Scritchy Scratchy Screen

As you may or may not know, I bought a Huion Kamvas (sic) 16 graphics tablet and – for the price – it is FABULOUSLY impressive – honest. Resolution, while not 4k (it’s HD, but in a 16″ screen that’s about 140dpi) is actually pretty damn good and price wise (I got it for around £300) it is hard to beat.

Currently it’s on sale on amazon for £349 (and there’s a 15% voucher off the price too right now).

Mine is a year old. Within a very short period of time, I’d scratched the display up. At that price, it was slightly annoying but not maddening. One thing I didn’t buy with it, largely because I’d bought similair for the ipad pro and hated it, was a protective screen. BUT – I bought one recently an placed it on the screen and it’s really made a big difference, firstly the scratches (while still present and still visible) you can no longer feel – the pen just glides over them, and better – new scratches will only effect the screen protector and I can always buy a new one.

The protector I bought was this one (around £18 )

I did have a bit of a painful time getting the dirt out of it, accidentally adding more little bubbles of dirt when I tried to fix, and then I tried a different technique (I’ll not recommend it just in case it’s not great long term, but certainly short term it really helped)

I half lifted the screen protector off (half of it had lots of speckles of dirt the other half was pretty clear – all, I stress – my own fault) then sprayed lens cleaner, and wiped the dirty area with the screen protector cloths that came with the protector, then placed the screen on – which left slightly excessive bubbles of liquid under the screen, but I pressed those out to the edges (using a credit card) and it seems to have picked up all the dirt and restuck to the display perfectly well.

Next time I buy the screen protector and apply it immediately and if you’re buying the Huion I recommend you do the same.

Dept of Monsterology

Way back in time (2010?), Gordon Rennie and I kicked around the idea of a book called “Monsterology” (which needed renamed cus it turned out there was already a book called Monsterology). And we ended up finding a publisher in Renegade Arts. And it was a fun book and I’d’ve loved to have done more, but the audience wasn’t there, and while it’s nice to draw a book for money it’s no fun if there’s no readers.

Anyway, I stumbled across these in my photo library and thought you might like it.

You can find the book digitally on comixology, there were two books in the series and they’re both great fun.

Drawing the Basics

I have an immense and somewhat impressive library of “How to Draw Books” which, I’ll be honest, I’ve barely read. So I should make the effort, right?

And I am. Starting with the grandaddy of them all – How to Draw Comics The Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema – this edition is Titan, 1986 – so I’ve carried it with me a long time. It’s a slightly odd book, compared with a lot of other how to draw books. Probably down to Stan’s bombastic stylings where you might want some more thoughtful words from John Romita. And it feels dated, Marvel comics certainly don’t look like this any more (for shame!)

Anyway – heading in to the first section one and – I suspect because I’m older, and I’ve read a bunch of how to draw things, I’m seeing things in the art that aren’t at all explained by Stan but are pretty fundamental concepts. Take the first real how-to-section where Stan is talking about building objects and making them solid from simple geometric shapes.

Here’s John has drawn an ellipse at the end of the gun barrel, importantly he’s drawn a centre line on the ellipse that correctly matches the orientation of the ellipse – rather, as I’ve done for decades from force of habit a centre line based on a box shape. The weird thing is having a centre line that follows the ellipse you want to draw makes it much easier to free hand that ellipse. So I’ve annotated my own version of the book with those notes. It’s now a living document!

What John Romita is doing largely mirrors some solid advice I saw from Sean Gordon Murphy on drawing tyres (or really any cylindrical object)

Here’s the Sean Gordon Murphy advice (which was a nightmare to trackdown, stumbled across this on pinterest so apologies for the rubbish resolution) (If you can find the original of this advice, I’d appreciate it – I’ve never seen anything like it in any book)

Drawing page sizes for 2000AD

Here’s how I fit comics on to A3/A4 paper – A3 paper width is 297mm. 2000AD Page Size safe width is 264mm – subtract one from the other = 33mm, divide by 2 = 16.5 and I just measure in from the edge of A3 paper by 16.5 (and then do the same for the heigh of the page)

2000AD full bleed is just a little wider than A3 paper, so I just draw to the edge of the paper, scan it in to a document I’ve set up that’s the exact size for 2000AD and then fill in the extra digitally (it’s usually pretty easy)

And because I’m lazy, now I just mark the 16.5 mm in from the edge of the paper, and using the side of the paper block as a guide I just drag my pencil down along from that side (it’s not perfect, but that’s ok) and that’s good enough to get going on pencilling.

Once I scan the pencils in I can then straighten lines up, add digital panel borders and enlarge any pencils I need. Then -if I’m inking traditionally -I’ll convert the pencils to a light cyan colour, leave the panel borders black and then print that whole page out on the reverse side of the pencilled page, so I never rub any pencils out and every page of inked art is on the back of the pencilled art.

And here’s 2000AD’s full page sizes for art Page Size: 30.2cm x 39.43cm Panel Size (or the Safe Area, in other words – that area of the page that lettering will go into) 26.44cm x 35.79 cm If you want full bleed DRAW TO THE PAGE SIZE.

(there’s a trim size too, but you don’t need to know that, either draw to the page size for art to bleed off the page or draw to the panel size to ensure it all fits on the page, that’s it…)

Planning the week…

I know I’ll illicit very few sympathies for this, but it can be tough planning out when you’ll finish a book when you can find yourself hitting spurts of speed and equally, suddenly losing a day for family reasons can knock you off course pretty violently. It’s the driving equivalent of doing 90 in a 30 zone.

My plan is to roughly mark out days in chunks of four pages of pencils/two pages of inks. Last month the best I did was six pages of inks and seven pages of pencils in any single day, but you’d be mad to base your working life on that.

So four pencils, two inks. Two inks is a pretty average for many artists, speed wise, but I’m secretly hoping for the most part I can hit three/four pages of inks, and get to the same 40 or so pages this month as I did last month.

So, that said, my plan this weekend and week ahead is:

Saturday: 2 pages of pencils (weekends I tend to hope for any work rather than expect any – that said I’ve done one page already. so actually I might get four done)
Sunday: 2 pages pencils
Monday: 4 pages of pencils
Tuesday: 2 pages of pencils

And that will finish the pencils for this chapter of Bad Magic – then I start in to the inks, given 2 pages of inks per day, I reckon I’ll hit 21 pages on or around the 18th/19th. Then more pencils for the final chapter (again 21 pages) about a week to do those which means, even with a following wind I’ll probably only start inking on the 28th/1st so nope, not a mission of getting 40 unless 2 pages of inks per day is pessimistic!

Anyway, we’ll see.

The Studio

Been a slow slow slow development towards what my new studio space looks like. Functionally, I’ve moved to entirely digital, which has meant the focus of the space is around digital drawing. But I still want to have the option to pick up some paper and draw on it.

I have a great big a3 inkjet printer I’d love to get rid of, but I need (JUST IN CASE!) and a Alex set of drawers first for A3 / A2 paper (well, just about A2) which is just a little too big. And this chair is no longer fit for purpose. BUT I have a bookshelf (which is currently half empty) and a new shelving system which I can add to as I see fit (though it turns out the top is so high up I can’t even reach it, so it’s now where I put my Objects of Desire. Though, tbh even seeing them requires me to stand on my tip toes.

I do miss the old old studio, you know… the one before we had kids when I had this VAST room that I could fit three tables in, and still have too much space. *sigh* maybe one day. At least now we’re in a house rather than a flat, there’s a possibility one day I’ll get a bigger space by putting a decent shed out the back… but I suspect my wife will veto that long before I put roots down. Still, this isn’t bad. Not bad at all.

Inside the studio space

A month of pages

Well, I’m not going to do any drawing tomorrow, but let me tell you – phew, what a month.

In the end, I pencilled 47 pages and inked 49.

It felt good. It breaks down like this:

Week BeginningPencilsInks
2 Jan 2023 128
9 Jan 2023511
16 Jan 2023291
23 Jan 2023124
31 Jan 2023 (so far)05

That included two episodes of the Leopard from Lime Street and finishing chapters three and four of Bad Magic (the Skulduggery Pleasant graphic novel written by Derek Landy). Next month I have the final two chapters to complete.

If you’re a patreon member you can see and follow the progress of the work I’ve done over the last month, and I intend to try and keep that format of weekly updates with photos of my work journal.

StreA page from the Leopard from Lime Street in the comic Monster Fun.

I’m feeling pretty good about not only how much work I did, but the quality of it (and idiot might say “fast pages aren’t good pages”, but I’ve always maintained, for me, the opposite is often true – fast pages frequently are ones I’ve felt confident about, slow pages are the ones that I’ve had to labour over).

Last time I hit a burst of speed like this was for the second volume of Dept of Monsterology (and I’m still really happy with a lot of those pages).

One worrying factor is if I DO the same next month, I’ll literally run out of work – but then, I can always start looking for more. Certainly, like an idiot I’ve started to turn over the idea of a commando digest style comic as a possible project. That’ll pass. I’m sure that’ll pass. I think.

Anyway, hope you had a good start to the year, mine has been great!

The Digital Studio

Here’s my computer setup for work.

Acer Asus 4k 27″ Monitor (which I can show 3 roughly print sized pages on across ways) cost: £179 (I think I picked this up as a bargain, it was the last of two of these in curry’s and they were discontinued, the newer one I think was about £230 or something)

Huion 16″ I picked that up for around £300 (Actually it might’ve been £269?) absoloute bargain at either price. I’d buy another of these in a heartbeat. 

Even when I had the massive 27″ Cintiq, I’d usually split the screen in two, in the left I’d show the full sized page and on the right I’d show a zoomed in area I was working on. The Huion is capable of the same but there’s not enough real estate there realistically, so instead this double screen set up is perfect.

Both powered by a Mac M1 Mini, the new M2 Mac Mini starts around £649 (8Gb RAm, 256Gb HD) – I’d probably go to the £1049 model (16Gb Ram, 512Gb HD) the mac isn’t upgradeable, and while my current setup is 8Gb/512Gb I do slightly regret not getting more ram (not that it’s ever hampered me, mind you, it runs fast enough for everything I do)

Updated to add: I forgot, the mac doesn’t come with keyboard or mouse, so I’ve a logitech wireless mouse (about £20?) and a really lovely, took-me-ages-to-finally-pull-the-trigger keychron keyboard, that was about £69(!) yes, I know. But it’s super small footprint, the keys are bright white (though it has an irratatingly large selection of how the keyboard lights work – I mean keyboard lights that dance around while you’re using it, I just want them on or off!) and they have a chunky nice feel when you use them. Plus it’s wired OR wireless, I use it wired just to keep the lights on all the time. (And you have three bluetooth connections you can choose from if you like).

Connected to all of that is a Brother DCP6690CW – which I think I bought 10-15 years ago? An A3 scanner/inkjet printer. Anwyay, it was around £260 and I use whatever rubbish ink cartridges I can find cheap and it works great for everything I do – scanning lineart, and printing blueline for inking. (though a more modern one would work a bit nicer on the network and I could print/scan to an iphone) That said I don’t actually ink this way anymore, so I’ve got it on hand JUST IN CASE.

Second printer is a Brother HL2350DCP laser printer, I use this for printing scripts and the odd comic, it’s A4 and can print double sided so good for silly fun projects.

Software wise: Clip Studio Pro Ex ver 1.13 (Latest version 1). There’s a version 2 coming soon, I’m not sure it has any features I want/need, but my old computer head will kick in and I’ll probably upgrade. 

For scripts/editing, I’ll usually turn to Pages – which is Apple’s word processor and free with the mac. Word compatible so good enough for most things. Though I am tempted to get Scrivener for comic scripting, which is about £50.