Back to the Drawing Board

This month has seen me hit the books (well, hit the sketchbooks). Around Christmas time, John McCrea and I studiously poured ourselves over the Chris Samnee Daredevil artists edition (a review) (there’s a new Samnee artists edition coming- the Black Widow book). Samnee makes everything look so simple it very neatly fools you into thinking “Hey I could do this”. So at the start of the month, I decided I’d stop relying so much on the computer and start drawing on paper (I mean, it’s the same job, but paper is so much nicer to work with, but also so bloody awkward).

To that end, I started doing layouts that were about four times my normal layout size, with an eye on making them my pencils – I’ve drawn about 40 pages that way (nothing I can show yet, I’m afraid). Notably, this is waaaay slower than my regular layouts because it’s not just silly notes to self, these are the pages. But also notably, the plan was to scan these and print them and use them as pencils and… nope. Not so much. Samnee can do it, I can’t. So instead I’ve printed them as used them as the basis for pencils. Now, arguably that might make my pencils a little better, and, consequently the inks might be also a little better and every minor improvement I’ll take.

Parallel to this approach, and because it’s been a while, my non-digital inking – is a bit all over the place. I’ve used every tool I have (and many of them are a bit rusty from lack of attention over the past few years). Back when I started comics, I drew everything with a pilot v5 techpoint, then when I got my first gig I sort of panicked myself into learning to use a brush – it was, after all, the tool proper comics artists use – I redrew the same Dredd strip three or four times, each time with a brush and getting slightly better with it.

Of course, I could never master the brush of kings (Winsor & Newtown Series 7 Sable Brush) but I did get quite adept at the W&N Sapphire 10/0 Rigging Brush (a tiny tiny brush, which felt very much like a very fin marker to me – back when I could both see it well and control it decently)

Time and technology move on, most artists these days (non-digtial at least) use combinations of brush pens and pigment pens. Brush for filling black and giving brushy lines (feathering, it’s called feathering Paul), and pigment for most of the drawing (but a lot of it requires moving between tools to get proper life from them) and pens have been what I’ve been doing, but I’m still finding them unfulfilling. So, my back up plan is nibbed pens but ideally, a brush. It feels like I’m starting from scratch in inking. But that’s ok, I think one of the problems with being an artists with some years under you is you work off so many assumptions (just to get the work out there) that you don’t get a chance to relearn tools. Anyway, that’s what I’ve been doing. Relearning things, and seeing if there are better ways to do stuff. One interesting thing between when I started (back in 2001) and now, is the prevalence of manga tools for pencilling and inking. Nibbed pens where hard to get back then but now a G Nip is one click away.

Since drafting the above, I had a minor panic and started digitally inking for a thing, traditional inking was proving much slower than I’d become with digitals, and so I hit the Huion/Clip Studio to ink some pages. I wish I hadn’t. Nothing wrong with the art (though of course, I will look at it later and think “I wish I’d drawn hat differently). Then a wobble, then I started pencilling on paper again, and I’m back to tradional inkss. Maybe. We’ll see.

I’d quite like a to find a plug in for a wordpress blog that, as you get further and further away from your last update the blog reflects that – maybe growing cobwebs over the banners, or having some sort of count down since last update going. Maybe that will shift me into doing more updates.

I know something has to give. What is the point of a blog? It existed before twitter, it’ll exist after. But what am I doing with it? (that said, I’m pretty sure this was the exact same lament I was making 20+ years ago)

It feels like the trivial thoughts should just go to social media, and then you’re left with the important stuff, but really, what’s that important? almost nothing. Just some goofy notes on what’s going here.

Anyway, here’s an update for whatever people are still travelling the highways and byways of the big old blogosphere.

Spent one night this last week trying to figure out the programming language Python – why? mid life crises? a sudden panic that comics may not be forever and maybe I should relearn some old skills? or just me getting in touch with one of the things I used to love as a kid – programming.

I will say this, programming, when you get in the zone, remains one of the most zen like things you can do – it feels deeply comfortable, like meditation (I imagine. Any time I try and meditate I fall asleep) and without any of the self doubt that drawing throws up. If I can’t do something in python it feels like “well, I just need to see how it’s done, and then I can do that” in drawing if I can’t do something it feels like “well, ok, I see how they do it, but I haven’t a clue”.

I don’t expect this to be more than a passing fancy, but there it is. I at least now have been able to do a “Hello World” in a nice gui in python.

(I have some not-unreasonable aim to make a text adventure, or at least write the code to do one. and maybe a calculator for page sizes for clip studio, so you can pump in a page size “US Comics” and get the correct clip studio dimensions at various levels of magnification – don’t hold your breath though, I’m more likely to grow a second head as complete any python project)