After a bit of a break, I’ve gone back to Clip Studio Paint on the iPad Pro, drawing with an Apple Pencil. Struggling to draw from memory on the iPad (see below), I decided to re-familiarise myself with the process by drawing three India ink bottles that happened to be sitting on my desk.
As usual, I started with a pencil layer, which proved useful because I made the third bottle that I drew a bit too small compared with the others. I realised that it wasn’t going to work as I inked it in (below) so it was easy to go back to the pencil outline, to correct the proportions (right). Virtual erasers don’t chew up the virtual paper.
I created a new layer labelled ‘pen’ and drew with a G-pen, one of the standard pens in the Clip Studio toolbox.
I added a ‘paint’ layer and painted with some of the watercolour brushes but then felt that I needed some darker areas, so added another layer for different ink brushes.
I decided on a tonal background rather than the white of the virtual paper, so used the rectangle tool to draw a box around the subject which I then followed on one final layer, using the pen tool to trace around the box, so that the line matched the drawing.
Teacher in Tweed
This is the drawing from memory that I was struggling with. It was supposed to be one of my teachers but I haven’t caught his character as I remember him. After a bit of drawing from life, I’m ready to try drawing from memory again.
I’ve drawn comic strips since since I was aged eight or nine and I’ve published a few of them, from as early as 1979 in my Sketchbook of the Natural History of Wakefield, so you might think that I’ve left it a bit late in my career to read Mastering Comics, the sequel to Drawing Words & Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel and Matt Madden.
I’ve learnt a lot from it and I’ve especially enjoyed being immersed in all things comic: writing, planning, printing, binding and trying to make a living. It reminds me of the years that I was lucky enough to spend in total immersion in graphics and illustration during my time at art college.
Comic creators Abel and Madden teach the subject at New York’s School of Visual Arts, so they’re well aware of the practicalities and the questions that are likely to arise during the creative process. I can’t get to New York to take one of their courses, I’d get a lot out of that, so this is the next best thing.
I decided to read right through the book but I’d like to go back and try some of the activities they suggest:
a sketchbook comic drawn entirely on location (which still evokes some kind of story)
a comic with no people that includes examples of different perspectives and viewpoints
a traditionally coloured comic using black line and CMY (cyan, magenta, yellow) colours.
Because I mostly draw in pen with a watercolour wash, when it comes to black and white, I find that the most natural way for me to use brush and ink is to add solid areas to a pen drawing.
I’ve drawn my new Lowe Alpine Edge 22 hiking day pack (our old pack was starting to tear along the seams) with my Lamy Safari with the B nib filled with Noodler’s Black Ink then used a number 6 sable and Rohrer’s Indian Ink (see previous post) for the dark areas.
The grey straps and a few shadows in the side pockets were the only areas that I thought would merit solid black but I’ve used a lot of fine brush strokes, often following the weave of the material, for the grey areas. In fact the bag is monochromatic, in two shades of neutral grey.
I like the way that you can tail off a brushstroke to get a pointed line to represent a graded tone. The crisp lines give a woodcut effect.
I used the threshold adjustment in Photoshop in the final version of the drawing (above) to reduce the drawing to pure black and white.
The chapter Black Gold in Drawing Words and Writing Pictures by Jessica Abel & Matt Madden discusses inking comics with a brush. It’s written in such an entertaining and practical way that I thought I’d like to give it a try.
I’ve always struggled when drawing with a brush because:
My hands are so shaky.
I find myself thinking of calligraphic Chinese brushwork and realise that my technique is always going to fall short of that calm fluency.
Abel & Madden highlight some appealing aspects of brushwork that had never occurred to me, for example that brush dries more quickly than dip pen.
They take you step by step through the process of inking. I like their method of dampening the brush before dipping it in the ink, which works better than going straight for the ink. Dipping the brush several times and “tipping off” on the rim of the ink bottle helps build up a reservoir of ink in the brush without overloading it.
My drawing of the shoe took just two brush-loads of ink.
I used a number 6 Daler Rowney Aquafine Sable Round and Rhorer’s Black Indian Ink. I feel that I can clean the brush more easily when using the Rhorer’s than I can with my other Indian ink, Lefranc & Bourgeois Nan-King.
In a chapter on reproducing inked artwork, Abel & Madden go through the process of scanning. Over the years, I’ve scanned hundreds, if not thousands, of pen and ink drawings but I still picked up tips from their suggested workflow; for instance, to reset the resolution (dots per inch) in Photoshop before adjusting the threshold levels (the balance between black and white).
I now feel ready to progress to their follow-up book, Mastering Comics, Drawing Words and Writing Pictures Continued, which amongst other topics, moves on to colour.
Looking east from the balcony at Filmore & Union, I sketch the terraced houses of Commonside, Crackenedge. A section of the Kirklees Way footpath, a 72-mile circuit taking in the valleys of the Colne, Spen and Holme, which runs along the top of the slope.
The ‘cracken’ in the place name doesn’t refer to the sea monster, the Kraken, of Viking myth, but it probably does derive from a Viking word, meaning ‘crooked’ or ‘broken’; a suitable description for the escarpment of Thornhill Rock, a sandstone. Hanging Heaton Golf Club lies on its plateau, above the 130 metre contour of the outcrop.
With the temperature at 24°C, 75°F, it feels continental out here, overlooking Redbrick Mill’s leafy courtyard garden. When we first visited the Mill about fifteen years ago, Stephen Battye, the entrepreneur behind the project, pointed out a pair of kestrels that were nesting here.
It’s our first time out on the balcony and also the first time that we’ve tried the turmeric and goji berry scones; delicious with a bit of honey and a latte.
I bought a Koi WaterBrush because it’s so compact but it’s now my favourite. With some water brushes I can squeeze and squeeze the barrel and not get a drop out, then I squeeze again and get too much. The Koi gets it about right for me.
“I really liked the Koi brush, too.” writes Julana, “My only issue with it was that it didn’t hold a lot of water. I guess you could carry a few at a time.”
I agree, because I’m surprised how soon I get down to having just a few drops left. Luckily, it’s not a difficult process to refill, once you get used to the fact that you turn the barrel right (anti-clockwise) to unscrew it.
I’ve worn the point off my first brush and the current one (top) is starting to get worn down, so I’ve just bought a third.Sakura recommend that you clean out the brush after every use and suggest that if you’re leaving it unused, you should empty it. This could be why I have trouble with the valves of my less-used water brushes; I always leave them full.
They also stress that you should never lose the black stopper for the barrel, but I’m not sure why this should be so vital, once you’ve assembled the water brush. Perhaps if you were aiming for the ultimate in a compact watercolour set, you could keep the barrel separate but ready-filled with water. You’d fit it into a box that was just three inches long.
When I replaced some of the colours in my Winsor & Newton bijou watercolour box last year, some of the original selection weren’t available so I thought that it would be worth doing another set of swatches to familiarise myself with the new palette.
I’m always impressed by the variety of colours that can be mixed from such a small selection; basically a warm and a cool version of the three primaries with a few useful secondaries, such as sap green and my go-to colour for so much natural history, yellow ochre. I find neutral tint useful too; more versatile than black.
It’s always good practice for me to paint swatches, and to try and hit that midway point between the two colours that I’m mixing. It’s also rather therapeutic to settle down for a while, listening to Radio 3 as I mix colours.