I’m continuing to pour a lot of my creative energy into comics. I’ve had a few things going on in that world.
First up, I’ve taken part in the third volume of Toronto Comics (the book seems to have dropped the “Anthology” part of the name). I wrote a story this year — “Lofty Aspirations” — but didn’t draw it. Instead, it was illustrated by Xan Grey, an amazingly talented artist, who’s been in the last two anthologies.
I’ve been experimenting with Manga Studio recently. There’s some stuff about it that I like (vectors and raster on the same drawing!), but every once in a while, I’m gobsmacked by the dumb. Like this:
If you turn on the canvas rulers, it marks out the measurements in whatever unit your canvas uses — I tend to go with inches. But it doesn’t give you, say, eighth-of-an-inch increments. It’s whole inches. Yargh.
I tried my hand, this weekend, on a particular technique for digital inking using Illustrator. I started with a pencil sketch by Jack Kirby (published in one of the Jack Kirby reader books).
I scanned the image and popped it into Illustrator, then saturated it with blue, to make it easier to differentiate the pencils from the inks. I downloaded a specific Illustrator template from Cartoon SNAP, and tried out their inking brushes. Here’s an image in progress:
My latest quest is to figure out digital inking. I really like working with india ink, and I like the look of a well-inked piece. Part of my problem is that I’ve reached a certain skill level with pen and ink, and I’m resisting having to relearn: I want my skill with digital inking to be immediate!
There seems to be two main schools of digital inking: the brush school and the pen school. Here’s a pen example:
At the beginning of the year, I signed up for a Digital Painting class. As I mentioned, I picked up a Wacom tablet over the holidays and wanted to learn how to use it. The class itself is fairly short — a mere 7 weeks — and the focus has been pretty narrow. Our primary exercise in class has been to create a portrait from photo reference. For my part, there’s been a bunch of stuff that’s new to me. I mean, heck, I’ve never really used Photoshop before January, although I’ve done very basic image manipulation with Gimp.
So. New tablet. New Photoshop. Recall that the very first thing I drew with my tablet looked like this:
I’m continuing to practice different things related to constructing comics. As a simple lettering exercise, I decided to re-letter my final assignment from my cartooning programme.
In this case, I’m retaining the original hand-drawn caption boxes, but I’ve whited-out the original uneven hand-lettering and plopped in some new lettering. I’m using a 12pt font — specifically a font called Digital Strip by Blambot. 12pt is closest in height to the original hand lettering. (To be clear: that’s 12pt on the original art size of 11″ x 17″) I’m also using a bit of Engravers MT on page 4. In almost all cases, the computer lettering is more compact than my hand lettering, so the caption boxes are sometimes a bit empty-seeming.
There are things about Illustrator that I find irritating and more complex than necessary. Like, why do I use different tools to add path points and remove path points? Inkscape feels ever so much better at this to me. But whatever. A tool’s a tool.
Over the last few days, I’ve been trying to get my head around digital lettering. At one level, this doesn’t seem like a hard topic. I mean, I’ve been dropping words on computer screens for a long, long time. But I’m really interested in figuring out what people in the comics industry are doing: what are typical workflows? Best font sizes?
To get some insights into the topic, I picked up a copy of The DC Comics Guide to Coloring and Lettering by Mike Chiarello and Todd Klein. I must confess that I was pretty disappointed. A big part of what the book has to say about lettering is about the debate between hand-lettering versus digital lettering. And I suspect that that conversation is kinda dead. Ah, well. The book is from mid-2004: it’s interesting how quickly dated it’s become.
I’m currently on vacation. Which, y’know, is pretty awesome. I spent a coupl’a days in do-nothing mode, sitting on my couch and watching movies. Which is about all that I’m capable of when work has drained me somewhat.
But now I’m in pet-project mode: I want to focus on something interesting. My pet project has been about going digital on the cartooning stuff. None of the instructors I’ve had have been terribly positive about computer-based art. Anthony (my primary instructor during my cartooning programme at George Brown) didn’t quite poo-poo digital art, but fundamentally believed that one had to learn how to draw using traditional tools before learning digital art. He also felt that most of the computer-produced art that he’d seen was very flat and lacked expressiveness.
Ty hasn’t taught us anything related to computers — he seems to draw and ink using traditional media, but he uses tools that Anthony would have turned his nose up at (markers! Pen brushes! Oh noes!) Ty also seemed to think that it was pointless to learn hand-lettering because nobody hand-letters these days. (I notice that Bechdel’s Are You My Mother? seems computer-lettered, whereas Fun Home looked hand-lettered). And Ty’s Bun Toons often include digital colouring and probably a bunch of other computer tweaks. So he seems more pragmatic about the use of computers than Anthony ever did.