Saturday, January 3, 2015

"Cabin Fever" + Process Video

   Here's another breakdown of the process behind working up a sketchbook doodle into a penciled rough, and from then into quick little inking demo. And I mean really quick - I'm still having fun playing with images edited in iMovie and incorporating footage from the iPhone then mixing in some spiffy Podington Bear tunage too.
   Again I picked a comparatively simple composition for this demo so as to stay primarily focused on the figure in foreground. There's also a progression through some raw, unretouched scans + digital tweaks done for cleanup in Photoshop.

   This panel in particular shows a perfect progression through the stages in preliminary sketching - literally setting the stage for the layout of the visual elements, and using linear perspective to define the space where the figure will eventually enact the scene. In the video it's really easy to see how I draw right through things... treating them as they are temporarily transparent so as to better project the baselines and build up overlapping shapes in successive layers.

   Where the lines for the figure overlap with the background I just inked right up to those delineated shapes - didn't employ a "vanishing line" (discernible as a halo-like effect around many drawings) as there was ultimately going to be more than enough line weight variation + texture to differentiate between the objects + areas. While it might not be so readily apparent in the footage, where it looks like I'm just simply re-tracing in pencil is a final pass of beefing up the marks so as to better read the super-light pencil lines that I initially sketch with on any panel. That in itself at times requires some dexterity and finesse which is often a challenge for beginners, as they tend to have a heavy hand, and consequently spend a lot more time erasing - frustrating when the substrate has effectively become embossed through pressure and point.

   While erecting the aforementioned infrastructure or the "cartoon scaffolding" that the characters will perform upon and making a place for the various props be placed about the composition, I gradually increase the line weight while sketching (as seen in action in the clip) with successively darker marks when I'm finally sure that everything's in place. Besides which there's always a couple incremental stages (during inking + digital) yet to go in the overall process, within which one can still correct things. Even so it's never too far from my mind the ultimate goal of getting it 100% "as is" - i.e. ready to scan and/or show without any subsequent modifications.

   There's a brief segue in the video off to the side for some lettering: it's obvious how the inked letters are really out of sync with the penciled words, and this aptly demonstrates the subtle but ultimately significant distinction between writing versus lettering. And also we can see firsthand how much the principle of editing is done on the fly - another reason to sketch very faintly at first - since the initial marks I make are rarely if ever the "right ones," or at least in the right place.

   A question I get asked more and more these days is why not use a tablet? Above & beyond the creature-of-habit "that's the way I was visually raised" answer is that I really, really love the organic quality and immediacy of just simply making these marks with an old-school nib on paper. I love drawing - everything about the way it feels & looks. And why dip-pen in particular? See the same answer above, plus even though it's not technically as fast as a brush - which the majority of traditionalists used to use (especially when holding a camera in the other hand in front of your face like I did for the video). It's also my chosen habitual implement in cartooning due to comfort, cost and the meta-pleasure of feeling like I'm participating in a long, er, line of cartoonists.

   A note about that linear perspective: a bonus in being immersed in typical Alaskan architecture = no straight lines in any cabin I've inhabited. So the tendency for an organic line to happen is totally in place when doing a freehand trace over the penciled template. The wonkyness as it meanders across the picture is a part of the personal aesthetic.
   Tools used: Bristol board (Strathmore 500 series); Ticondaroga (for dark marks) + Blackfeet Indian #2 (for preliminary sketchwork) pencils; 2 dip pens with both thick + thin thin nibs (Hunt 102 + Speedball 513EF, respectively); Dr. Phil Martin's Bombay Black (quicker drying time than my usual studio Windsor & Newton India ink); a spread of Microns ranging from 08, 05, 02 to a fake brush - which, handy as they are, never seem to be opaque enough, so I usually employ a beat-up old brush instead.
   Take a peek: