Took some random notes over a sample workweek back when I was pulling a normal 8-5 Monday-Friday schedule. The goal was to maintain artistic output and always get at least one finished drawing done every day, regardless of what I did during the rest of the day or for how long. Call it an experimental test to see how well I could maintain a trajectory of making, or at least maintain creative cruising altitude... and attitude. Sometimes what can kill off art is real life, when the banal realities of mundane everyday activities erode and eclipse the pursuit of one's passion. It's an irresistible force meets immovable object scenario on a daily basis: exhaustion versus inspiration. Or you give it up. What follows along in this posting is another process from doodle to pencil, inks, digital (print version) + watercolored original of one particular panel, juxtaposed against narration from that one token week.
Concept cribbed from a scrap of Post-It-note found stuck in a sketchbook. Not an uncommon scenario around the cabin... both scraps of paper and lounging felines.
Monday: worked an eight-hour shift, came home and did a panel - just the penciling. After an hour of computer time it's enough to work up a good sketch and go to sleep with the satisfaction + anticipation that it'll be a cartoon carrot awaiting at the end of tomorrow's stick stuck behind a counter or desk. Better than a cold beer by far, though sometimes both is a bonus.
Sketched on a 9x12" piece of smooth Bristol. I'm quite fond of using my new standard pencil: after ordering a box of basic Ticondoroga #2's more about the company here) all the other worn-out stubs laying around the satchel, bookbag, the toolbox and the studio went in the trash. Just love sketching with them, and sharpening them is a pleasure when you whittle up a whiff of the scent of cedar (note: if you think that's geeky read this).
Tuesday: was away from the drawing table for over 16-hours and completely failed to achieve my goal on the second day of the week. The irony is that after work I had to attend a training workshop for artist-in-residencies in the public schools, and a retiring art teacher told me how one trick that she pulled on herself was to devote a minimum of 15-minutes (as opposed to my own goals of finishing a completed work). This was of course a slippery slope because the key is to get started, and who wants to finish or call it quits after only fifteen minutes? Needless to say it didn't work that night - but it certainly has since, and is a powerful technique at pushing the envelope, if not setting up another late-nighter at the drawing board.
Here are two transitional panels during the inking phase: one - the top - is with dip-pen and the second is after adding textural detail and fine-lines with a Micron (02). I recently began to play around with some new nibs from Japan that are marketed towards makers of manga, which makes sense given the demographic of consumers is a direct result of the massive cultural acceptance and popularity. This contrasted against how traditional pen & ink is atrophying in America, at least to the extent there are very few quality options available for materials besides the sturdy, U.S. made steel Hunt 513EF Globe (the industry standard is the 104, but I've found over time those and the equally popular Gillott line fail too often with my heavy, hamhanded technique). At any rate, the two new nibs I'm currently testing out are the Saji-Pen and the G-Pen, which correspond to thick + thin respectively (or technically as far as comparable Hunt pairing, Fine + Extra-Fine).
Wednesday: still another 16-hour day but this time on account of spending time after work on my work. Got blindsided by a commission, which will just have to get shuffled into the mix. It’s usually better to resign oneself to being exhausted for work tomorrow but still be somewhat satisfied at staying up and getting work done, as opposed to being exhausted and resentful that you couldn’t get anything done. So damn the torpedoes and keep your priorities straight. As possible.
An initial raw scan showing the crop-marks that delineate the areas where some additional filling-in is applied (like the swatch of carpet-texture where the caption box was removed, and extensions to be added on the window-frame.
Thursday: finally finished up the first panel up (scanned>cleaned up>digital print version readied) + inked in a second panel. Stayed conscious for a couple more hours.
This is the line art all cleaned up and re-compositioned so as to allow for placement of the caption box in a better location + extended the top of the panel to give it some visual breathing room. Also patched up the carpeting, and a tiny, crucial shift in one of the eyeballs, which makes a world of a difference, in my opinion.
Friday: scan second panel and pencil in panel #3 = work for a couple of hours before passing out. This is the rhythm and pace I usually operate, with a scattering of different irons in the fire at once, so as to more easily facilitate picking at least one project up and seeing it transition to another phase to incubate while shifting attention to any one of the other awaiting pieces. This as opposed to sitting down and birthing one complete stand-alone panel from concept to completion.That does happen on occasion, but the workflow is most easiest and enjoyably stimulating with multiple projects all up in the air simultaneously.
Used the panel as an excuse to experiment with a new pad of Strathmore 500-series Bristol board. Been working pretty much only on the 400-series, which is a shift away from the usual 300-series that’s long been my standard default paper for cartooning. The surface is markedly superior to ink on, exceptionally smooth – the only downside is it’s nowhere near as accepting of wash. So for the occasional piece I'll switch instead to Sennelier watercolor blocks, also experimenting with the range of different effects that can come from drawing on hot- or cold-pressed + rough grain surfaces. In conjunction with Winsor &Newton black India ink it leaves a luscious line that I confess to run my fingertips over the surface and feel the physicality of the line. This on account of those inks not drying as flat as say other brands like Dr. Phil Martin’s Bombay Black (which I'll usually use in the field/for public demos since it also dries much faster) and Higgins Black Magic, which due to issues with bleeding and feathering I have discontinued using.
Saturday: no, this is by no means a “day off” – it’s catchup like crazy. Also the deferred maintenance from the week snowballs into the weekends, like vacuuming, shopping, errands etc. Even during these menial tasks the mental clock is ticking away, ideas percolating up in the background and drip onto the empty canvas of a blank day Thus the everyday activities become more ”inspirational” than any muse: doing dishes outhouse expeditions and yardwork : the opportunity to daydream is often a precious gift.
|Tools for cultivation|
Sunday: back to the proverbial drawing board… try to get everything finished I started during the week and maybe get a jump on the next.