Monday, October 20, 2008

Trekking Along the Paper Trail

Inking is still weighing heavily on me this week. I still love my brush pen. I am having lots of fun experimenting with it and if my only problem was the steadiness of my hand I would be fine, because that will improve with practice. The problem is the $%(*&%/?&!!ing paper.

As with everything else in this comic, I am experimenting freely to see what kind of results I can get and what will eventually become “my” style and that includes the paper I am drawing on. I did the first twenty four pages on three ply, 11x17 Blueline Pro Art Boards. I thought that since they are “pro” art boards they must be what the pros use. (Apparently a lot do but there are many who don’t. For an interesting read about some successful comics artists, I recommend the book Artists on Comic Art. It’s full of interviews and examples of work in progress and finished product. Very inspirational.) I didn’t like them for a couple of reasons. First is the texture. I was drawing all my roughs with a Colerase coloured pencil and I ended up carving trenches into the board as I drew. I have a heavy hand and the paper bears the brunt of it. Erasing was also a pain because I could never get all the colour off the page, which is why the early pages are so sketchy looking. I ended up using Photoshop to clean up the faces and the hairiest of the lines but it was so time consuming that I decided to chalk it up to experience and move on.

Another problem I had with the 11x17 boards was they were to slightly larger than my backpack. So anytime I took them with me (which is nearly always cause you never know when you will have a minute or two to draw in) they got bents, bruised and ended up looking pretty ratty. All the scuff and creases were easy to clean up once the pages scanned, though. (Photoshop saves the day again!) But why make more work for yourself, I thought.

When it was time to buy new stock I looked around and settled on a pad of vellum finish Bristol board. The vellum finish has more tooth to it which means I can save myself some elbow grease with the roughs. I was able to draw with a lighter hand now but on the few panels where I did go heavy, the erasure was really bad. (More Photoshop!) Another draw back was that the new pads didn’t come in the same sizes as the art boards. Since I would have to cut the pages anyway, I decided to go a little smaller and save them from some of the wear and tear in my backpack.

It was here that I discovered how convenient the Blueline pages were. They come pre-printed with margins and guides for splitting the page in halves and thirds, to make drawing the panels easier. With the generic Bristol board I had to do a lot of measuring and ruling before getting down to drawing. After a very short time this became very tedious.

I am now on my third type of drawing surface. I decided that the pre-printed margins were too good to give up and went back to the Blueline boards. This time I am using only 2 ply pages and I do find them to be a little less durable. I solved the backpack problem by carrying the whole pack of twenty four together in the plastic wrap they came in. The bulk of the stack makes they solid enough to survive. I also switched from the Colerase to an ordinary HB pencil. The real reason for the coloured pencil was just force of habit and after the first page, drawing with graphite feels normal. And the lack of tooth is as much of an issue.

My only real complaint now is that with these new boards, the ink from all my pens bleeds a little. For close ups its barely noticeable because the lines are thick. But I just finished a page with a lot of small panels and most of the panels are long shots. With the pencils, I am able to get very fine details in the drawings only have the bloody bleeding ink wipe them out.

So the search for the perfect drawing surface continues. I think I will try a larger vellum board for the crispness of the ink lines. I will have to device some way to reduce the measuring and ruling. Since many of the pages are a grid, I can make a template by cutting holes in one page and… yes. I think that will work. Now I just have finish off the boards have now and then I can move on.

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