It looks like this week’s post is going to be a “How-To” post. Or maybe I should call it a “How-I-Did-It” post because that’s a more apt description. After all I don’t expect anybody to be following my steps. but I do want to document them. Occasionally I have taken some photos of my paintings in progress and by pure chance it turns out I did that with the painting, Weeping Strings, that I wrote about last week. I kind of just took the photos on a lark with no idea that I was ever going to make anything of them but they’re good enough to serve an illustrative purpose. I also managed to track down the drawings and sketches this painting was made from. Computers and scanners sure make it a lot easier to organize and find things. And remember, kids, put dates on your stuff.

I’ll start with the sketchbook page that I drew the original drawing on. You can see it on the top of the page. It’s a 5.5 x 8.5 inch book so that makes the drawing about 5 x 3 inches. The date on the back of the page is March 26, 2010 and the date on the back of the painting is May 8, 2010 so I must have liked this image right off the bat to make it into a painting so quickly. That happens on occasion but I’m usually going back into these inkbooks of mine to find images to work with long after I drew the images. This is book ten and I’m currently drawing in book fourteen so often years pass between when I make an initial drawing and when I make it into something finished. A month’s time is quick and fairly rare. I think I also made a small 8×10 inch painting of the image of the two faces in panel four. Often I never use any of the drawings on a page so that to have used two of them on a single page means I had a good day.

I scan all of my inkbook pages into the computer as a matter of habit. I remember reading a story written by “Concrete” cartoonist Paul Chadwick about how he used to always carry a sketchbook around until one day while he was out he left it behind somewhere. He went back to the place but the sketchbook was long gone. All that work was lost to him. From then on in he carried only loose pieces of paper to draw on while out so that he would never loose an entire sketchbook’s worth of work again. That’s a solid cautionary tale but I have a hard time carrying loose pieces of paper so I stuck with my sketchbooks. But that story never left my brain. I also stuck with sketchbooks because this was before the days of my inkbook style of drawing and my sketches were almost worthless to me as tools. I was just a bad sketcher.

As I started working in my inkbook style my sketchbooks (inkbooks as I now call them) became much more valuable to me as a tool. They became my source of images to work with. The Paul Chadwick story became even more real to me as my inkbooks became more integral to my art but I still didn’t want to give up on books. They’re convenient and I like them. Luckily for me it was the early 2000s by then (I think Paul Chadwick’s article was from the early 1990s) and the digital age was well under way. I decided I should not only scan in my inkbook work but scan it in fairly often. I should make a habit out of it. So that’s what I did. So now if I lose an inkbook, though I would be upset, I would have scans of all the work. At most I’d lose five or six pages of drawings but not fifty or sixty pages.

The original drawing from my inkbook was drawn spontaneously in ink. After the page is scanned in I make a copy of just that drawing, blow it up in Photoshop, and print it out in blue line. All those light grey lines (if I had scanned this in color they’d be blue but it’s easier to drop them out if I scan in greyscale) that you can see underneath the thin grey lines are the original sketch blown up. I think the size of this drawing is about 9 x 12 inches. At least that’s how big the paper is that it’s drawn on. After it’s printed out in blue line I draw in pencil on top of the blue lines. This is the for-real final drawing. You can see how I changed things from the initial sketch.

The next step is an ink drawing. I scan in the pencil drawing, blow it up even bigger (this ink drawing is around 10 x 15 inches), print it out in blue line on bristol board, and ink right over the blue line with brush, pen, and ink. Though I almost always do this when I’m making a comic or a print this is not a usual step in my painting process. Since making a black line with a paint brush on canvas is so different from using a much smaller brush on paper it usually doesn’t help me to make an ink drawing first. I’m not sure exactly why I made one this time. It could have been that I was planning to make a print of this but changed my mind and decided to make it into a painting. That’s happened before. But I have a vague memory of doing this for the painting. I think I wanted to work out the line weights a bit before I started the painting. Once again that’s something I usually don’t do but I think, in this case, there were so many long and sweeping lines in the piece that I wanted to work some of them out first rather than do it full size as I usually do.

Those are the drawing stages of this method of mine. Next up is the color.