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Friday, August 31, 2012

MATERIALS AND PROCESS II


Last time I wrote a bit about the basic materials I use to make my comics.  This time around I'll write a bit about the basic materials I use to make my comics.

My trusty X-Acto knife, #11 blade.  Same one I've had since the 80's.  With blade guard, natch.  I've also used this knife at times to perform Home Dentistry®.*

Pencil Nub Extender.  Got this weird thing I think at Dick Blick.  Allows you to use your pencils down to the stubs.

Cork-backed eighteen-inch metal ruler.  Again, same one I've had since the 80's.  Marked along its edge with various important lengths that I find the need to check repeatedly.

Last year my eyesight got warped enough that I had to resort to using a magnifying glass at times, especially for cleaning up tight mistakes.  Kind of hard to get used to, but it helps.

Plastic bottlecaps that I use for wetting brushes, or mixing ink.  I keep one for each general color I use.  (I forgot to take pictures, but on the very occasional times I add color to drawings, I oftentimes use Higgins inks.)

There's this new technology out there--  it's called "paste-up."  Rubber Cement still works pretty good, and if you use it you gotta get one of these rubber cement pick-ups for cleaning the excess.

I have rarely ruled lines in my comics.  In fact I can only think of one time ("Well Drawn Funnies #0", see page 89 of King-Cat Classix) and that was as a joke.  I will however pull out my triangle occasionally to confirm that things are indeed slanted and messy.

This big cuddly brush is used exclusively for sweeping eraser residue from my pages before inking.

All good cartoonists should have their very own Ames Lettering Guide, preferably still in the unopened package.

Cleaning solution???  Never opened.  But when I finally break out those new Rapidographs, I PROMISE I'll use it, okay?  Jeez.

Double-sided tape, good for sticking down coverups etc where rubber cement isn't required.

When I'm drawing or inking I'll use a junk sheet of paper like this to lay my hand on to keep from sweating up the page (most usually in the summer, obvs).  Handy also for breaking in a new nib or fantasizing about having a dependable income.

YES.  The long-reach stapler, of which no low-budget cartoonist can be without.  This one was a birthday present from over 20 years ago!

These are the gloves I wear when drawing in the winter.  Last year it got so cold in my apartment that when my bare hands touched the drawing table it felt like they were burning.

And lastly, every working artist should have an adorable mascot on their desk, to cheer them up when the going gets rough and inspire them when creativity ebbs.  This statue has been passed down to me through many generations of Porcellinos, and I proudly display it where I work.


NEXT:  PROCESS


*Not medical advice, ed.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

MATERIALS AND PROCESS


Where the magic happens...

Since everybody does it, and I've picked up some good tips from others in the past, I thought I would write a bit about how I make my comics. Before we begin, here's your grain of salt:  .

MATERIALS


I tore, bent, and otherwise mangled countless pages of comics erasing my lines, so fairly quickly on I began drawing with my trusty non-photo blue pencil.  This way, unless you press super-hard (which I don't), you don't have to erase your lines before reproduction.  I've used many brands, and they all work well, but the one I've settled on is the Bruynzeel 552.  

Beginning in the late 1990's I started using Microns instead of Rapidographs for inking.  Those of you who have closely followed my online bloviating may recall my history with these pens.  They are far from perfect.  They take a bit to break in*, and then I get maybe seven nice pages of inking out of them before the nib starts to degrade, the line thins, and I begin to sweat and pull my hair out.  Consequently I have drawers full of these pens that are loaded with ink, but otherwise unfit for making comics.  (I use them to write letters, or fill in blacks, etc.)

So, what I do, to get maximum mileage, is mark each of the pens I use (I generally use the 02 size) with some identifying note so I can easily recall its state of degeneration.  In the photo above, pen "A" was the first I used on a project.  Now it's unsuitable for linework, and I've switched to "B" for that purpose.  Eventually they all go in the drawer.

A few years ago, I broke down and bought a new set of Rapidographs, telling myself I'm going to leave Microns behind, and go back to the classics.  I told myself that this time I'll clean my Rapidographs, pamper my Rapidographs, never get angry at my Rapidographs.  But then when it comes down to it, I just buy another Micron.

*I was delighted to discover that I break my Microns in using the same technique that one of my heroes, Lynda Barry, uses to warm up her hand:  I repeatedly draw alphabets until the nib smooths out.

In addition to Microns, I also occasionally use other media to "ink" with, especially soft graphite pencils (4B or softer) or Prismacolor black colored pencils.  These give me a line that I like, somewhere between a pen and a brush.  It gives me a little more control than a brush (which I've never been patient enough to learn to use effectively) but also enough looseness and line variation that I can find some happy accidents in there as well.

I've tried fruitlessly to find a disposable tech pen that works better than the Micron.  The PITT (above) has an amazingly inky black line that I love, but also tends to bleed for me.

I rarely need to break open a bottle of ink, since I mainly use tech pens, but when I do these are the ones on my table.  I use the Higgins black for washes, the Black Magic for deeper blacks, and the Pelikan for ?  (If you look closely you can see the dust on its lid!)  I keep bottles of T-100 around because that was the ink that came with my first set of Rapidographs, back in 1986.  The Pro Black is awesome, my new favorite, an opaque black watercolor that I use in non-comics drawings.

Ah, whiting out.  I think it's remarkable that cartoonists spend so much time and effort hiding all their mistakes.  No wonder we all have complexes.  I used the typically messy Wite-Outs etc until, in the late 90's, David Lasky clued me in to Pen Opake (above), an exquisite opaque white watercolor, that, used with a brush, covers anything and is easily inked over.  Unfortunately, and true to form, they stopped making it.  So for the next ten years I searched high and low for a replacement.  The best I've been able to come up with is Windsor and Newton's Process White.  It goes on well, but one thing I've noticed is you have to wait till it's REALLY dry to use a pen over it.  And it's still not as good as Pen Opake (which is so good, that I can't even bring myself to throw away the bottle!)

These are the poor, sad brushes I use to white stuff out.  They're tiny.  Brush fiends are probably vomiting right now over the condition of the bristles.  Well, I like 'em that way.  I find it easier to direct the watercolor when they're bent like that.  And I'm lazy.  I have a bunch of other brushes too, that I forgot to photograph, that I use for filling in blacks or coloring.

The eraser.  I like the Mars Plastic ones, though they're probably not noticeably better than other brands.  Or ARE they???

The eraser shield.  I bought this at Meininger's several years back on a whim, and have come to love it.  You can zero in on a problem area and really go to town on it, without messing up the other pencils around it.  That said, all that rubbing against the metal does a number on the eraser.  Still, very helpful to have around.

Ah, my secret weapon.  My sister bought this package of typewriter correction film for me when I was in High School.  It's my go-to tool for whiting out tiny, hard-to-reach areas.

Ko-Rec-Type is basically a plastic sheet coated with some sort of white film on one side.  You lay the sheet over the area to be corrected, and press, with a pencil, or if you're being really precise, the tip of an X-Acto knife.  Remove the sheet, and the white film adheres to the page, covering up your error.  I don't know if they still make this stuff.  I doubt it.  In 1998 I found a box of similar stuff on clearance and bought a lifetime supply of it.

This stuff is nice because it's so easy to apply, but forget about inking over it, especially with a nib pen.  (Ballpoint would probably work.)  So I use it for whiting out larger areas (often marginal notes) that don't need to be inked over.

Same thing, except easier to ink over.  I'll sometimes use this stuff to redo lettering, but only if the quality isn't super important, as the texture is nowhere near as smooth as bristol.

Ha, Misun had to special order these from an office supply store when we were in San Francisco.  It's a water-based cover-up that doesn't stink (in fact it has a delightful fresh pine scent!).  Surprisingly easy to ink over once completely dry.  I use it to white out lettering, but only when consistent quality isn't necessary, as pens tend to fatten out over it.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

SCENES FROM A MIDWESTERN CORN BOIL

Last Saturday the South Beloit Fire Department held their 4th Annual Corn Boil, so after a hard day at work I moseyed on down to check it out.  It was hot, but for once the heat just felt like August instead of like being inside a blast furnace.

The whole city seemed to come alive for the Corn Boil.  As I walked over, numerous groups of kids shared the sidewalks with me, people on bicycles rolled past, pick-up trucks wound their way through the city streets.

Gateway to a Corn Boil.

Crowds gather for the Softball Tourney.

Inflatable things.

Some of that world-famous South Beloit sand.

The crew from Miss Vikki's Ribs was on the job.

Boiling the proverbial corn.



Vietnam Veterans of America.

Friday, August 3, 2012

TURTLE CREEK OLYMPICS


The results are in!

RUNNING UPSTAIRS (Alone or in pairs):

GOLD:  Spencer Cat










SILVER:  John P.

BRONZE:  Bowser (see: HOT DOG CHASE)











RUNNING DOWNSTAIRS:

 GOLD:  Ninny
 SILVER:  John P.
BRONZE:  Big Boy











HOT DOG CHASE:

 GOLD:  Mr. Bowser










SILVER:  Big Boy

BRONZE:  Ninny











LEAPING:

GOLD:  Ninny










SILVER:  Big Boy (no other medals awarded)










CRABWALK:

GOLD:  Nigel
SILVER:  John P. (no other medals awarded)











DOOR SNEAK:

 GOLD:  Spencer
 SILVER:  Nin
BRONZE:  Bowz











BIRDWATCHING:

 GOLD:  John P.
 SILVER:  Inspector Nigel
BRONZE:  Big Boy











SHOELACE OBSERVATION:

GOLD:  Inspector Nigel (no other medals awarded)











FLOPPING:

GOLD:  Big Boy (see also: RUNNING UPSTAIRS)
 SILVER:  Nigel
BRONZE:  Super Granpa











MEDAL COUNT:  We're all winners!