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INKtober Witches October 31, 2017 00:03

Inktober is a wonderful month. You are encouraged to put ink to paper, which is something I never tire of and wish I did more often. There's no substitute for committed lines on paper, both the experience of doing it, and the final, tangible object that is created: an inked drawing, a little piece of art that is both a statement and a signature. A time traveler that you leave behind.

And whilst you are busied by Inktober, bent over your board with pen in hand, the weather is changing outside your cozy warren! Leaves are turning, winter sprites and baby goblins press their noses to your window to see what you might have for them, coffee stores are offering the stuff you really want: spicy drinks topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. Suddenly having a hot drink in the morning seems a better idea than ever!

Well, with all that in mind, I didn't want anyone to think I haven't been inking in October. Er, Inktober. I have. Almost every day. You see, I'm boarding again, on a new movie. And the best, fastest way for me to board is to just jump straight in and put ink to paper. I've emptied many cartridges of ink through a couple favorite pens I use for just this sort of job. Unfortunately, I can't share any of the hundreds of panels I've inked, since, you know. In production and all. 

But, I have also inked a couple of witches for the Halloween season that I can post! I love drawing witches, and always want to find some fresh angle for them. In the case of these two, I drew one cheerleader witch on her way to a rally, and a witch in a steep dive with her familiar. The diving witch is a rough I've fiddled around with off and on for a year, and I have several variants I'll be trying. Just the steep angle is interesting to me.

Cheerleader Witch inks
Diving Witch inks


Even here in California it eventually becomes cold, and sometimes we almost have weather! Wind, mostly. But that counts as weather here. My wife Jess is from Florida, so she's used to rain. And I'm from Colorado; I know snow and real fall. So we both spend gloomy days in the studio together, pretending it's snowier and rainier than it really is. And it's here we listen to the most dreadful podcasts we can find. Tales of misfortune and disaster, not unlike the short stories I wrote as a child. These are my favorite days. I draw; Jess writes and edits. Sometimes I even draw Jess! She's the rare person I ever try to draw a likeness of. Someday she may let me post one!

Jess is encouraging about me doing drawings, and helps me keep my characters' eyes straight. I, in turn, dissuade her from trapping the ravens that populate our premises. Not to eradicate them, but to befriend them. Jess, you see, gathers creatures of all kinds, and doesn't limit herself if the opportunity presents. At Skywalker Ranch, she collected salamanders that were in a winter torpor. She ran out of room in her pockets and hands, so the last couple got a ride back to our room in her shirt. It was as good a carrying place as any. Jess isn't happy lest she have buckets and baskets of slithering, snapping, hissing, or furry things. Her ideal situation would be to spend the winter in a mermaid grotto filled with furry blankets, books, candles, and eventually a 'possum that she will name "Pumpkin" that will munch on mint Oreos and clasp and unclasp his paws when presented with a melty brie.

For this month, since she has yet to disappear into her hibernation cave, Jess also edited together a video of me inking the cheerleader witch, and set it to some swell music.



These videos are tedious because of the way I ink: turning the paper constantly and frequently leaving it off-center. As soon as I hand Jess the raw video she has a mountain of color-correcting and cutting, reframing, and music syncing ahead of her. But once she is done, she has created a little gem of a video that's a lot of fun to watch. So I must credit her, and thank her profusely for making these. I'd never, ever find the time to do one myself.

So happy Inktober, and Happy Halloween to all!

INKtober - Part 2 October 31, 2016 00:18

Let me stop right here for a moment and tell you how blown away I was by this video that my wife Jess edited. By Friday morning, I'd already dumped 1 1/2 hrs of video on her, and then proceeded to add another four pick up shots to complete the inking continuity. As I spent the day coloring the image, she methodically worked to assemble, trim, speed up, and pace this. Long day and story short, by the time we went to the gym she'd finished the video you'll see here! I am absolutely enchanted by this, and have watched it about ten times now. Jess really shaped something marvelous. I hope you like it as much as I do. I think you will.


Okay, so this is the inking part of the inking video set. (To see Part 1, which shows the rough sketch being enlarged, cleaned up, and transferred to Bristol for inking, go here.) As for materials, I like a Winsor & Newton Series 7 #1 brush. For ink, nothing beats Winsor & Newton black Indian ink. The one with the spider on the label, not the dragon. The ink from the spider label bottle is made from the blood of a giant space spider and is collected at great risk and expense and is the blackest black I've ever run across. The ink from the dragon label bottle is made from people who work as coal sculptors blowing their noses and collecting what comes out in bottles and calling it ink.

If you haven't yet done this and are thinking of trying it, let me urge you to use a real sable brush. Years ago while I was working at Disney, I was staying late, trying to ink something. It wasn't going well. I had tried doing this before, and it always, always, always ended in sadness, defeat, and piles of horrid, tortured little inked characters that looked like they'd been put through a special machine designed to make things appear as though an anteater that had been freshly run over had, as his final act, dipped his tongue in ink and tried to draw something.

I was on, like, the seventh one of these tiny disasters when Richard Vander Wende happened by. Richard is an incredible artist who can draw and paint anything. Anything. He was working on Aladdin at the time, helping define their style, and was apparently also working late. As he passed by my desk I did that thing where I leaned over my drawing like I was having a stomach ache so he wouldn't see the shameful state of what I was doing.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"I'm... I'm trying to ink. But it isn't going very well," I said in a low and ashamed tone as I straightened up to reveal my tragic drawings.

He considered this for a moment, then said...

"Do you mind if I give you some advice?"

Now advice from Richard is something to be listened to, and I fatefully said "yes."

And this is one of those moments that was a turning point in my life. He said something so simple and important.

"You're using a really cheap brush. If you want that stuff to work you need to spend some money on a sable brush."

Richard then showed me a proper sable brush and how it holds a point and can be mooshed almost flat and then return to a beautiful point. He showed me that you can re-shape it any number of ways and it will resiliently return to a razor-sharp point in an instant.

This changed everything for me. I went and spent a staggering (for the time) twenty dollars on a brush and instantly... instantly, my inking got better. Not just better, but by then end of an hour I was pretty much doing everything I'd hoped I'd be able to do when I started trying to ink in the first place. So if you want to do this sort of thing, find the right brush for you. But I'd advise finding a sable brush as a starting point.

And all of this is to produce something that simply can't be accomplished digitally. You will have a magical thing called an original. By definition there is nothing else quite like it. Yes, it's a lot of work to take all these steps, but in the end I have an inked piece that is immune to power failures, format changes, EMP, and computer crashes. Go to a comic con and spend the day looking through old inked pages and paintings and tell me you'd prefer those artists had drawn and inked them digitally. Last I looked, an original "Peanuts" comic strip starts at something like ten thousand dollars. But the best part is seeing the lines, the hints of pencil, the expert lettering. Knowing that actual page spent time with the artist and vice-versa.

And before you say it (because someone always says it), my drawing has every property of a digital drawing as well, since I've already scanned it. The best of both worlds!


INKtober - Part 1 October 28, 2016 01:44

For the past couple of years, I've wanted to get in on this whole October inking thing. Not the inking itself, I guess, but the whole sharing of it. With October waning, my wife Jess suggested I finally do something about it before time runs out. The problem was that I needed a drawing to record myself inking. Luckily, I had just been sketching a witch which was inspired by a George Petty drawing I'm fond of, so I had a fresh drawing on hand that was ready and waiting to be prepped for finish.

Now, before I begin, I must say that not only would I have not done this before next year if Jess hadn't suggested I finally get busy and do it, but the vital building of the following video was something she assembled for me. Partially because I didn't have time to and she's extremely gracious, talented, supportive, and enthusiastic that way, and critically, she also doesn't have the newest crappy version of iMovie. Because she is cautious about updating her programs, Jess still has an older iMovie that actually works. So a couple nights ago we had a swell time doing a bit of editing together on it. I love to shoot film and video, and curiously, I love to cut most of it out later. We really had fun doing the final cut.

But first I must say, I love ink. I love looking for it, buying it, and keeping it handy. I love that it comes in tiny amounts, like jewels or spices. I love that you need pens and nibs and brushes to make it work. I love dipping pens and brushes into it. I love drawing with it, painting with it, and writing letters with it. I love that if your power goes out or your computer crashes it has no effect on your inked drawings. I love that it makes you take the time to think about what you are writing, and I love that it makes original drawings that there are only one of in the entire world.

Years ago when Joe Grant was still alive and working at Disney Studios, he happened to walk into my room. He immediately exclaimed, "Oh, you have ink! That's so good to see. No one has ink anymore. Do you use it?" I told him yes, indeed I did. This led to a long, long conversation about ink and all the adventures we'd had with it. He drew every day, I think. And he drew with ink. Boldly. Decisively.

Sometimes I draw and sketch with ink instead of pencil, as a way of keeping from slowing down and being too precious with my rough ideas. Sometimes, as in this video, I use ink to pull a pencil sketch into a singular, final drawing that is ready to be scanned and colored. When I do that, I usually transfer the original sketch as a red-line onto a sheet of plate-finish Bristol. And I usually enlarge it substantially. 

And that is what this first video is about.

The reason for this enlarging transfer is simple: even though I can greatly vary the thickness of an inked line, there's a general line to size relationship I want for the finished drawing. The fatter the final line I want, the smaller the initial redline. The thinner the final ink line, the larger the redline. There's also a certain "draw" to the line that comes at a larger scale. This "draw" is the smooth landscape of a long leg, for example. A leg that is about six to nine inches long will have a nice scale for a brush to trace with a minimal of waver. And this is why I use plate finish Bristol. It allows my hand to slide along without "catching," which will produce a smooth, continuous line. So in this video you'll see the transfer of a smaller sketch to a larger sheet of Bristol, ready for ink.

I'll scan the original sketch, print it out on a couple sheets of plain paper, assemble them into one continuous print, and then use a Scarlet Red Col-Erase pencil to rub a surface onto the back side of that print. This will allow that print to then be carefully traced down onto a fine sheet of Bristol.


Come back next week for the second video, which will feature the actual inking!


The Crood Truth December 05, 2013 19:58

The release of this expose a few hours ago will doubtless make the rounds, and it is now only a matter of time before everyone in Hollywood knows the truth - that there was an uncredited writer who came in at one point to help get the movie back on track. We, um, didn’t exactly give him a credit on the finished movie, and didn’t think there’d be problem since he doesn’t have the internet, doesn’t drive, and doesn’t even wear pants - so, how would he ever find out?

Anyway, it’s all out in the open now. So, oh well.