Huzzah! If you follow A* on Twitter (*hint hint* :D), you may have seen me post a partial pencil preview of this present page...over the weekend, since I had to work ahead. Here's a mid-inking version of it (I think that was an accidental inky palm print on the leg there :p):
It occurred to me that I now have inking tools--including a nice sharp brush and miniscule markers--that are more precise than my penciling tool, which since page 3 of episode 14 has been a 2 mm lead holder; at first it was nice to be able to make big black lines and test out shading and stuff, but lately I've found that I don't do much in the way of pencil shading anymore, since I just have to erase it for ink anyway, AND it's sometimes hard to get interesting details in small-scale pencil work, such as the figures in today's page--instead of being able to do sort of expressive stokes as I'd like, the best I can manage at that detail level with the 2 mm lead holder is just sort of rounded forms, which I then ink over in similar style, and the final effect is, perhaps, a little bland. So I think I'll try going back to my 0.5 mm mechanical pencil, at least for everything but the big brushy stuff.
That pencil being a different size of course takes different leads, and the lead I had been using in it was H, which is harder than the HB leads I've been using in my lead holder; and having thought about it, I realize now that the smearing problems I've been having with my lead holder pencil work lately could perhaps have largely been dealt with by switching from HB to a harder 2 mm lead. I do have some 2 mm 2H leads, but I gave those a try yesterday and they are just too darn scratchy.
So maybe H is the sweet spot for me after all. I scouted out a couple local office supply stores to see if I can restock my H 0.5 mm leads around here, and nope, that is not one they carry: it's almost all HB (which according to Wikipedia (see following link) is roughly equivalent to the #2 pencil I was raised on decades ago in grade school), with a smattering perhaps of 2B and 2H.
In case you're wondering what these silly abbreviations mean, they're the old and rather odd pencil lead grading scale, which goes from the hardest, 9H, to the softest (and blackest), 9B; lower "H" numbers are softer than higher "H" numbers, and lower "B" numbers, while softer than "H" numbers, are harder than higher "B" numbers; Wikipedia has a pretty good linear chart of how that works here; this one that I can actually include in the post is a little harder to read all broken up into two columns, but maybe you'll get the picture-- Oh heck, it's public domain, so I'll rearrange it:
Notice how it gets a little wacky in the middle. :P
Koh-i-Noor, the Czech art supply company whose crazy name I discussed recently, actually makes a super-hard "10H" pencil, according to Wikipedia; I haven't seen one of those, but I was pleasantly surprised to find some super-black 9B pencils at my local art supply superstore; they are Cretacolor "Monolith" pencils, and here's an online listing with a good photo of one; I love how they're just a solid, pencil-shaped shaft of graphite ("made with the purest graphite from Austria, formed into a 7 mm solid stick with a protective lacquer coating")--really rather impressive to hold! I was tempted to get one just to add to my burgeoning art supply museum I guess, but I had to confess I didn't really have a use for it.
Speaking of my drawing tools, I had another of the disposable Copic Multiliner markers I've been using along with the brush for inking dry up on me all of a sudden--and it was the 0.1 mm size, which was rapidly becoming my favorite. Fortunately my backup set had just arrived, so no interruption there, but that made me realize that the disposable ones may be a bit of a gamble; you can't see how much ink is in them, so they could dry up on you at any time--and those drying quickly for whatever reason could start to add up to $$$. So I ordered a condensed set of the "SP" Multiliners, which are their non-disposable versions: aluminum pen bodies with replaceable nibs and ink cartridges; I'd avoided these at first because the price for a nib + ink cartridge exceeds the cost of a single disposable marker, which has both, BUT it seems like the ink is likely to expire way before the nib, and the cost of an ink cartridge is way less than a full disposable marker. So we'll see how those do (although after ordering them I realized the little metal tool to help pop out the nibs and cartridges for replacement is not included with either of those items, and in fact isn't even carried by the place I ordered them from; oh well, supposedly you can use something else, like a coin (?)).
By "condensed set" I meant that instead of getting SP versions of all the disposable ones that came in the sets I've been getting (mm tip sizes 0.03, 0.05, 0.1, 0.3, 0.5, 0.8, 1.0, and "brush" tip sizes S and M), I just got the ones that really seem usefully distinct: 0.03, 0.1, 0.5, 0.7 (that's the biggest the SPs go), and the S "brush" (no "M" brush, which is actually useful on its own, so maybe I'll just keep getting disposable ones of that; I've been using the two "brush" tip markers for things like the ground stippling on these last two pages; they're also very handy for spot touch-ups of big black areas, and especially for touching up over a spot I've already covered in white ink, since they disturb the white ink (which is not waterproof, ugh) much less than the regular marker tips or even a regular paint brush.
I'm done with jury duty! Whew. At the very end of two days of waiting I was called in to sit on a jury panel for a trial, but it was due to go at least a week and a half, and I cried and said I lose income if I can't work daily, which is perfectly true (thank you for your daily visits to the comic :D <3), and the judge took pity on me and let me scuttle away. So we do indeed continue on uninterrupted with a new page tomorrow (once I get it drawn, of course), huzzah!
And because it has been made clear to me that some of you young'uns aren't aware of this, consider this a public service warning of a certain dreaded interstellar plague: beware! (Warning: crude '80's humor and effects. :P)
I used the ol' 0.5 mm mechanical pencil instead of the 2 mm lead holder for laying out today's page, and it was definitely helpful in terms of speed and precision of execution, so that's a plus.
And I think I learned something else, which is that if I'm going to cross my hatches--that is, if I'm going to create areas of thicker black and white "shading" by drawing a set of thin parallel lines on top of and perpendicular to a previous set of similar lines--I should probably turn the paper sideways first, so that I can draw the lines simply by moving my wrist and forearm in their natural arc across the paper; instead of doing that, I've been moving my wrist/forearm perpendicular to their own natural arc in order to draw the crossing lines, and that seems to tire out some rather unimaginative and whiny muscles in my forearm surprisingly quickly.
... I bet Crumb doesn't have this problem. :P
Some space tidbits I accidentally read today!
- Biggest Solar Storm in Five Years to Hit Earth Thursday Fortunately, these things generally don't produce effects you and I would notice; they've been getting reported a lot lately (this latest one had an event with two nearly simultaneous "X" flares--the largest category--among other things) since there are now some spiffy observatories trained on the Sun and picking up the activity there in great detail, and they get into the mainstream news (ie, the news I accidentally see) quite frequently, but they don't really *do* a whole lot, usually, which...is good.
In other uneventful space events, there was some article somewhere that I didn't even bother to bookmark today about some eggheads determining that yet another medium-sized near-Earth asteroid is not going to hit us, even though it will come closer than some satellites (within 22,000 miles or kilometers or something? I forget exactly). Which is also good. Still, this type of stuff is happening so often that I'm just going to have to start ignoring it, like I've already done for "discoveries" of new exoplanets, which have become a dime a dozen lately. (Heck, ten years ago everyone would've ignored this solar flare thing anyway, since "a decade ago, this type of solar storm happened a couple of times a year.")
- How the Moon Sank the Titanic Now this one was actually rather novel. Basically, some sciency types noticed that several months before the Titanic's fateful rendezvous with the iceberg that sank it (Jan 3rd and 4th, 1912; the ship struck the iceberg and sank on April 15th), an unusual gravitational conjunction occurred in outer space: not only was the Earth at its annual closest point to the Sun, but the Moon was the closest it had been to Earth in 1,400 years (which is doubly interesting given that the Moon is very slowly getting farther and farther away from the Earth, in the bigger picture anyway); as a result, tides on Earth were the highest they had been "in many hundreds of years"--just in time, the theory goes, to shake free an unusually high number of icebergs to plague the shipping lane the Titanic would enter.
You know, I've been getting myself into lighting situations lately where it's seemed like a good idea to use a lot of gray rather than black or white. ... I don't think that's a good idea. :P But I keep doing it! Hum. Well I went with three coats of black ink on this one; kind of overkill (and it came out oddly glossy in real life :o) but it sure as heck won't be mistaken for gray!
Well I went to an art gallery and a university book store all in the name of webcomic exploration today, and now...I don't have time to tell you about it. :P
Maybe tomorrow? I dunno, Fridays are always kind of rough, time-wise. Hm well anyway for now you can go check out this Virginia Frances Sterrett gallery that I was shown recently; the unearthly grace and long linework of her figures, and the overall two-dimensionality, reminds me a lot of the work of Aubrey Beardsley--and they both died young of tuberculosis! :/--only more colorful and not so R-rated; and Virginia, born in 1900, was a generation after Beardsley.
But Beardsley was an interesting looking fellow--seen here about 1895, when he would have been 23:
Still working out the general process I want to follow. Sort of annoyed with myself on this one because I didn't think to switch from the brush to a tiny marker for Selenis' face, which would have captured the exact facial expression in the pencils a bit better. Probably. :P
Probably in the next 24 hours or so I'm going to be replacing the hand-drawn comics from previous episodes (episode 13 page 136 through the end of episode 15) with versions reprocessed using my latest settings, so the text will be a bit sharper, and the large subscription preview versions won't be oversharpened as they are now. And then (next weekend?) I'll finally be able to get started on the actual subscription mode itself, woo.
Oh yeah but so anyway if you're reading through this weekend and suddenly some pages are missing, just wait a few minutes and they'll be back--it's just me replacing them with the updated versions.
I will do a custom sketch of Selenis for you that you can hold in your hand and keep for your very own! Yes, these Sketches are a new thing in the A* store (always available from the menu at the top of the page) where I will draw you an actual original piece of A* art starring our cloned galactic assassin in dark black ink on some very nice paper for a cool 30 beans (aka US dollars) and ship it to wherever you're at. I whipped up a couple examples of what these could look like:
But each one will be different, and you won't know just what your Selenis has come out looking like until she arrives at your doorstep. Exciting, eh? And it will be your very own unique A* artwork--nobody else will have one like yours!--that you can keep forever and ever. So if that sounds nifty, maybe think about ordering one from me. :) More details and the very easy ordering form can be found on, yes, that new Sketches page!
A*'s been nominated for this webcomic tournament on comicmix.com where, uh...well I have no idea what happens. Apparently it involves voting or something, and it seems to be quite popular, so I guess it's nice to have been included. :D Thanks to whoever nominated me!
I came up with another method for making particularly neat rounded stars. Basically I stick the wrong end of my paintbrush into the white ink, and then stamp that onto the page. Maybe they're a little too round, I dunno, but it's kind of fun to be painting backwards. :D Also it's easier to do than with the brushy end now that my little jar of white ink is kind of eh congealing. :P
Also over the weekend I did finish up reprocessing all the hand-drawn pages, so the text is sharper and the big "subscription preview" versions are no longer oversharpened, phew.
I found this series of YouTube videos showing Japanese comic artist Miwa Shirow at work rather interesting; in this one, for instance, he's inking with the same disposable Copic Multiliner markers I've been using of late:
And he follows a very elaborate method, which you can see if you watch the rest of them: rough pencil sketch, blown-up photocopy, final pencils light-tabled over those, dip pen inks over the lines, and markers to fill in black areas. I like seeing all this and how slowly he goes, since the final result looks so effortless that the tendency is to think the artist somehow just zaps those graceful lines out like lightning.
Also I found it interesting to see that he sits somewhat sideways, with the paper held slightly diagonally; I've been sitting straight at my drawing table, but I've been starting to have some muscle fatigue in my drawing elbow, which I think comes from not having it firmly planted on the table for support (because otherwise you're unconsciously using the elbow muscles to hold the whole arm rigid to support your upper body weight); sitting slightly sideways with the drawing arm forward so the elbow can rest on the table top like Shirow does would probably solve that (plus raising the table, which was slightly too low).
And I was surprised he was using the disposable Multiliners rather than the cartridge-refillable "SP" versions, since some web site told me refillable pens are seen as the way to go over there. I'm currently transitioning to them myself, in fact, since I've had a few of the disposables die on me, and if that keeps happening, the SPs will be the cost-effective way to go in the long run.
I actually found that video by accident; I was looking for information on Koh-i-Noor Rapidograph Ultradraw Waterproof Ink--this stuff is (made in U.S.A.? :o) meant to fill up the reservoirs of the Rapidograph pens Koh-i-Noor sells in the States, but I've heard good things about its use for ink wash, so I figured I'd get a bottle and give it a shot, as I really haven't experimented with too many inks; the Yasutomo Waterproof Black Sumi Ink I've been using is nice, but one likes to imagine there could be something better--something darker yet more fluid, for instance. In fact, I've recently acquired at least two pens from local stores that have darker, more fluid (and waterproof) ink than the Yasutomo Sumi stuff (which is about as black as Higgins Black Magic, if you need a more common reference point), so one would *think* it wouldn't be tough to find something similar in bottles. Of course, if I was going to go nuts, I could get into imported Japanese inks, or exotic fountain pen inks...but something not incredibly expensive would be nice. ;)
I might not have ordered the Ultradraw if I'd seen this brush inks for Comic Artists ink review first, but oh well, I can't cancel the order, and it'll satisfy some curiosity I've had about it anyway.
While I'm on the topic of ridiculous inking fetishes, I managed to waste quite a bit of time so far this week lusting after the Kuretake No. 50 Sable Hair Brush Pen, for no particularly good reason. :P And wondering if I would/should/could replace the non-waterproof ink it comes with with something like Platinum Carbon Ink, or maybe just use a syringe to fill up empty cartridges with something like Noodler's "Heart of Darkness"...or maybe Ultradraw! (And could I refill Multiliner SP cartridges with Ultradraw? :oo) Oh the possibilities I can't really afford. ;) I suppose that's a good deal of the attraction of wondering about it. :PP I should stop wasting time looking at this stuff on the internet (it is darn hard to track down info on whether some of these are acid-free, for instance--although apparently pretty much all "pigment ink"--which these mostly are--is kind of acid-free by default (?) anyway) and just get better inking with what I've got, but man, that internet.
and I was just gonna add a bit of gray wash for depth here and there, and I went to try using it to shade the cheek, and...could not seem to manage it. After going back and forth several times I just had to obliterate it, and even that I couldn't quite settle on; I scanned three (UPDATE: okay, four :|||) consecutive supposed "final" versions >_<; here is a photo of eh I think this was the first of 'em:
This page *is* the first time I've done major solid black shading on Selenis' face since going traditional, as far as I recall, which I think is long overdue, but dang, I gotta learn not to rely on big gray fills, especially when I have some perfectly good black and white around it; 'cause hours and hours later this final version isn't all that much better than the pre-wash one. Should'a stuck with it! (Well, aside from fixing the high hairline a bit.) GAR.
Speaking of overworking inks, it seems to me that Marvel (and other) comic artist Bill Sienkiewicz does just that in the second half of this video:
He's good up through adding that amazing shock of hair, but I dunno, everything after that just seems like busy work that doesn't really help the portrait. Still it's an awful nice one and I wish I could do something that keen (what nice facial features! the wide narrow eyes, the long pert nose, the rumpled lips) and just off the cuff without pencils, at that! ... I could probably come closer if I didn't keep making myself try silly perspectives, like oh I could draw Selenis talking head-on, but no, that isn't dramatic and specific enough, let's have the view under her chin instead. >:| Say if you want to put a comic artist to the test next time you're having one do a sketch for you at a convention, ask them to draw the character's head angled up a bit--I bet they give you a dirty look! It's so much harder...at least for me. I bet Bill could do it in a snap. Still it was really plain ol' inability to do something interesting with big gray areas but still trying to use them that got me into trouble on this one.
I ordered yet another type of ink to experiment with! It is fairly cheap stuff and rather sketchy: PRO ART India Ink; waterproof, or so it says, but I like how one of the bullet points, instead of "acid free"--which is probably redundant but would have been reassuring--is "Conforms to ASTM D-4236"; ASTM D-4236 is just the regulation that says you have to announce toxic stuff on your label, so basically they're saying "our label is legal!" I wonder if a big list of toxic stuff is hiding away on the back of the bottle. >_> Anyway according to this ink review by Veronica Fish, PRO ART India Ink is very very black, and very waterproof, but so thick it KILLS BRUSHES. :o So I will be testing this stuff with one of my non-favorite brushes once it arrives. :P
Oh yeah, also in that video, in the first half you can see John Buscema inking with a Raphael brush (the orange end is the giveaway--at least, I think) , which *is* my current fave. :)
NASA just posted two new videos about the Moon, featuring sharp CGI tours of our satellite in space and time, based on high definition Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter imagery. One is about the (theoretical) history of the Moon, and the other show some of the Moon's major surface features; it may sound a little dry but they're pretty well done (and there's a fair deal of water ice in Moon dust, so nyah :P):
And the Titanic never dies! Or so hope, apparently, the people behind the new Titanic-themed attraction in Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the ship had its birth in the city's industrial boom years--that would be around 1909, I guess, when the ship's hull was laid down; the slipways built for the construction of the Titanic and her slightly older and smaller sister ship, the Olympic, were, at the time, the largest ever built. Here's the Titanic in her slipway in 1911, ready for launch:
photo by "Robert John Welch (1859-1936), official photographer for Harland & Wolff," [shipbuilders] (source)
Anyway back to the present, the new exhibit in Belfast about the ol' ship tells its story in "nine interactive galleries" that seek to recreate the sites and sounds of significant scenes in the ship's history. They also have an "exploration centre" showing footage of the wreckage on the sea floor, tracking "ongoing research on the wreck's gradual degradation."
Nothing beats video footage of gradual degradation for thrills! Check it out if you're in Ireland maybe!
Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:03 am
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm Posts: 2856
Busy page! I'll have a blog post but not until this evening.