Monday, August 22, 2011

Ink Stab

If you follow my blog, you know that I occasionally play around with inks. Inks pique my curiosity because it's so important to the comic craft but such a struggle to do without taking something away from the feel of the pencils. This is true even when the inker is the same person as the penciller; it's simply too deep a craft, with enormous room for growth and mastery independent of all the other things you might learn as a comic artist, like composition, design, backgrounds, animals, tech, or any other unusual thing you might regularly asked to pull out of your arse.

This page was done during one of my breaks from coding. Using Ryan's scanner and printer, it's possible to print out "blue line" versions of pages (in this case, two pages) onto Bristol board. This paper was somewhere between rough and smooth, and Ryan let me borrow some pens to play with. My goal was just to find which pens and which inking approach kept the spirit of my original pencils the best, using doodles from the previous day.

I began with a brush pen that is pretty standard (and to my feel, loose). I started with the guy with the outstretched arm at top-center, then moved to the nude female figure, and then the woman with the upturned head at page center. I didn't feel like I had much of a natural grasp with the pen, and I started to wonder how his .3 and .1 non-brush pens might work. I moved to the head in the upper-left, and though it was nicer, I still felt like a lot was lost. I tried going even thinner, using the side of the .1 pen for any fine or any suggestive detail as seen on the pondering boy, with edges done using a .3. It still looked a bit stiff, however, so Ryan gave me a much tighter Japanese brush pen that he says Cory Walker uses (I used the same brush pen for the 24 hour Zombie Bean pages) I redid the edges around the boy and liked the result enough, but wasn't very happy with the process because the thin lines process still felt unnatural to me. Regardless, I tried pushing forward with it, and repeated the approach for the remaining drawings. Any gray you notice on the page came after the next page...

After Ryan looked over the inks, he suggested I use a smoother Bristol board and printed just the Fat Vampire doodle. I began inking the surprised guy with the same approach I used on my previous doodles, but I was still unhappy with the result. I put a finger on what I disliked about the process: when sketching, I intentionally use loose and "sketchy" lines to vaguely suggest shapes that I expect the viewer to fill in with their mind. For example, a lot of times when I'm drawing lines around the nose or even things like abdomen muscles, I'm not making a statement with each line, just suggesting some definition or bounding shape that makes the drawing come together. The problem is inks set those lines in stone and make them pop, and unless it's very thin, it comes across as a very purposeful and important definition. The thin line approach worked in the earlier doodles, but wasn't very natural-feeling because it had to be done so carefully. What I wanted was a solution that let me ink in "suggestion lines" confidently. It struck me that maybe gray would be a decent approach, and I tried it on the fat vampire behind the guy. I used the "Cory Walker" brush pen for blacks and it had a more confident and flowing feel, and any place where I knew I was using "suggesting lines" I swapped to gray and confidently threw those down as well. The end result was an ink job that I felt captured my pencils while being true to the original drawing (in my estimation, at least) all while feeling comfortable in my hand.

I asked Ryan if this approach was okay in comics, and he thought aside from having to figure out how to send larger comic files it wouldn't throw anyone for a loop. At his suggestion, I bought some gray Pitt pens the next day and tried to decide on a gray I like. I'm still deciding on the lightest Warm or Cold gray in my set but regardless, I'm excited to play with the technique more to see if it works on smaller drawings, because the fat vampire doodle was on a pretty big page and I think that helped.

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