Yesterday was another day of getting small things done. It seems that has been the theme of this February. Well, I did get some big things done in the form of my large ink drawings but I’ve also had days where all I could manage was bits and pieces. Life is like that sometimes.
One thing I got done was a handful of art cards. Those are 2.5×3.5 inch drawings or paintings. That’s baseball card size. Art cards generally break down into four categories for me. The first is cartoon art cards. These are the ones of talking heads that I make for my “Drifting and Dreaming” strip. I didn’t make any of these this week. The second category is smaller versions of my larger drawings. That’s when I take an already existing drawing and scale it down to art card size to see if I can make it work that small. I didn’t make any of these type either. The third type is spontaneous ink drawings. That’s where I work directly in ink so there in no erasing possible. I started a couple of these but as I’m writing this I haven’t finished them just yet.
The fourth category of art card is the one I was working in. I’d make a little pencil drawing, ink it with a sign pen, and then color it with my Copic markers. I don’t draw much in pencil these days as a first step. Usually I draw in ink, then pencil, then ink again. For some reason I think better in ink. I don’t worry about erasing and making things perfect when I draw in ink at the beginning. Trying to make something “Perfect” should be later on in the process. So I had to get used to drawing in pencil as a first step and not get caught up in too much erasing.
The cards I made sum up a few of the genres I work in. The first is Art Card 1032. A man’s face made with simple lines. Triangle mouth, big black dots for eyes, a strange swooping nose, and some sort of weird hat or hair. These are the elements I rearrange and play with all the time for small faces. The marker I use, a sign pen refilled with India ink, is perfect for this type of even lined drawing. Unlike a brush drawing where I’m making thick to thin lines and lots of different marks the sign pen makes just a couple of marks and I like that simplicity. The background is slightly abstract but the colors are straight forward with a little shading in them.
The second drawing is Art Card 1033. A small figure drawing. This is a good example of me using triangles to draw figures. The two obvious triangles are the one from her shoulders to her waist and the one that makes up the bottom of her dress. But her arms and legs are also elongated triangles. Her hands are a couple of little triangles too as well as her hair being a big triangle. For whatever reason I often think in triangles. It’s tough to get my thick lined sign pen to make such small lines so things like her face and feet get a little clumsy. But it’s just a little art cards so I try not to sweat it too much. I like the color on this one with the bright orange in the background and the ground being blue. Not my favorite card but it’ll do.
The third card is one of my robots. Art card 1034. I like to draw robots. My robots have nothing to do with technology though. They have to do with line and shape. They’re modern art robots as much as anything. They give me a chance to draw human type figures without it having to look totally human. I mostly color them grey or some light color as I have here but I also use splashes of color like his red swirly eye. Or the blue cupcake like thing on his chest. The background is simple as they often are on these cards but I kept this one fairly normal to ground the image a little. I used a blue sky and some green grass. Sure there is some purple in there to make things sparkle but overall I think the background helps keep things real.
Art card 1035 is one of my masked figures. I like drawing faces and I like drawing masked faces. Not only are they mysterious but though the masks are still faces the rules of drawing faces can be exaggerated or even broken. Here I did a little exaggeration. She also has my simplified rounded cartoon bosoms. I mostly use them along with sharp angles in the shoulders and waist to get some contrast going. I like the green dress here but the purple mask starts to blend with the blue sky. There is nothing wrong with that but it was unintentional on my part and sometimes things bother me if I didn’t plan them even if they work. I’m more comfortable controlling the space rather than having it thrust upon me. But, oh well, it’s okay to let go.
The final card, Art Card 1036, has got another woman in it but this time with an angled bosom. It’s less cartoony than my rounded one but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was realistic. It’s more of my drawing of triangles coming into play. Each breast started out as a triangle and in some of my drawings they stay that way but here they got connected. That’s because it’s an upshot. For some reason I decided to go with the unflattering under the chin angle for her face and her chest followed. I like the lines of her face in this one. I think I managed to capture a bit of awkwardness with simplicity. I also like the way the red and blue work together. The blue at the bottom is a Tahitian blue (B04) Copic marker that my favorite blue. I seem to always like it.
So those are the simple drawings that I got done this week. I think they ended up being a pretty good cross section of the types of drawings that I commonly do.
This week’s comic book cover to look at and examine is “Wild C.A.T.S.” #7 by Jim Lee and Scott Williams. I’m not sure if I picked this one up off the stands or got it a little bit later. I wasn’t a big Image comics guy back in the early 90s and it probably wasn’t until six months or a year after they launched that I bought any Image comics. Then I started buying a few of them regularly and got the back issues of the stuff I missed.
I’ve never been a huge fan of Jim Lee’s work or a lot of stuff from that super-hero period of the 1990s but I figured I’d give the man his due. He does some nice work even if it’s not always up my particular alley. Here is a fun and over-the-top dramatic cover. It’s crammed with everything he could shoehorn in there and I appreciate the effort.
This is one of those covers that reveals things the more I look at it. At first glance it’s about the struggle between Spartan and the blond guy (sorry I can’t remember his name) with its main axis being Spartan’s arm as he thrusts his hand under Blondie’s chin. My eye travels up and down the arm between the two faces. It’s only on second glance that I notice Spartan is being shot and his back is being blown out. That and I notice Spartan’s second glowing pink hand. And it’s only on third glance that I see Spartan is being shot by a second gun on his other side. That’s a lot going on as part of a secondary struggle.
This is some early computer coloring and a lot of that can be cheesy but I like it on this cover. It fits with the chaotic nature of the cover. It’s mostly pinks, reds, violets, and blues and achieves a sort of harmony without bringing the chaos under control.
The drawing is pretty chaotic here too. Lots of energy crackle mucking things up and forms that are half destroyed. Even Spartan’s arm, which is the main compositional element of the piece, isn’t intact. Plus the logo is destroyed. There may be a little too much teeth gritting for my taste and Spartan’s weirdly opened mouth makes me say, “Huh?” but those are taste issues and don’t have to do with good or bad. Overall I like this cover and think it’s a good one. Not just by early 90s standards but by any.
It’s been a very snowy winter here in the northeast US of A. We’ve gotten two to three times the normal amount of snow of an average winter and it’s trying my patience and motivation. I’m lucky that I don’t have to commute through the stuff but it’s still a pain. This is my fourth winter in a row cycling all through the winter and I’ve had to miss more days this year because of the snow and cold than in the previous three years combined. Right now I’m looking at missing a full week of cycling for the second time this winter. I haven’t lost a full week of cycling in any of the previous three winters. Or summers for that matter. SO you know the weather is bad.
In January when I missed a full week of cycling because of snow and cold I was surprised at how much my lungs burned on my first ride back. Maybe I was a little too excited to be riding again and didn’t pace myself properly but I was really sucking wind on that ride. Not having missed more than a couple or three days rides over the years it hadn’t even occurred to me to take it easy after a week off. When I finally get back on the bike again I’ll have to remember that.
All the snow has affected my own work too. We had four snowstorms in about two weeks. It’s tough to get things done when I have to go out and clear the driveway and walkways so many times. Besides the fact that it’s physically tiring it also makes life seem awfully repetitive and pointless. Clear the driveway, more snow, clear the driveway, more snow, what’s the point of it all? You know the drill.
Oddly enough I got quite a bit done in the first part of the week. Well, maybe it’s no so odd since that was before all four storms hit but I was on a roll. Besides the large 20×28 inch drawing that I wrote about last week I got two more of those size drawings done. I was getting it done for a little while. Since I always have a bunch of pencil drawings lying around I looked through the pile and found a couple that I wanted to make big black and white marker drawings out of. So I did. I had the focus, concentration, and motivation to get them done. It’s always cool when that happens.
Then the storms wore me down. It started with six inches of snow on a Monday. Then on Wednesday another ten inches hit. Somehow between then and the Thursday a week away a “Wintery mix” became a Nor’ Easter which dropped a foot of show on us followed by another six inches on Friday. Luck was with on on Saturday as that storm was only a couple more inches. Today’s storm on Tuesday dropped three more. Did I mention that it’s been below freezing most of the time? None of the snow had time to melt before more snow fell. It’s at the point where there is no more room to put new snow on the sides and back of my driveway. It’s crazy.
I got those two large drawings done mostly in the week between the storms. I think the third one overlapped with the big Nor’Easter but after finishing that one I was a bit cooked. On Saturday I managed to get my usual five “Four Talking Boxes” strips done for the week and a little bit of drawing but not much else. I spent a lot of Sunday organizing old drawings.
Years ago I attached two drawers underneath the surface of my drawing table. It’s an out of the way but completely handy place to keep drawings. Somehow over the years I’ve come up with a system where the right hand drawer holds my drawings that I haven’t made into anything finished yet and the left hand one holds the drawings that I have made something finished out of. Eventually when the left hand drawer is full I have to find a place to put the drawings. That was what happened. I made a box out of old matte board to put the drawings in and stuck them on a shelf. I also cleaned up some vertical files with all sorts of odds and ends of drawings in them.
I spend a good deal of that Sunday organizing time cutting up odd size pieces of drawing paper into 5×7 inch and 2.5×3.5 inch pieces of paper that I would use. That odd size paper has been sitting around for years waiting for me to get to use it. I finally decided I never would use the paper in its current form but it’s still good paper. It took me a couple of hours to cut it all to size but I didn’t have the energy for much else anyway.
Today, besides writing this, I painted four “On the Rough” drawings. These are the 5×7 inch ink and watercolor drawings that I do on super textured watercolor paper. I haven’t made any since December but since they’re a spontaneous kind of work I do okay with them on a low energy day. I didn’t end up liking any of the four of them very much but that could just be my mood.
One other odd thing happened this week. I use my inkjet printer a lot in my work. I’m forever scanning in drawings, blowing them up, and printing them out in blue line to redraw. My habit is that when I run out of a color I go to my reserve box, pull out another ink tank of the same color, put it in the printer, and then immediately order a replacement ink tank to put in my reserve box. That way I always have a spare of the color I need. Except this time I didn’t. I ran out of magenta, went to my box, and saw no new magenta ink. I had two ink tanks of light magenta though. I guess I somehow bought the wrong one last time. I’ve had an inkjet printer of one kind or another since 1996 and that’s the first time I was caught without ink. Of course that was on Thursday when the Nor’Easter was hitting. The ink tank was supposed to arrive on Saturday but too many storms kept it away. Then Monday was Presidents’ Day. Today, as I write this, it’s Tuesday and it’s still not here. Oh well, maybe I’ll be able to print again tomorrow.
This week’s comic book cover to look at and examine is “Kid Colt Outlaw” #123 by Jack Kirby. Stan Goldberg and Sam Rosen are both also credited on the database I looked at so I figure they did the color and lettering. I’m not sure when or where I got this comic from. I’m guessing I saw it for cheap and bought it because I like old Marvel westerns and I like this cover.
This cover is all about chaos and action. Action was Kirby’s strength and it shows here. Kid Colt is in a fight with over a dozen bad guys. Let’s see someone pull that off these days. They’re coming at him from all angles and there is a lot going on. There is a nice sense of time in this one as we have the past, the present, and the future all in one shot. It the present we have Kid Colt getting the gun shot out of his hand and punching some one. In the past we have a guy on the ground holding his head as he was obviously punched a moment before. In the future we have a bunch of characters rushing to join the fight. That’s a lot going on. Ringo Baker, the leader, is almost an afterthought.
I like that the type is all in the top third of the cover. That makes things orderly amongst the chaos. Often on these old covers the type is peppered all over the image but that would have made a mess of this cover. My copy is a bit faded and the purple type looks darker than it must have originally but the red logo against the light blue sky still looks good.
Overall the color on this cover is pretty subdued. Only Kid Colt in the middle of all the action has full primary colors going on. A red shirt, blue pants, and yellow gloves. Otherwise everything else going on around him is in greens, greys, and browns. The figures in the foreground are even completely knocked out in grey. This might be a bit of a conservative choice color-wise but I can’t say that it’s wrong.
Order and chaos are often the two opposing forces in fiction. I think this cover has them going on too. Interesting.
This week I finally pulled out my big paper and black markers. By big paper I mean that it’s a full sheet of watercolor paper. That makes it 22×30 inches. With an inch of white border all around the final size of the drawings that I make on it are 20×28 inches. It’s been well over a year since I last made a black marker drawing that size. Back then I made about a half dozen of them and really enjoyed drawing in marker so large but life got in the way and I never got back to making any more. This week I finally decided to pull out the big paper and marker kit.
The paper I use for this is not my usual fancy and expensive watercolor paper. It’s cheap watercolor paper called Blick Studio Fabriano. It’s made by Dick Blick art supplies and Fabriano paper to be a low cost alternative watercolor paper for students and artists. I find it hard to even erase pencil off of this paper so I don’t know how good it would be for real watercolor work but for big black marker drawings it works well. It’s a couple of bucks a sheet rather than ten dollars.
The marker kit is a bunch of different style black Copic markers that I even bought a marker wallet for. I’ve got a regular black marker, a black sketch marker, and extra wide black marker, and one that I fitted with special calligraphy nibs. I use all these plus I have Copic black ink refills so I can constantly refill the markers as they get empty. And using them on large sheets of watercolor paper they get empty pretty quickly. I also have extra nibs to replace the marker tips that get damaged. Since I use French curves and straight edges in these drawings the marker tips can get beat up quite a bit. The felt fabric tip will shred.
The drawing that I made this week is titled “Sideways Pieces”. It’s named that because in looking through my pile of pencil drawings for something to make into an ink drawing I came across some old attempt at a comic strip named “Sideways”. I don’t even remember what the strip was about but I liked the woman’s face in the panel that was in front of me. It had no background though so I used a second panel of the same woman and digitally added it into the background. I then printed that out in blue line and drew over that to make a 9×12 inch pencil drawing. Then I had something to make a finished marker drawing out of.
If I was making a painting this size I normally would use a grid to transfer the drawing to canvas. But since this paper is hard to erase on (I’d have to draw the grid and erase it) I use graphite transfer paper to move the drawing over. Therefore I need a printout of the drawing the same size as the final drawing. I don’t have a 22×28 inch printer so I printed out the drawing on four 13×19 inch sheets of paper and then taped them together. After that I taped the drawing over the paper and in-between the two I place a sheet of graphite paper. I then take a hard 2H pencil and trace over the top of the drawing. The pressure of the pencil transfers the graphite from the graphite paper to the watercolor paper. This can be a tedious and messy process so I have to be careful. Once the drawing is transferred I remove the printout and graphite paper, clean things up, and redraw. The process of using graphite paper is less than perfect so I have to make sure the drawing looks good on the watercolor paper.
Now come the markers. Being that these drawings are black and white and very graphic looking with almost no shading I find myself using a lot of curves and straight edges with the markers to get things just so. I especially like the 24 inch adjustable ship’s curve that I bought years ago. It’s good for making long flowing curves with. I also use a few French curves for the smaller arcs I have to make. It’s important to keep the curves as clean as possible when using them like this. Since I’m using them with a marker I’m actually drawing on the edge of the curve with the marker ink. Too muck ink on the edge will get on my hands and then on the paper. I want the white parts of the drawing really white so I try to avoid that and wash my edges twice a day or so.
This drawing is all about the face. One of my favorite subjects. Well, the face and those two large spirals of hair. Plus the deep negative space of the background. There is a bit going on here. More than half of the drawing is taken up by the woman and her hair but since half of her face is off-stage then the drawing isn’t totally about her. She’s the star but the woman behind her is a co-star. Though we only get a hint of her so she’s not a big co-star. Her booking might even be beneath the negative space between her arm and body and its op-art effect.
This drawing and this style of drawing are very much about shape and technique. Most of the black shapes such as on the woman’s neck and face are not even in my initial pencil drawing. All those black shapes in the woman’s arm and on her dress are drawn in after I make the original black line drawing. Once I use the markers and curves to make the initial drawing I like to see what I can see. I look for the shapes that suggest themselves. That’s when I draw them in with a light 2H pencil to get them just right before committing to ink.
I also use my Haff hatching machine with these. That’s how I got those straight and parallel lines that make up the sky. The Haff is like a little t-square that’s attached to an arm. When you press down on the little lever/button the arm moves down from one to ten millimeters. Whatever you set it to. Then you move the marker along the straight edge to make a straight line, hit the button, make another line. Easy to use and I like the results.
Yeah, it was good to get back to this type of drawing. They’re so big and hard to scan in that it’s not easy to show them off but oh well. I can’t make 5×7 inch drawings all the time.