2 different brands of gouache. The W&N Designers Gouache is the more grayish stuff - not nearly as opaque and bright white as the Turner Acryl gouache. It's basically impossible to make good lines with the gouache - toward the bottom you can see three strokes made with the edge of a flat brush - tried it with a round and I couldn't even make a mark at all, the sable was too weak to push the thick stuff around. The three strokes are thick and gloppy, not exactly precisely drawn lines. Across from them is a little area where I tried it again but kept scrubbing around drybrush style - it actually looks really good for some kind of haze effect.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spotting blacks and inking tutorials

Since learning that Creepy magazine is resurrected I've become intensely interested in inking. So I hit up the Penciljack board (ironically named considering it's about comic book inking) and looked for some tutorials. Bearing in mind I've done a good bit of amateur inking years ago, but without any kind of training, and it was before there was an internet loaded with tutorials and professionals sharing advice. Here's today's finds:

Spotting blacks
I was vaguely familiar with the term, but I misunderstood it. I always thought it referred to going back and filling in the little white dots and grey areas, but really what it means is to just draw in big solid areas of black to create a strong design. Nice bit of advice I ran across recently somewhere - use a waterbrush loaded with ink for spotting. Here's a nice tutorial about spotting that breaks it down very logically:

Big Time Attic: Spotting black areas

What particularly hit home for me is the approach of keeping things simple and uncluttered - my tendency is to try to make an ink drawing look as subtle and nuanced as a fully rendered pencil drawing or something.

And here's a tutorial on inking techniques in general that I like:

The inking tutorial

Pencil sketch

Done with Staedtler Mars Technico 2mm with 4B lead. I'm really enjoying this gadget. So different from using pencils with thick leads that you have to sharpen with a knife and sandpaper all the time.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Info on Bridgeman, Reilly, etc. (And yes, sometimes it is spelled with the E)

Found as a comment Here.

In 1953, with 10 years of making a good living as a comic book artist, but frustrated by his lack of real improvement, Leonard Starr was advised by Dean Cornwell to return to art school and take night courses at the Art Students' League under the legendary Frank Reilly, the principal life drawing instructor at the school when George Bridgeman retired and a Cornwell-from-Dunn-from-Pyle disciple. Reilly was a major factor in producing a horde of great illustrators, among the better known Cooper Studio Girl Art pros Joseph Bowler and Ernest Chiriaka and many superb cover artists of the Trash Paperback era the likes of Robert Mcguire, Walter Popp, James Bama, Stan Borack, Lou Marchetti, Rudy Nappi, and Vern Tossey.

If Starr has frequently dismissed his early art education as worthless for 30 years, he is equally adamant that Reilly, who died in 1967, was the best teacher he ever had, claiming "He [Reilly] gave you the meat and potatoes, and there wasn't a single day that I didn't learn at least 10 things. I had gaps in my knowledge, and during 6 months of evening study with him, the gaps began to fill up."

Oh Derp!! I just got it… the hand is like a foot..

I mean, I did get that right away - from the very abbreviated notes it was clear earlier the hand has an arch on its back like the instep, and a hollow underneath the palm like the arch of the foot, and the heel of the hand is literally like a heel, with the thumb attached the same way the big toe is part of the heel system. Plus the pad of the hand is just like the thick pad of the foot.

But somehow I completely missed the point of the above drawings, even after copying them. I thought it was just to show the similarity of the wrist and ankle joints, but now I realize it's the similar structure of the hand and foot in terms of the 'wedging forms' Bridgman is so big on. The big toe and ball of the foot are analogous to the thumb and its big muscle form. The wrist is like the instep area of the foot.

Damn, I honestly wish somehow Bridgman's lectures had been recorded, or that one of his students had bothered to go through and copy out his notes alongside the appropriate drawings. I searched the web last night hoping there was a blog where someone had done that, but haven't found anything yet.

The design is the thing

I've spent a lot of time looking at ink drawings for a few days. I like to do things like this until I reach saturation point, and my mind seems to be running over with images, to the point that I've literally laid down to sleep and had images spinning through my head like something from a Bunyel movie. I like to think it helps me learn stuff, like design and stuff. 

That's what really jumps up and slaps me in the face about all of these images. I'm keeping them small here because that way it's easier to see pure design and not get distract by detail. If you want detail just click and embiggen them.

Careful placement of shapes of black and white and grey, be it value or pattern. Groups of marks create pattern, whether they're lines, dots, letters or what have you. And pattern creates a visual grey. 

One thing I've really come to realize looking at so many ink drawings, everything from superhero comic pages to cartoons to well - everything else really - some of the modern styles seem to be incredibly dense and complicated - thousands of superfine lines all over the place, but it also seems like more lines means less impact. All that detail actually works against strong design, unless it's very carefully done. Personally I tend to prefer strong simple images, though I have been known to gasp in amazement at some of the ultra complex ones at times as well. 

Here's some more words in between pictures, just to see if you're actually reading..


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bridgman + Inkadoodledoo

Here you can see my solution to the 'transfer paper' problem I was having (did I mention that? Whenever I was drawing on a left page the drawings on both pages behind it would cross-transfer onto each other). I folded over a piece of copier paper, trimmed it to fit, and slip it under the left page. Afterwards I just erase both sides of it and re-use over and over. Plus I always Spectrafix each page - some great stuff yo!
I'm still just doodling around with ink really - I know eventually I'm going to have to start actually (gasp!) planning my ink drawings. It's not like pencil or charcoal where you can think as you draw. Maybe eventually it does get like that with ink, but I won't be there for some time yet.