I’d been doing some drawing today. I was working on yet another not quite fully formed idea for my web comic. In the morning it was some figures for my “Question of the Day” strip. I completed one of those last year but have yet to develop it any more. Like I said they’re all in progress. In the afternoon I thumbed through one of my sketchbooks (number five) and decided to work up a drawing that was based on a complex series of shapes and faces. I figured I could finish it in an afternoon. It’s after diner and I’m only halfway there.

Boy did I underestimate the time this would take. The drawing is sort of collage like in that it’s a series of interlocking heads and faces tied together with lines and shapes. It’s un-collage like in that it has to make sense spatially in a way that collages normally don’t. That is the tricky part. In the sketch I had most of the faces figured out, there were about thirty of them, but I didn’t have the way they relate to each other nailed down. That’s taking a lot of nailing. Plus about twenty more faces.

This drawing is also different for me in that it will be finished in pencil. Usually I finish drawing off in ink but I’m not looking for that type of hard line for this. I want something softer. Usually when a piece of art is being printed, such as a poster or an ad in a magazine, the art is done much bigger than the final printed piece. That way the art tightens up and flaws can be minimized as it gets smaller. I was looking at a poster by Jim Steranko where he did just the opposite. He made a small but very tight and hard lined pencil illustration and then had it blown up to be printer as a poster. That gave him the soft edge he was looking for. I’m looking for a similar soft edge. That’s why I’m finishing it in pencil.

I’m not finding it easy to finish in pencil. I think better in ink. With ink I get a hard edge and it’s binary. It’s either black or white. There are no shades of grey. With a brush and ink I can also quickly and easily create lines of different or varying widths. Add just a little more pressure to the brush tip and the line gets thicker. Take away that pressure and the line gets thinner. A quarter inch line or a hair line is a flick of the wrist away. With a pencil the thickness of the line is whatever the thickness of the pencil point is. If I want a thicker line than the point I have to go over the line again drawing a line next to my original line. Sometimes it takes three or four strokes to get to the right thickness. No simple flick of the wrist.

Pencil can also get messy. I use a soft dark graphite. Usually a 4B or 6B. That means that if I rub my hand against my drawing I can smear it. I don’t want that. I always draw with a piece of paper between my hand and my drawing. That way I’m resting my hand not on the paper I’m drawing on but on another clean piece of paper. The paper I rest my hand on is always a brown piece of paper. I find the contrast in color with the white paper reminds me to be careful and not rest my hand on the drawing. As I turn the drawing to get a better angle I have to adjust the brown paper too. I found that if I used white paper instead of brown I’d forget about it and not adjust it as I moved the drawing. Then my hand would end up smearing the pencil line. That’s why it’s brown for me. It serves me well.

So I’m not done with that drawing yet. Despite my best estimates since it’s something new to me it will take way longer than I though. It will take yet another day. Two full days is a lot longer than an afternoon. Time sure can slip away.