A Bit About Procedure

Materials for comics (for me): after years of experimentation the only paper I use is Strathmore Bristol 2 ply, smooth finish; 2H pencil (wooden), preferably Japanese Tombows; Windsor-Newton Kolinsky brush, Series 5, size 3 round; Ink, used to be FW but it’s changed and most varieties are too thin to be really fun these days so whatever’s on hand will usually do; points, nothing short of the classic Gillott 1290, the “Cartoonist’s Point.” For touch-ups I use the full array of PITT pens; size B (the brush) for small fill-ins and adjusting thicknesses from the 1290 and the other PITT pens for small faces, figures and some details, also BGs and rigid forms even if they’re soft/rigid like vehicles, furniture, etc. Sometimes the 1290 does that job too but it depends on the piece and the feeling desired.

No coincidence that most of this stuff comes from England.

While I enjoy and have a great time with mechanical pencils and drawing with the point of any pencil, my primary method is with the side of the pencil using the famed kung-fu-artist-grip.

This allows for a greater range of tone and thick-and-thin in the line. It also frees the artist to draw from the elbow, not only the wrist. It takes some adjustment in technique but with some practice and experiment it reveals itself to be excellent. I render even very small figures and details this way. An added benefit is it promotes a gentler attack on the paper resulting in less fatigue in the hand.

I do miss that bump on my middle finger from the old scribe’s pencil grasp. The bump from where my pencil always registered while drawing was usually stained grey from graphite and reminded me at all times what it was I would rather be doing no matter the current engagement.

I worked with a few inkers over the years, some quite good but even in the best arrangements something of the original intent and liveliness of the pencils was lost. Sometimes for the better but mostly a loss of what was promised in the pencils. Most artists will lament that the pencil is superior to the inks in any event even when they themselves do both jobs. For myself, tackling both is the best way to follow the image through to completion.

Over years I worked frustratingly for a method to translate the pencils into at least some faithful version with ink. There was lots of bad drawing and good drawings wrecked by bad inks. Often I inked on sheer vellum, tracing the original pencil drawing because I knew the inkse were going to kill it. Eventually I settled on a few impliments and a hand full of techniques that seemed to most perfectly sustain the subtlty and warmth of the pencils.

While I’m in among a large group of artists in that no ink job will match the aching and transporting beauty of a pencil rendering, I’m quite sattisfied with the combination of tools and techniques for ink that I solved for.

I could go on from these few ideas, they’re spring-loaded like snakes from a trick can but this’ll serve as a starter.

I’ve continued to experiment and enjoy the process. The results are surprising and pleasing once I adjust my expectations from the fantastic Gillot 1290. The Scatter Cat pages are mostly with the PITT pens and the difference is notable. I intend more of this. The ease of using these permenant India Ink pens facilitates speed, too. I averaged about a finished page a day. Unfortunately, most prospects for paying work expect the Gillott 1290 look in the finishes so I’m still primarily working with that.

I’m working on more full color stuff and developing a lettering style, inspired by purists like James Romberger, Erik Larsen, James O’Barr and others. The page looks more fully a comic page with the lettering on it. -t.

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5 Responses to A Bit About Procedure

  1. Joe Simmons says:

    I’ve started hand-lettering my own comics, starting with Skulley, trying to match the looseness of the art. Can’t wait to see what yours looks like!

  2. James says:

    Hope all is well as haven’t heard from you in a while?

  3. John Angelo says:

    Great reading, Tony. Hope you keep the blog updated with more insights and images.

  4. David says:

    Hi Tony,

    I’ve been enjoying your art/storytelling in Vigilante, I can see a very powerful use of iconic image making, dynamic composition, improvisational design and rendering, that emphasizes mood. The ink line you use, is like jazz to me. I’m just discovering your work so forgive me, but have you thoughts of working with different subject matter, less action oriented and perhaps more like a Cassavettes film? I keep wishing Vigilante concentrated less on pulp elements and explored charcter, ‘slice of life’ nuances more, not only because that is a preference but that your sensibility would be better explored. Also, in relation to this post, have you considered scanning and printing your pencils?

  5. David says:

    Not denigrate Vigilante, I think it’s very well done overall. I also realize you have to work with what you’re given. Anyway, I thought it would be good to mention that I showed some comic book artist friends of mine you’re stuff, and they were very impressed and surprised they hadn’t heard of you. I hope you have great projects planned and that your work gets the recognition it deserves.

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