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If I had learned to paint with my arm in the classical style like Jose Rodeiro wanted me to,  instead of with my hand and wrist, I'd probably be a better inker today.
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While I'm waiting for the Neurotin to kick in so I can get some work done (I forgot to take it before I went to sleep this morning, and that's a mistake I don't want to make again!) I'm killing time by baking cookies and posting something that will be interesting to about 1% of the people who read this. I don't think 1% even adds up to a whole person, but so be it.

It's no secret that I'm a VERY slow illustrator. There are a number of reasons for this, besides the obvious physical reasons:

1- I am woefully out of practice. 17 years ago, I was drawing for 6-8 hours a day. I worked overnight at a radio station while I was going to college for 3 years, and I'd sit there all night and draw. I got very good at what I was able to do, but there were some hurdles I never truly overcame- I never developed a true understanding of anatomy, although I was getting close. Oddly, it was only recently that I realized I no longer had trouble drawing hands, one of the trickiest things to master. Feet still give me trouble at times, depending on the angle. And there's something else I never came close to mastering- drawing at 3/4 view, or really anything other than straight-on or profile. Again, I got close, but then I stopped working at the radio station, lost that eight hours of uninterrupted drawing time, graduated, etc ... Perspective is another thing I need to re-learn. It's easy to do what I can do and not push myself to do the things that challenge me.

2- I'm not really a perfectionist, but I am a harsh self-critic.

3- I work big, and shrink down. No matter what the size of the panel, I'm illustrating it on a full 8x11 page. Need a 2" wide panel? I'm drawing it at 400%! In someways, this is good, because it helps hide the shkiness of the lines (I haven't regained enough control of my hands yet for smooth lines, which annoys me more than I can explain.) It also lets me doa  lot of shadow detail and small details, many of which get lost when reduced to the printing size, where upon I reflect on #2.

Now for how I work. I'll do my pencils on whatever I have handy- printer paper, Notebook paper, etc. I prefer to work in my Pro Art sketchpad, mainly because it holds everything together nicely in between work sessions. Sure it would be nice to work on 11x17 pro boards or sheets of bristol, but they don't fit on my scanner, hence why I work on single panels. I like to have nice, tight pencils that come as close as possible to what I want from my finished, inked product. The less guesswork I have to do when I'm inking, the less mistakes I'll make. It's easier to change things at the pencilling stage than it is during inking.

I use standard #2 pencils, a mechanical pencil for detailing, artgum and Hi-Polymer erasers when necessary. I no longer work with non-repro blue pencil, for a few reasons- I don't like the way it draws, it's hard to see, difficult to erase, and I don't need to use it. I don't ink directly over my pencils.

When I ink, I make mistakes. It happens. It happens more now than it did 17 years ago. So, I do my inking on design vellum I lay over top of my pencils. That way, I make a mistake, I just start over on a new sheet of vellum. 

I either use a watercolor brush or a brush pen. The watercolor brush gives me more freedom, but the brush pen gives me better control and a more consistent ink flow. I need to get a nice sable brush; I'm currently using a pack of golden nylon brush that are not so great. And I shouldprobably start getting my vellum offline- I paid $15 dollars for that same pad locally! Course, with shipping, it would probably be about the same unless I bought in bulk.

For ink, I'm currently using Higgins Waterproof, because that's the best that I could get my hands on locally. My other choice is Parker Quink, which is four times as expensive and utterly useless for what I need- it's too thin, and isn't truly black, but a deep blue that gets very noticeable very quickly. I have a hard enough time laying down a line of ink without needing to go over it again two or three times. I'm liking the looks of this Speedball Ink, and will probably give it a try at some point. The Higgins also tends to be a little thin sometimes, and the bottle gets crusty around the top with dried ink, which falls down into the liquid ink and causes problems.

One of the most fun parts of being an artist is trying out all the many, many different supplies.

If I'm doing something other than ink over my pencils (like charcoal or some other method) I'll just use plain tracing paper.

For details, I love my Crow Quill pen. Sure, it can clog, and paper fibers can get trapped in the quill and cause roblems, and if I'm not careful when I'm crosshatching the nib will catch and go SPANG! and spray little drops of ink all over the place, but nothing beats the scritch-scritch-scritch sound and those fine, fine lines. I'm able to control the crow quill the best as well, and probably use it more than is necessary as a result.

Once I'm done inking, I scan the panel into photoshop at 1200 DPI grayscale, then convert it to bitmap using a 50% filter. If I see anything that needs fixed, like a stray ink blob or a brush stroke that didn't end properly, I'll fix it there.

Once I have the scanned panel art finished, I save it as a TIF file. I then use Quark Xpress to create my page layouts, and import the artwork into the proper panels.

By importing bitmap TIF files, I can make the panel transparent except for the inks. This allows me to do things like draw different parts of the panel on different sheets, and then layer them all together in Quark. I'll do this if I want to work on a different part of the panel larger for more detail, or if I want to do part of it in grayscale instead of black & white bitmaps. Grayscale is nice to use if I've done ink washes or worked in some other media than ink.

So, that's how I illustrate. I rarely work in color.

How do I get faster? For the project I'm currently working on, which I really need to step the pace up on, I think the most obvious answer is to stop working at 400% and work at 200% instead. I doubt the difference will be noticeable to anyone but me. I'm also going to work with looser pencils, which will save me time even if I do need to re-ink on occasion, which has already happened. Most recently, I was 75% done inking when I realized that the crosshatching I was doing made it look like the male character was wearing a fishnet brassiere. Not the look I was going for.

Finally, my secret for perfectly round cookies: If the recipe says to drop by rounded teaspoon, I roll the dough into 1" balls with my hands instead.

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My favorite artist, James O'Barr, has a piece up on eBay right now that I absolutely love. Maybe someday.

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Here's the first of my finds from the old homestead. This was created
probably in 1985 on a Commodore 64, then printed on a dot-matrix
printer. If I remember correctly, it was done in Print Shop, where I
would have picked the border, and then put in the text, and created the
artwork either using the keyboard or joystick to move the cursor and
turn the block in the bitmap on or off. It was painstaking work, and
I'm sure this took me a few hours to make! Somewhere, I probably still
have the original file saved on a 5 1/4" floppy disk.


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March 2012

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