Four Talking Boxes 1651

I made two ink drawings this week but they are different from my usual ink drawings. I made a few of them like this last year but not many over all. My usual ink drawings come in two categories. This first is a finished ink drawing that is done over finished pencils. I go through one, two, or even three stages of pencil drawing before I hit the ink. That’s my most refined way of making a drawing in ink. The second way is my spontaneous ink drawing. I grab a pen and start drawing with no pencil underdrawing at all. That method can make for some interesting images but also many awkward ones. That’s the price of not being able to erase but it also frees the mind from worrying about making the drawing perfect.

This new method on ink drawing starts like my pencil drawing in that I look through my sketch book of small spontaneous ink drawings. But instead of finding a drawing that I want to use, printing it out in blue line, and then making a pencil drawing over the blue line I follow all those steps but instead of pencil I use a brush and ink. I go right from the crude single weight spontaneous ink line to the dark and polished brush ink line. So far I’ve found that a very interesting but weird jump. That might be because when I’ve finished the drawing there is a lot of blue line showing through.

Almost all of the time when I’m inking over blue line I obliterate the blue ink. You can’t see the blue line because it was a thin line to begin with and I’ve drawn over it with black ink. You’d have to be really looking hard for it to find any trace of the blue line. With this new method of ink drawing there is lots of blue line showing through at the end. Since the drawing is so crude to begin with I’m not following it as closely as I would a refined pencil drawing. It’s more of a rough guide where I follow certain parts and go off the trail on many others. Plus I’m blowing up a small 2×3 inch drawing onto a 6×9 inch piece of paper so the original line gets very big. Sometimes bigger than the final ink line I use. Overall the final effect is of a duotone drawing done in both blue and black. It gives the drawing a different sort of liveliness.

The two drawings I did are called “Hard Hand” (the face) and “Big Thing” (the tentacle monster). I drew them on bristol board with my new white sable brush and some Black Cat India ink. The face is a very familiar subject matter to me and this one seems fairly typical of me. First off I’m unsure if it’s a mask or a true face. I often am until I color a drawing. With such a big eye and mouth I often lean to “mask” and probably would if I were to color this drawing but I could go either way. I also like to go “Mask” because that gives me the freedom to make the face any color I want. I’m not limited to human skin tones. I’s make the ear and neck a human skin tone though. That’s how I often do things.

Another thing I do with faces is to have the hair fall down over the face. This time with knife edge hair. That’s what I call this hair made up of pointed curves. It’s not really an illustrative hair technique but is more of a use of shape. It doesn’t look anything like real hair but the shape works for the drawing.

The features of the face also work for the drawing but not in real three dimensional space. The eye is way too big for there to be a matching eye on the other side of the face but it works in the two dimensional space between the hair and the edge of the head well. The mouth is also too big to curve around to the other side but since it’s covered by hair anyway it doesn’t matter. It’s even too low on the chin for reality despite me moving it up higher than the original ink drawing but it works in two dimensions. Most of my drawing is getting things to work in two dimensions rather than three.

Most of the rest of the drawings seems to be all about patterns. Lines made in different directions butting with one and another buy not crossing. I’d call it hatching but the lines are a little big to be called that. Overall the lines give a bit of an op art effect. I’m happy with it for an a not quite spontaneous ink drawing.

The second drawing turned out to be one of my tentacle monsters (a group of color drawings I did) but I didn’t really notice at first that it was going to. I don’t know how I didn’t notice it except that I was concentrating on how to make the top part of the creature work so I wasn’t paying as much attention to the tentacle part. The top part of the drawing changed the most as it went from an arc behind the creature to the top of the creature’s head. That visually moved the background at the top forward in space and made things more complicated for me to figure out. As a result the patterns in this drawing are more chaotic than the previous one. I even needed a thick holding line around the barrel of the monster in order to ground him a bit.

This tentacle monster has hair and even bangs. I don’t think any of the others have that. He almost looks like a tentacle cartoon Beatle. Kind of weird. Wavy lines, big eyes, odd mouth, two spiral lollipops, and pointy teeth mountains make this drawing a strange sight. Plus the tentacle monster is bumping his head on the top of the drawing. Overall I find this a satisfyingly odd and mysterious drawing. One I’m not even sure where it’s comic from.

I think that is one of the main points of these new type of ink drawings. To find something that I’m not sure where it’s comic from. Sometimes the old ways bring sure things and new ways are needed for taking chances.

I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got five new comics and a magazine.

  • Imperium – 15
  • Injection – 9
  • Outcast – 18
  • Saga – 36
  • Velvet – 14
  • Image + – 1
  • Check them all out here:


    Sometimes I struggle with technique when it comes to coloring or painting on the computer. There are so many different ways to do a digital task that finding the right way for me isn’t always easy. Plus computers can be incredibly precise and the urge to control things right down to the tiniest lever can eat up time. Add the possibility of endless re-dos and I can easily find myself in a quagmire when it comes to digital coloring.The computer is a versatile tool but sometimes the choices can be too many. Especially since, as a comic book reader, I see so many great and varied examples of good work being done on the computer. That can’t help but influence my thinking and I want to try them all. And then there is the DaVinci effect.

    The DaVinci effect is what I call the desire in almost every artist to draw like DaVinci. He’s the ideal in our heads because he’s society’s ideal of drawing as art. Basically if, when you’re a child, you can draw a picture of someone (or something) and it looks like that someone (or something) you’ll get tons of praise and encouragement. Every artist wants encouragement so, consciously or subconsciously, we want to draw like DaVinci. I don’t even want to draw like DaVinci (not that I have the talent or temperament to) but still I occasionally feel the DaVinci effect. Especially when I’m trying to figure out the right technique to digitally color in.

    This is why I had such a hard time figuring out how I wanted to color my “The Painted Lady” faux comic book covers. I drew thirteen of them before I finally figured it out. I almost had it figured out after the first four but not quite. I tried coloring one of the first four a few months ago and got most of it done but then when I tried to color some of the other three I failed. I couldn’t get anything I liked out of them. So I went back to drawing more of them in black and white until I had thirteen done. Then I decided I had better figure out the color before I went any further.

    One of the problems I find with computer coloring is just how long it takes. It seems like a computer should speed things up and often it does but sometimes the level of complexity that can be reached with a computer slows things down. It encourages complexity when it might not be called for. The pull of the DaVinci effect is real strong on a computer since a computer really helps with photographic realism. You can reference and digitally enhance images until the cows come home.

    The complexity question I had was amplified by the fact that my “The Painted Lady” covers were already visually complex. I have a lot of shapes in them and tons if interplay between positive and negative space. There is a whole op-art thing going on in them and op-art doesn’t usually lend itself to complex rendering with light and shadow. Yet somehow that’s what I had in mind to do. And I had a hard time getting it out of my mind.

    The first thing I had to decide was if these women were naked or not. They’re basically decorated bodies and the black and white drawing gives no indication if the decorations are on their skin or on something else. I decided the marks were on some kind of clothing because that would give me more options for color. Plus it would make them too alien if I colored them from head to to blue. I much preferred to keep the face a human skin color and use whatever bright color I wanted for the body. That was the first key to getting things done.

    The second key was using just a little bit of shading. Usually when I shade I use a highlight, a shadow, a mid-tone, and a few other indications of light and shade. The base three layers plus some icing on the cake. For this one I decided to go with just some shadows. And shadows as a blunt instrument at that. I made a large and not very precise selection and used the gradient tool to create some very basic shadows. I didn’t even bother with highlights. All the black graphics flattened things anyway so that too much light to dark modeling would muddy things up anyway. I had to stay away from it even if the DaVinci effect pushed me in that direction.

    The third key was making the background pattern even more complex. I kept the relative visual simplicity of the figure intact by making the background even busier. I generally added another two pattern shapes and color to the background. I like how that made things busier but not too busy.

    Another key involving the foreground and background relationship was that I added a color outline around the figure. I’m usually against outlining or haloing a figure and it and I poo-poo it when I see it done but that’s when the figure is in a more natural 3D space. In a design-y op art space it’s okay to outline things as the outline is just another bit of color in a graphic space that’s not meant to reflect any kind of normal space. So I went with it here and it works well in slightly lifting the figure forward yet still keeping it relatively flat.

    I did most of that stuff in the first cover that I colored but I still wasn’t happy with it. It was the modeling that bothered me. I liked it but didn’t love it. The two color modeling wasn’t enough to be interesting but adding anymore didn’t work either. It was finally when I decided to add some texture over the modeling that things came together for me. And I didn’t add that texture until my more recent attempt at coloring a cover. It’s a simple texture too. I dropped a color in and then used two filters: Add Noise and Pixelate. I did that on its own layer and turned the layer opacity down to about 25 percent. That gave me just the amount of texture I was looking for. Such a simple procedure but it took me a while to figure it out. That’s how it goes though.

    In the end I was able to color a half dozen or so of my “The Painted Lady” covers. It takes a while to do them but it took an even longer while to figure out how to do them.˙

    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics.

  • Dark Horse Presents (Volume 3) – 21
  • Savage Dragon – 213
  • Invincible – 127
  • East of West – 25
  • Check them all out here:


    I thought I had it figured out. And then I didn’t. Isn’t that the story of life? Life and computer problems. I’ve had my Canon Pro9000 Mark II printer for six years and it’s run flawlessly that whole time. At least it has after the first two printers turned out to be lemons and Canon replaced them. That took place in the first month I bought the printer back in early 2010. I bought the printer, it stopped working a week later, Canon sent me a second printer, it stopped working in a week, and then Canon sent me a third printer which is the one I’ve been using ever since then. Both printers went because of a B200 error which, according to the internet, means an electrical error with the print heads. Turns out it was a known flaw in my model and why Canon was quick to replace it. I wasn’t very happy with any of that but at least Canon sent me an extra set of inks each time they replaced the printer. That made up for some of the inconvenience.

    Just this past weekend as I was using my printer and it stopped working. It’s never done that before. The front of the printer has two lights on it. A green light and an orange light. When both lights are blinking that means the printer won’t run. I saw both lights blinking and said, “Oh, no.” Or maybe something less rated G. I checked the printer software (which displays messages relating to the printer) and it told me about the B200 error and to call my service person. Like I have one of those. Instead I turned to the internet for answers and found some articles about the B200 error and how to fix it. None of them were particularly helpful as they weren’t for my specific model plus most of the fixes involved turning off and unplugging the printer for five minutes to an hour and hoping it works after that. I was filled with hope as the hour one made the printer turn back on for a moment but then it quickly displayed that error again. Yowch.

    One thing I noticed in all the internet articles was that the electrical error could be caused by running the printer without ink in the cartridges. It messes with the electrical charge that goes to the print head or some such. I’ve never done that and my printer won’t even run without ink in the cartridges so I didn’t think that was it but I knew a couple of the inks were running low and maybe that could have an effect.

    I again turned off the printer for an hour and this time when I turned it on again I opened the cover which triggers the cartridge housing to move to the center so the ink could be changed. It actually worked this time and I saw that two side-by-side cartridges were blinking which meant they had to be changed. Usually I get a software message telling me when the ink has run out plus the printer won’t run. Don’t know why that didn’t happen. I changed the cartridges and hoped that two empty side-by-side cartridges was what was causing the trouble. Being that the printer has eight different inks I don’t know if two neighboring cartridges have ever run out at exactly the same time before. Maybe that could cause an electrical problem. What else did I have to go on?

    After the ink was in I tried to make a print and got the error again. Not good. I thought it best to give it some time so I unplugged the machine for another hour and hoped for the best. Luckily for me, at least for the moment, I got the best. The printer turned on and printed again. I still wasn’t sure if everything was fine but I was happy it was fine for the moment. The next morning I cautiously turned the printer on again and it was still working. Nice. I thought everything was okay. I even waited another day before ordering a new Photo Magenta ink cartridge. I thought I was in the clear. I wasn’t. Sad trombone.

    Today I turned on the printer, printed a couple of things, and then got that dreaded B200 error. My heart dropped. I turned it on and off again but the error persisted. I waited ten or fifteen minutes and then opened the cover before turning it on again. The printer powered up and I could check the ink but there was no blinking. The cartridges were all good. And then it errors out again. I wanted to smash the thing. Instead I unplugged it and left on my bike ride. When I came back I turned the printer on again and lo and behold it printed. And it’s even stayed on without the error all day so far. But what about tomorrow? A piece of equipment that is unreliable is no piece of equipment at all. It might not be there when you need it to be.

    So now I sit here with a conundrum. I don’t want to spend $300 on a new printer. I really don’t. Money is tight these days but I use my printer as part of my art making process all the time. It really helps to have one. Plus I always buy an extra set on ink to have around in case I run out. When I cartridge runs out I pop the next one in and then order a new one. Eight cartridges at $12-$14 a pieces means I have a hundred dollars worth of ink sitting around. The problem is that any new printer I would buy doesn’t use those same ink cartridges. Two of them I bought recently enough to be able to return them but do I? Do I return them and buy a new printer? Or do I ride it out with this one a little longer to see what happens? I have no idea.

    All things considered I’l probably end up having to buy a new printer soon. Six year is a long time in printer years and planned obsolescence gets the better of all of us. I don’t have to like it though.