Some days I want to make some art but I have no idea what art I want to make. That’s one of the reasons I like to make a lot of different kinds of art with different techniques. Sometimes on days that I don’t know what I want to do I can go by feel. By that I mean literal physical feel. What it feels like to use the tools that make the art. I went by feel yesterday and chose to make some drawings in my “Monsters on Comics” series.

I started drawing monsters, and particularly monster faces, about fifteen years ago and it all had to do with an art show I saw back when I was in art school in the 1980s. I had a teacher for my visiting artist painting class named Emilio Cruz. He took us to a show at the Brooklyn Museum about the art of New Ireland. That’s an island in the Pacific where the people made these small sculptures, about a foot tall, of scary monsters. They kept them in their homes to remind them that there were bad things out in the world and everybody should try to stay on the straight and narrow. This idea inspired me to draw my own monsters.

If memory serves then the first monsters faces I drew were about 11×14 inches and were done with some kind of charcoal. There are a lot of different kinds of charcoal sticks and it took me a few tries to find the darkest and densest charcoal that was good for this task. It took a lot of rubbing to get the darkness I wanted. I didn’t end up making many of these.

A while (a year or two?) after I made those monster faces I started using my busted brush technique. This as using an old brush that no longer came to a point but split up into many points with ink on paper. I found this technique to be conducive to drawing monster faces. India ink is really dark and the texture made by the busted brush can be built up to make cool monster faces out of. I mostly worked on 6×9 inch paper to draw these monster faces but I occasionally made larger ones.

This leads us to my “On Comics” series and specifically my “Monsters on Comics” series. In case this is the first piece you’ve ever read of mine I’ll let you know that I am a comic book collector. That means I have a lot of comic books. I even have a lot of worthless comic books. I mean worthless because they are in such bad shape that they can’t even be read. They’re falling apart.

I decided that I wanted to do something with those comic books. I wanted to tear out the pages that were still in decent shape and draw on them. But draw what and with what? I ended up settling on drawing monster faces but it took quite a while to settle on which tools I should draw on the comic with.

First of all the paper from an old comic book is delicate. Most of the comics I was drawing on were from the 1970s and drawing on forty something year old yellowed newsprint isn’t easy. I couldn’t use a wet medium like ink because that would wrinkle the paper. It had to be a dry medium plus also be a soft medium. I wanted to not only use black but also use white. That way I could work back and forth from black to white. Plus the paper was too delicate for erasing so the white would serve as a cover up too.

I started out trying to use charcoal but all of the charcoal I had or found was too hard for the paper. There is not much tooth to the old newsprint so I had to rub really hard with the charcoal to make lines and shapes so it tore the paper too much. I did find my answer for the white in some sticks on conté crayon that I has lying around since the 1990s. It worked really well.

I eventually abandoned all my different charcoals and tried out some black markers. They worked. I especially liked using an almost dried out marker. It blended well with the conté crayon. The marker wouldn’t keep as perpetually almost dried out and when it did finally totally dried out I kept it around to blend with. I still use it in that capacity.

I made a bunch of drawings this way but then ran into a problem. I ran out of white conté crayon. Just buy some more you say. Which is what I did. The problem was that none of the conté crayon that I bought was soft enough. I bought the softest stuff I could find and it was the same grade of softness as the old stuff I had but it still too hard. It wouldn’t draw on the old newsprint. So I had to go in search of a new white to use.

It took some trial and error but eventually I found some white pastel sticks that worked really well. Pastel sticks are bigger than conté crayon so I couldn’t make as fine a line but it could cover big areas faster. Plus I had a little bit of that conté crayon left that I saved for small areas. I also added in a white charcoal pencil that only worked on really small areas but I found some use for it. I was back in business.

This all brings us to yesterday. That’s when I decided to make some art because of its feel. The feel I wanted was of the pastel rubbing on the paper. It’s hard to describe. It’s also similar to using charcoal. With a pencil you draw it along the paper and it leaves a light mark. With pastel or charcoal you have to use more pressure and it’s a much blunter tip so you have to rub it across the paper.

As you rub pastel across the paper a half inch chunky line is left behind. This has a nice feel. The black marker is put down with a delicate touch which contrasts with the pastel application. Then it’s back and forth. Chunky, delicate, chunky, delicate, and so on. Throw in some rubbing in there with the dried out marker. It all makes for a nice physical process that is a cool change of pace from a pencil, brush, or marker. I dig it.