Saturday, April 19, 2014

"WTF?" Process: It's a Wash

     In the picture above you can see the original doodle in the sketchbook, and almost hidden underneath the plexyglass sheet lies another pencil in wait of the next panel in line. Also sheet of crib notes on the order of things, made while sipping the first cuppa joe before erasing away last night's lines (everything was inked in the night before). The slightly off-white goop is from Winsor & Newton Colourless Art Masking Fluid so as to stop out certain areas when doing a wash. It's all done on a 7 4/5” square block of Sennelier “Papier Aquarelle/Grain torchon” (Watercolour Paper/Rough grain) 140lb, 100% cotton paper.
More process after the jump/below the fold...

     The liquid mask (reminiscent of the good ol' days of manually cutting out and burnishing down friskets with an Xacto blade) is a bit tricky to try to apply in an even, consistent coat, as it dries immediately on contact, and the second brush stroke will gum it up and start to peel off what you just applied. So it can be a task ensuring every area you want to stop out has been covered - you’ll find out right away when applying the wash. For putting the mask on I use a
crappy brush that's already been beat up and is a few uses away from being chucked anyways. Afterwards I let it dry just a bit before moving on to the next step, shading in some color.
     Working from the biggest areas first, so first everything but the sky, then that dries and the reverse is stopped out for everything but the ground plane (the snow). Then adding touches of deeper value on top of those washes, including areas of contrasting shadow.
     It’s a wet medium, fast and loose, so happy accidents will happen - I let 'em go as evidence that a human being made it, as opposed to the crispness of digital treatments. And I love the contrast of the organic look & feel of color against the tightness of black line. Plus the texture of the paper will translate into some interesting anomalies. By the way, I'm using Derwent brand
"Graphitint" + "Inktense" water-soluble pencils, and Winsor & Newton black India ink.

     For applying color wash I'll use several different thicknesses of brush depending on how much area has to be covered versus detail and control. When it dries I use a plastic eraser to lightly rub and remove the mask, and then apply base tone to the moose, then afterwards again add secondary value and shadows (example: autumn brown, saddle brown, madder brown and bark were all used on the moose). Details like antlers, banana and turds are left for last.
     I had to stop using the liquid mask as it did lift up the ink in a few spots (easy enough to touch up later), so I winged the rest, just had to be extra careful of not slopping – gotta stay in the lines!!!! Really though, it does run through the back of my mind that that’s all I’m essentially doing is classic “coloring in,” and so playing around with another medium like this is good exercise in experimenting and basically letting go and letting it happen.
      Lastly a quick once-over with a heat gun and add some random flakes to break up the lines and vary the depth of the surface plane with some texture. Douse with some acrylic coating – sometimes a nice triple-thick to add some luster. Cut that sucker off the block and set it outside in the back room to dry overnight, and on to the next piece.

     Oh and here’s a great sample screw-up: on the first version I did the “WTF” caption box in way too close to crop off (ie edit) for the print version, and so tried a quick redo, which was a total crash & burn. After a scan of the utter failure (which was summarily torn up and trashed) I drew in red a few major problems: like reducing the overall size of the drawing for a better composition; the gaze of the eyeballs was totally off; an there's one crucial line on the back of the belly that was drawn absolutely wrong as far as overlapping shapes to indicate volume and depth. 

     Add to all that, I used the wrong nib (a way too stiff newer one from Japan) in conjunction with wrong paper (the cold pressed as opposed to rough or smooth – it really accentuated the stiffness of the nib by catching it too much and jaggedy-ing the line).
     But I was able to salvage the thought balloon, and pasted it over the real-estate where the caption-box used to be (some tell-tale fuzzying from the clone-stamp tool if you know where to look/what to look for). Now there's a nice print-version for the newspaper.

     And as is often the case, it's debatable as to whether or not the initial sketch is better than the end result, even after the convoluted, protracted path to get there. It's all good. I'd say it's all just a journey of self-discovery and creative enrichment, but really, it was inspired by having a grocery bag split open on the way to the cabin from the truck. Standing there in the -30F temperatures looking at the inherent ludicrousness of this fruit so out of place was in and of itself ridiculous enough of an experience to merit mention in the sketchbook. And feedback from folks on the street after this particular panel ran was decidedly mixed (didn't help that it ran in black & white) - seems a lotta people will search instead for deeper meaning and strive for profound insight when indeed, it does all come down to being just a banana. In the snow. With a moose. That's all there is.

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