Four Talking Boxes 1118


I ordered refill inks for some of my Copic markers this week. I’ve been buying Copic markers for a few of years now and have around one hundred and ten markers in my stock. Or is it a collection? I’m not even sure because sometimes the collector’s mentality takes over and I want to get all the colors. But in the last year practicality has won the day and I’ve been buying ink refills for the markers I already own. One of the really good things about Copic markers is that you can add more ink to them. One bottle of ink will fill the marker eight times. With a marker being six or so dollars and a bottle of ink costing about the same it’s a good deal to buy the refill inks. So I do. I have the thirty six piece 25th anniversary Copic marker set plus another seventy two marker case that is almost full. The seventy two marker case I filled by buying markers a few at a time with colors that I liked rather than buying a prearranged set.

As I’ve been slowly matching up my markers with their ink bottle counterparts I’ve noticed a pattern in my behavior develop. I’d use the markers I have refills for more than the ones where I don’t yet have refills. Part of this is because I bought refills of the markers that I use the most first but part of it is also because when choosing a color I’ll sometimes shy away from the ones that I don’t have refills for. I don’t want the marker to run dry in the middle of a drawing. That would be bad. With this next order I should have about seventy five percent of my collection of refills complete. When it finally reaches one hundred percent I might get some new colors. Y’know, if the collector’s mentality takes over again.

I pulled out one of my marker drawing to write about and noticed that it was from the future. Or I had written the wrong date on it. Take your choice. It had 4/19/14 written on it but since it’s the first day of April 2014 as I write this that was obviously the wrong date. I checked my calendar in which I write down what things I worked on that day and it turns out I made this drawing on February nineteenth. I guess I was playing an April Fool’s joke on myself.

This drawing is named “Ranger Motion” and is drawn on a nine by twelve inch piece of bristol board. That’s another reason why the marker refills are so good. Bristol board soaks up ink like a sponge. Paper that is made specifically for markers is often smooth, thin, and has a surface that doesn’t absorb a ton of ink. But marker paper is often too thin for my liking so that’s why I prefer the bristol. It can really dry out a marker quickly though.

Nine by twelve inches is also a pretty big size for my marker drawings in general. I’ve made a lot of marker drawings at five by seven inches and some more at six by nine inches but usually not a whole lot bigger. It’s easier to use paint at the larger sizes but I guess I wanted something different that February day.

This is one of my face motif drawings. Or is it a mask? I don’t always know but being that the face is bright red it could be either one. As usual the first thing I did was start with a small drawing which I blew up and made a larger drawing out of. After I finished that larger drawing I scanned it into the computer and printed it out at this size in blue line for inking. I inked this one, to start, with an india ink filled marked and some French curves. After that I pulled out the markers and put down the color. Then I pulled out my brush, dipped it in India ink, and added line weight to the inks where ever I thought it was needed. The final step was to add some white highlights with a white charcoal pencil.

I’m happy with the way it came out. I went with a red and green color scheme and managed to avoid a Christmas look. The power of the light blue (Tahitian Blue one of my favorite colors of marker) even in small amounts stops the red and green from fighting too much. The purple makes a nice base for it all and settles down almost like a neutral color. The background is a bit odd being that it’s a mustard yellow. That’s not my usual color for a background but the technique I make it with is. I drag the side of the marker brush across the paper while varying the pressure I put on it to make that uneven line. That’s light purple on top of the mustard yellow which greys out and dulls down. Overall I like the airiness of the background.

This piece is all about the interplay of line and shape. There is also a lot of roundness versus flatness going on. The main bit of roundness is the guy’s head. That big round jaw and wide face . But then there is his neck and collar which flatten out as if made of paper. His eyes are circles without the roundness of spheres and his nose is hinted at but doesn’t reach out to you. The triangular marks on his face are the tipping point in the fight between flatness and roundness. They seem to play both sides as sometimes they seem round and other times flat. I’ve always enjoyed this type of interplay of space.

I’m no positive why I decided to make a marker piece this size. Though it was only made weeks ago motivations can fade fast. I think I was going to use it as part of a comic I’m making but I haven’t found a place for it in there just yet. Often I make art just for the heck of it but lately I’ve been trying to put together a couple of books of stuff and tie some things together. So far I haven’t finished any of them but until I do I’ll have to keep making things and then see what becomes of them.

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

  • Savage Dragon – 194
  • Unity – 6
  • The Walking Dead – 125
  • Bloodshot and the Hard Corps – 21
  • East of West – 11
  • Manifest Destiny – 6
  • The Manhattan Projects – 19
  • This week’s comic book cover to look at and examine is “Strangers in Paradise” number 53 by Terry Moore. This one come out in September of 2002 and I bought it at my local comic shop. Once again this wasn’t one I remembered specifically but it jumped out at me as I was thumbing through my SiP comics.

    This cover is a take-off on Alphonse Mucha’s famous Art Nouveau style. A lot of people have borrowed Mucha’s style but rarely with such skill. The style is decorative and pretty and Moore has got both of those things going on here. We get two pretty women in flowing dresses surrounded by ribbons and flowers. Moore is really really good at pretty.

    I like the way the color holds this drawing together. I find it interesting that the black line is held to a minimum but not abandoned altogether as I often see when people uses color for holding lines. A red holding line is used for the red dress, a purple one for the light purple dress, white for the scarf, and a brown one for the skin tones. Yet he kept the black line in the places he wanted us to look at first. The eyes of the two women and the hair of the one on the right. You’re immediately drawn the gazes of the characters. One looking at the other while the other looks out at us. Very well done.

    The toned down color of the background is also executed nicely. It gets a uniform brown line instead of black and all the decorative objects in it are tinted so they fade away a little. This really makes the red dress and the red flowers stand out as decorative elements. This cover is all about decoration and the gaze. You don’t see that too often on comic book covers.

    One of the mask drawings.

    One of the mask drawings.

    It’s no fun to work on something all day only to have it not turn out well in the end. I’m lucky that it doesn’t happen to me more often but it sure did happen to me last Sunday. I was dipping back into something I hadn’t done since 2009 and now I remember why. It’s hard to pull off. What I wanted to do is mix my drawing with my street photography. How I tried to do this was by drawing masks on the people in my photos. I actually did pull this off successfully back in 2009 in two photos and figure it was time to try it again. I vaguely remember trying to make a few more back then but not being successful at it. Now I remember why.

    The first part of this process is to find a street photo of mine that I like. This isn’t always easy because I take photos in such a way that I’m not looking for one image as is usual in photography but am looking for a group of images that I can organize into the picture that I dream up. It’s a different way of shooting photos. So when I have to find that one photo to turn into a masked photo I stumbled around a bit. I thought that I found one I liked but the next morning I didn’t care for it. So I looked through photo after photo on and off over Sunday morning. I say on and off because it gets frustrating looking for something that I can’t find. So I do some drawing and then go back to looking. Eventually I found one that I liked. It took a little prep work on the photo after that. Just basic straightening and cropping. I’d save the fancier stuff for later on in the process. But now I had to figure out how to draw masks over the two faces.

    I like to draw masks. It’s one of the recurring themes in my work. I draw them all the time. Ideally for this project I should be able to draw the masks right on the computer. That should be a time saver and fit in with the theme. I have all the necessary equipment to be able to do it but for some reason I find drawing on the computer, even with a tablet, clumsy and I have a hard time with it. My solution was to abandon digital drawing and print out the faces onto which I was going to draw masks onto bristol board in grayscale. I printed out the faces about four inches tall so that I could draw the masks fairly large.

    And the other mask drawing

    And the other mask drawing

    Of course the drawing of the masks took longer than I thought it would. Isn’t that always the case? Sometimes I can knock one out in mere minutes but in this case I had to draw them at angles specific to the faces I was using and make them work with the photo in general. It probably took me about an hour a mask to draw and then ink. I liked them too. I think they came out pretty cool.

    I then scanned the two masks into the computer and gave them a quick color. That still took another half an hour because as we all know these things take longer than you think. I didn’t even bother to do any real coloring on the masks and went with some quick and basically harmonious shades. After that I pasted the first mask on top of the photo and attempted to put it in place. Except I couldn’t.

    It wasn’t a matter of scale. I drew the mask at a bigger size than the finished piece and knew that I would scale it down. It was a matter of it not looking right. I tried the mask larger and smaller. I tried distorting the mask and bending it around the head a little bit more. I tried making the mask various percentages of transparency to let some of the woman’s face show through. It all looked clumsy and pointless. I decided to bring in the second mask and see if with the two of them I could get things to work. As you might imagine it only made things worse. After working on the thing for a good four or five hours I abandoned it. That’s a terrible feeling but not as bad as trying to get something to work that I know is not going to.

    I now remember that one of the reasons I stopped doing these back in 2009 is that they take a lot longer than I thought they would. I like the idea of them: to take photos of people in the street that are anonymous to me and make them totally anonymous to everyone but the idea appeals to me partly because it seems so easy to execute. But it’s not. It takes way more subtly, time, and thought than I guessed it would. And it’s not an idea that I like to take up so much of my time. I don’t like it that much.

    I think that the two pictures I finished using this technique five years ago worked not only because I put the time into them but because they were the photos that inspired the idea. They were the photos that made me think, “A-ha, I can do something with these”. The other ones were a big maybe and a maybe with more work attached than I was interested in giving to the idea.

    Another thing just occurred to me as I was writing this. One thought that went through my head as I was finding it hard to pick a photo to use was to draw expressions on the mask. I liked the faces and expressions on some of the people in the photos since that was what I was aiming for when taking the pictures so I figured maybe I could somehow match the expressions on the mask. Within the first minute of drawing the first mask I realized this was a terrible idea since I draw the masks with weird and far-out expressions and there was no way they could match the subtle and fleeting looks on people’s faces. It was a day of abandoned ideas.

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

  • Archer and Armstrong – 19
  • Pretty Deadly – 5
  • Revival – 19
  • Starlight – 2
  • Stormwatch – 30
  • The Field – 1
  • The Premature Burial – 1
  • This week’s comic book cover to look at and examine is “The Amazing Spider-Man” number 241 by John Romita jr. and Terry Austin. It’s cover dated June 1983 and though I bought this one off the stands I don’t remember it at all. I probably only read it once and then put it on my shelf where it’s been all these years. I didn’t even remember this cover but it jumped out at me as I was looking for covers to write about.

    This is an unusual cover because of the imagery and technique. It reminds me of the style Frank Miller was drawing in at the time. I’m guessing John Romita jr. and Terry Austin were looking at Miller’s stuff but who knows? It’s mostly drawn with single weight lines. There is plenty of cross hatching but no thick to thin tapering lines as is usual in comics. The tree branch is made up of lines suggesting the form of tree branches rather than delineating the branches. The background color is also odd in that it’s textured. It looks like some sort of charcoal or dark pencil was used on textured paper and then it was color held into that blue green color. Not something you see very often.

    I image is unusual too. Especially for 1983 when the pin-up cover was less in vogue. Plus it’s not quite a pin-up cover. Sure the Vulture is squatting there perched in a tree but he’s also staring at some floating Spider-Man eyes? What are they? Why are they there? Are they literal or symbolic? I have no idea but the eyes add both a graphic and story element to the cover. It’s also odd that the eyes seem to be sinking into the Vulture’s legs. I kinda expect the eyes to be floating out in front of the Vulture but they’re not. They’re sinking into him. Weird.

    The colors are even different for a Spidey comic. It’s mostly made up of tints and secondary colors. The primary color red of the Vulture’s wings is the main thrust of color and then we get the rest of his costume being a violet/magenta with some orange thrown in. You don’t see that color combo every day especially with a light green and light blue background. No wonder it stood out to me.

    The Vulture is swallowing up the eyes, the Vultures wings are swelling up the viewer, and the tree is swallowing up the Vulture. I like it.

    Ink and Carbon Pencil 6x9 Inches

    Ink and Carbon Pencil 6×9 Inches

    I’ve been under the weather this week which means that I haven’t gotten much done. Nothing too bad. My sinuses have been hurting a bit but mostly I’ve been tired. That means a lot of sitting down in a chair and even taking a couple of naps a day. It was mostly from Friday to Sunday but as I write this on Tuesday I’m still not back to one hundred percent. I got all my paying work done but being that all of my artwork is made while standing up everything came to a halt. Except for two art cards. Even sitting down and writing is fatiguing. I never think about writing as being tiring but I did a small bit of writing on Sunday and then had to take a nap. Weird.

    I did catch up on some TV show watching as I rested. I watched season three of “Justified”. That’s a fun show based on an Elmore Leonard story about a present day US Marshal who works out of Kentucky which is where he was also born and raised. He is, of course, a bad-ass who doesn’t play by the rules. It’s part police drama, part monster of the week show, and part soap opera all with a bit of humor thrown in. I like it. The lesson of season three is that if you want a bad-ass federal marshal to do what you say then threatening his pregnant ex-wife is probably not the right thing to do. You’ll probably just end up dead.

    Carbon Pencil 2.5x3.5 Inches

    Carbon Pencil 2.5×3.5 Inches

    The art cards I made were of scary monster faces. I drew them with a Wolfe’s carbon pencil. I’ve made these monster faces before. I did a few years ago on 11×14 inch paper with charcoal but more recently I’ve made some on 6×9 inch paper with India ink and a little color marker. Some are scarier than others but in general I find them interesting to make. I decided to make 6×9 inch scary face with the carbon pencil but found that the scale of the pencil was off. It was too small for the big marks I wanted to make. I ended up finishing the drawing by mixing ink and brush drawing with the carbon pencil. It came out okay but not really what I wanted.

    That is when I moved to the smaller 2.5×3.5 inch art card size. Even though that was smaller than I initially wanted to work the scale fit the carbon pencil better. Not to mention that I was fatigued and could only get a small drawing done. I got one done on Saturday and one on Sunday. That was the extent of my art for the weekend. It did give me an idea for a story I want to write though. I want to write a scary story to go along with some scary drawings. My fiction writing hasn’t been that prolific lately so we’ll see.

    A second show that I caught up on during my resting was season three of “Girls”. I had already watched the first two seasons and found it up and down. It could be amusing and it could be annoying. I almost didn’t bother with season three but that would have been my loss because the show has really hit its stride. I think all the characters have found their sweet spot of crazy. Keep in mind that this isn’t a show where everybody is nice and likable. The characters are flawed and often annoying. But this season I think they are more relatable. And more entertaining. I now unequivocally like the show.

    I haven’t been able to bike ride in nearly a week since my sinuses have knocked me down. That seems par for the course this winter since we’ve had so much snow and cold. I’ve missed more riding days in the last two and a half months than I have in the last two and a half years. I’m not going to sweat it though since I’ll be back in the saddle soon enough. If it was warmer out I might have gone on a ride today as I’m almost better but the cold winter continues to hang on. It’s mid-March and it’s still twenty-something degrees Fahrenheit in the morning at my riding time. That’s crazy.

    Ink and Marker 6x9 Inches

    Ink and Marker 6×9 Inches

    One other TV show that I’ve been watching as I’ve been sitting here is a British show called “Fresh Meat”. It’s in its third nine episode season and is a comedy about a group of college student who all live together in a house. I’m nearing the end of season two and it’s okay. Not great but okay enough to watch. Sometimes the accents are a little to thick for me and they use a bit of slang that I don’t always get but it’s fun.

    A funnier show that I recently discovered is one called “Broad City” on Comedy Central. I heard the two stars of the show on Artie Lange’s radio show and thought they were funny so I tracked down their show which they were out promoting. It’s a half hour comedy about the two young women living in New York City. There is a lot of off-color and bawdy humor so you’d better like that sort of thing. I like it. It’s one of those fast paced comedies that flies by filled with jokes and weirdness. That’s up my alley.

    Oddly enough I was sick last year at this very same time. That one kicked my ass a lot more though. I was down for a week. I remember have a sore throat for the first time in years and years and sleept through most of the day for a few days. Though no fun this is probably a quarter of what that was. I’m lucky enough not to have gotten sick a lot in my life but the last few years if I’ve had something it seems to always be sinus based. My head clogs up a bit and I get tired. I have no idea what it is but all things considered it’s not too bad if it’s the only sickness I have to contend with. I’ll take the old cliche, “At least you’ve got your health” any day of the week.