Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Inking with brushes ... or "what the...!?!?!?"
I have been drawing with India ink for a number of years. I started inking with ball point pens, but quickly transferred to dip pens (crow quills). When I started showing my drawings around the local comic shop, I started hearing about how all the comic book artists use brushes to ink their pages. AHA! That made sense because in order for me to get the same thick-thin lines that I kept seeing in comic books I had to go over all of my lines a few times with a pen.
What followed was an odyssey of trying different brushes to figure out how to use one. All of this was before the internet, so all of my experiments were based on what I heard at comic book conventions or read in Amazing Heroes (remember that magazine?). I will just say that after a few tries I got frustrated because I just was not able to duplicate the types of smooth lines that I saw in my mind's eye.
Then I met James Keefer and he invited me to hang out and watch him draw and ink. He took the time to show me how he used his brushes and I got to actually see him apply ink on paper. It was an eye opener! Back than, most of the time he inked thin-to-thick and thus was able to exercise a lot of control over the line and that was exactly what I wanted to do.
I bought another brush (Windsor Newton #4) and tried it again. It was better. I remember getting Mike Zeck Punisher portfolio and over laying tracing paper over the plates and trying to duplicate the lines. I could pretty much trace most of it, but I was still having issues when it came to curving lines, but I figured that was just a question of practice.
Norman Felchle and I spent a lot of time practicing and talking about we discovered during our exercises. Norman quickly surpassed me and could ink circles around me, but I did not give up....like I said, I thought it was all a matter of practice. But, I also had a problem with the W&N brushes. If I remember correctly, the brush was $20-24 and I had to buy 2 of them before I got one that held a nice sharp point and had a good "spring" to it for inking (the brushes were fine for water color, but inking required a certain quality control). It seemed very expensive.
So I started looking for an alternative. It was almost impossible to find a water color rounded brush of the same size as W&N #4 that held a nice point to make fine lines (and cost less than $20), so I kept buying smaller and smaller brushes until I arrived at a $6 brush, size 00. It did not need to hold a point...it was just a few bristles and if I needed a thicker line, I would twist the brush in my hand as I was drawing to draw with the side of it to go thicker. Did not matter who made them the price and quality was about the same. For me it was a sort of universal approach. It did not matter where I was, I could buy something like that at any art supply or craft craft store. The only problem, it does not hold a lot of ink, so I am constantly dipping it. But I figure that is why they call art a "struggle".
Over the years my inking methods have evolved in include a variety of tools (dip pens, mechanical pens, markers, sponges, cloth...computers), but the brushes always staid the same, 00 and $6 (actually the price went down to $4). Until yesterday....
Charles Yoakum started blogging again recently (after taking a break from writing for a while) and he mentioned a new brush he has been reading about. Now, one thing to keep in mind, Charles is a great artist and a fantastic inker, I like to listen to him talk about the art of inking. So I followed the links and bought Escoda #4 brush for $13.40.
Yesterday I tried it and it was like an electric shock. Wow, is that what it supposed to be like? Above is a page from the Dark Crystal book that I inked with the new brush. It was quick, smooth, and easy. The page is drawn on 8.5 by 11, so it's a 1-to-1 without any reduction from original to reproduction...I can only imagine how cool it would be to work a size bigger!
I recommend the brush to anyone who is interested in inking with brushes. Thanks Charles!
I also wanted to mention that I was lucky enough to watch Mick Gray work on a number of books over the years, and I am simply amazed at what Mick can do. Thick-to-thin, thin-to-thick, slow line, flicking, feathering, spacing of lines, line thicknesses...it is inspiring and I keep telling myself: "I just need to practice more."