Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Slow Boil"/Clawing Through It

 "The world is my lobster" - Henry J. Tillman

Aarrgghh: like a few other notable experiences in my life, I started screwing a drawing up ... and still kept on going anyways. Meaning, in this instance, I eventually clued into the fact it was vellum Bristol (suitable for dry media), as opposed to smooth (used for pen & ink), as to why it suffered massively fuzzy bleed-out all over with every line. Nevermind I'm supposedly sworn off the stuff anyways, and using (hot press) watercolor paper now instead. All well, onward, as they say. Just how the hell that stuff found its way into my supply stack I'll never know, but needless to say I now have a stash of high-quality scrap paper. And a convenient excuse to experiment with Illustrator a bit more (Live Trace function converting the scan to a vectored image), before ultimately defaulting back to Photoshop when I bailed on the bewildering array of overwhelming options. 
In the meantime I discovered, after testing on other pads, it wasn't the paper's fault after all, it was the crappy substitute bottle of India ink I picked up while waiting for the good stuff to get shipped down. Sanford Higgins brand "Waterproof Black" was the culprit: that said, I used to use their "Black Magic" label for all my inking (Speedball's "Super Black" is a decent option as well), before switching to the infinitely superior Winsor & Newton line. W&N offers both a "Black Indian Ink" which uses a modern shellac, and slightly more expensive, traditional (pigment ground from Lamp Black Chinese Ink sticks) "Liquid India Ink," which has no solvent or drier agent added, so it's water-based. All these are distinguished from calligraphy or fountain pen inks, which are thinned out for ease of use in other implements: besides the beautiful, organic variety of line-weights obtained by using a dip-pen (or brush), these nibs won't clog with the heavier pigment used in India Inks.
So far it's been pretty depressing trying to find anyplace with semi-decent art supplies anywhere around this neck of the woods. Bar Harbor, Ellsworth and Bangor are all pretty dry, which is amazing given the demographic propensity of creative types that supposedly infest Down East. By far the best place was of all things a funky hardware store (Aubuchon Hardware) that had more fine art materials in stock than all the other places - mostly a motley assortment of bookstores and craft stores - combined. To be fair, what I was looking for was comparatively geeky technical gear, and I suppose these days most serious artists turn to specialty catalogs and the internet for supplies. On the other hand, one of the nice things about comics is the relative ease at which anybody can get into it without investing in the pretentious artsy-fartsy.
So I dutifully ordered a new set of catalogs and perused the on-line offerings from Daniel Smith, Cheap Joe's and Dick Blick. Blick has the best quality and widest range, and I can order adequate sized bottles from 30ml to pints and quarts - the standard 1oz bottles are a useless pain in the ass (nowadays I just decant refills into a nice, heavy, square glass inkwell). I also have my mind set on sampling some luxurious, luscious Sennelier India inks, and after all was said and done with this speed-bump over supplies, learned a bit more about the world and history of ink

I threw away my crow-quill nibs, and now just use "claw-quill" instead


  1. I've noticed the dearth of art and craft supplies in the area too, I think Sherman's may be the only place in Bar Harbor otherwise it's a trip to Bangor.
    I should have known that your lobsters would have so much personality!


  2. Sherman's is a cool little bookshop stuffed with all sorts of odds & ends (got me the 2011 B. Kliban "Cat Calendar"), even a small graphic novel section. I really liked the friendly folks that were working there (and shopping there), and compared to most bookstores they sure did have quite the selection of art supplies, definitely the best place around before Bangor.

  3. It's a mere block from where I lived as a hatchling.

    Your next T-shirt has to have angry eyestalks! Blueberries might be a challenge though.

  4. Angry blueberries... hmm.
    I think, in my mind at least, blueberries shall forever remain the province of Alaska.
    Now cranberries, those'll have dual citizenship.

    I just had a conversation with a dude who's been plowing around here since '75, all about the weather (though I admit I honestly didn't understand about a quarter of what he was saying), what with the current snowstorm it is quite the Sisyphean task.
    Still take it over -40...

  5. This comic contains a lobster. Therefor it is automatically awesome regardless of what ink you used.

  6. I'll try and remember that: just don't wonder why lobsters start showing up in everything now...