Man! Today was a pretty awesome day thanks to A* readers. :D First, I was surprised to find a package on my porch as I went out today, 'cause I couldn't recall having ordered anything recently. And I hadn't, but it was the last item from the A* Amazon Wish List: Gary Martin'sThe Art of Comic Book Inking. Man! That's three out of three wish list things A* readers bought for me. :D Thanks to this latest lovely wish-fulfiller, and those of wishes past. :DD (More about the book below.)
And then an A* reader who just happens to live right down the street from me (what are the odds??) had me over for ice cream. Yep! All the other webcomic authors are jealous now, I bet. (So if you live near a webcomic author, do invite them over for iced cream--they will probably be pretty happy about it.)
It's a lame kind of thank you to all my lovely readers but um well I've had this sketch laying around for a while now 'cause I was too lazy to get it electronicized, but now I have done it! Behold:
That was from way back when I got some Copic Multiliner markers and kind of went nuts with the tiny lines and cross hatchings in this sketch. I filled in the larger black areas with a brush. I think I decided after this trial that I wouldn't do *quite* that much crosshatching again; you can get kind of an olde stylee engraving effect with a ton of crosshatching, but it also sort of freezes the subject in place as the linear energy is all crossed over itself.
Oh yeah I wanted to talk more about ice cream! No wait about The Art of Comic Book Inking! Based on an initial skim-through, it's an even niftier book than I'd suspected. The first part goes in-depth about the nuts and bolts of inking, and then it goes into loads of examples of actual penciled comic pages, each inked by a bunch of different artists--and each of them then discuss in quite a bit of detail what their idea for the inking of that page was, exactly what tools they used on it, and how they did the whole thing. Each different inking gets a full page picture and full page explanation, and it's easy and quite interesting to flip between and compare the results. And then, the last part of the book is taken up by folded-over full-size comic Bristol boards with the same pencil examples printed on them in "non-photo" blue, so you can have a go at inking them your own self, if you want! I dunno if I'll do that, since I'd rather spend that time on my own stuff, but it's neat to see what a standard penciled comic page kinda looks like. One of the pages is even a Jack Kirby drawing! It doesn't have that fine subtle shading that I talked about seeing in a video of other work of his yesterday, though, so I dunno if that shading I thought I saw was real or not. I'll have to see if I can find some good photos or scans of his work online that have it--maybe I was just imaging it. :P
illustration by NASA, ESA and A. Schaller (for STScI) (source)
The caption reads:
This artist's concept shows a view across a mysterious disk of young, blue stars encircling a supermassive black hole at the core of the neighboring Andromeda Galaxy (M31). The region around the black hole is barely visible at the center of the disk. The background stars are the typical older, redder population of stars that inhabit the cores of most galaxies. Spectroscopic observations by the Hubble Space Telescope reveal that the blue light consists of more than 400 stars that formed in a burst of activity about 200 million years ago. The stars are tightly packed in a disk that is only a light-year across. Under the black hole's gravitational grip, the stars are traveling very fast: 2.2 million miles an hour (3.6 million kilometers an hour, or 1,000 kilometers a second).
Also in 2005, the supermassive black hole at the center of Andromeda was estimated to be between 110 and 230 *million* solar masses--quite a bit bigger than A*'s ~ 4 million! So it can definitely sling stars around faster than our own galactic core can.
In 1993, Hubble had imaged Andromeda's core, revealing what appeared to be a two-lobe structure:
It's the darker of the two lobes that is actually the true center containing the supermassive black hole; the bright lobe is thought to be "a disk of stars in an eccentric orbit around the central black hole." Keep in mind though that the red filter used for that photo would not have captured the bright blue stars at the galactic center, which would explain why the core looks comparatively dim.
In 2000 (I think?) the Chandra X-ray telescope had taken a crack at Andromeda's core:
The intensity of the X-ray source in the center revealed what almost had to be a million-solar-mass-class supermassive black hole in there, while various other X-ray sources around it were attributed to X-ray binaries: stars being sucked into nearby compact objects such as white dwarfs, neutron stars, or black holes; "infalling matter releases gravitational potential energy, up to several tenths of its rest mass, as X-rays."
("Andromeda" was also the name of a mysterious central character in the 1961 BBC miniseries, "A for Andromeda": radio signals from "a distant galaxy" gave instructions for constructing an advanced computer, which in turn created a humanoid organism, played by Julie Christie. Sounds interesting! But! "As was common practice at the time, the BBC's copies of the serial were junked after broadcast and the bulk of the serial remains missing to this day." Jeez!) ~~~~~~
An interview with me about working on A* just went up on the Evan Yeti Community Blog, in which, among other things, I reveal my plans (in hindsight, maybe I shouldn't have revealed them just yet... >_>) for galactic domination via webcomics.
Evan Yeti is also the name of (warning: sound) a webcomic made by the interviewer, concerning the adventures of a yeti (aka "abominable" snowman) named Evan.
An engineer friend sent me a link to (PDF format) Lockhart's Lament, an article admirably advocating teaching math as an art, rather than just a bunch of formulas to memorize and use on meaningless numbers. It was written (my source is this) by mathematician and teacher Paul Lockhart in 2002, and I have to say that if I had been taught math the way he's proposing...I'd probably remember a lot more beyond basic algebra than I do now. :P
I've been reading the beginning of Gary Martin's The Art of Comic Book Inking that a miraculously wonderful reader got for me off my now-empty A* Amazon Wish List, and it's starting to become clear to me, even hilariously so, that what I'm doing on A* these days is almost the exact opposite of traditional comic book inking. For instance, one particular pet peeve of Martin's is inkers who get exterior line weights wrong--using thick lines to delineate the side of the figure illuminated by the light source, and thinner lines on the shaded side. And--today's A* page being a prime example--I seem to do that almost all the time, to a ridiculous degree. I have no idea why! I kind of like it that way, though. :P Maybe because it sort of creates a tension with the heavy black shadows on the interior of the figure? Or probably just because I have no idea what I'm doing! :D
And there's a passage where he says of working with a brush that you shouldn't, for instance, use it to draw a nostril in a single stroke; rather, you should outline the nostril, then fill it in, as this will help you preserve the shape established by the pencils. And I had to sort of chuckle to myself at that, since I'm going straight to ink and skipping pencils, and a single stroke is like the only way I ever draw nostrils.
Not that I am saying I'm doing things the right way; in fact, it's kind of nice to know I'm doing them exactly the wrong way. It's easier to break the rules once you know them, so I'm finding this book quite interesting! Seriously though, I guess the way I'm working now--straight off with ink on the blank page--has a lot more in common with painting than with traditional comic inking. I did a good deal of painting (way) back in college, so I suppose that's probably why this method feels much more comfortable to me. Except that sometimes I find myself reverting to an inking/illustrating-style arm position--resting half the palm on the table or drawing board--which I really shouldn't do because somehow I mess it up and lean on it or something and it makes my forearm and wrist sore. What I *mean* to do is to have the whole arm off the paper, like a painter does when working on a canvas. Sometimes I get this right but it seems like I have a tendency to relapse into resting it on the drawing surface when I'm doing a whole lot of (relatively) detailed little lines. Hm HM Hm. Well some day maybe I will figure this all out.
A tweet tipped me off to this article about funny coil patterns found by an Arizona State graduate student looking through high resolution photos sent back by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter via its HiRISE camera ("High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment"), "built under the direction of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp." Student Andrew Ryan has counted "about 269 of these lava coils just in one region on Mars, Cerberus Palus":
So yeah they're thought to be patterns of dried lava; such coil patterns occur here on Earth, on the surface of lava floes on the island of Hawai'i. Says Ryan: "The coils form on flows where there’s a shear stress – where flows move past each other at different speeds or in different directions." The Martian lava coils are bigger than terrestrial ones; the largest found on Mars so far has been about 30 meters / 100 feet across (neither the article nor Wikipedia will tell me how big Hawai'ian ones get, though :P). That photo above covers an area about 500 meters across ("1640 feet").
HiRISE, incidentally, is a pretty powerful camera: weighing 64.2 kg, it consists of "a 0.5 m (19.7 in) aperture reflecting telescope, the largest so far of any deep space mission, which allows it to take pictures of Mars with resolutions of 0.3 m/pixel (about 1 foot), resolving objects below a meter across." And it turned around and took this pretty keen photo of Earth and its Moon from the orbit of Mars in 2007 (it had achieved Martian orbit in March 2006):
image by NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona (source)
A* T-shirts are more affordable than ever! Well okay I've only got the nice minimalistic A* logo T-shirt in the A* store, but it is now a spiffy $16, down from $18. $14.40 of that $16 goes to the print-on-demand T-shirt manufacturer, so eh I guess you don't have to worry about me retiring on T-shirt profits any time soon ;). Anyway I was looking at it because I'm thinking of adding some more T-shirt designs, and I'll want to order them first to make sure they come out right, and I didn't want to have to pay $18 per shirt, even if some of it would work its way back to me eventually (in theory) :P. So yeah, (relatively) cheap T-shirts! Take that, internet! I'll let you know when the new designs are up, of course--probably be a week or two before I can get the prototypes shipped to me so I can check 'em over.
A chunk has been knocked out of the silly yet persistent notion that the Moon was created by debris from a primordial collision between the Earth and a made-up Mars-sized planet; the story goes that the core of that planet sank into the Earth's, but the light stuff was blown off and gathered in orbit to form the Moon.
Sound kind of dumb? I think it does, and I don't know why real scientists would spend their time trying to disprove such a ludicrous idea, but some of them have, comparing the isotopic ratios of titanium found in Moon and Earth material; these ratios tend to vary quite a bit among asteroids and other bodies that formed in different areas of the solar system, so the thinking is that if the shell of another planet blew off after hitting Earth and formed the Moon, then the Moon should have a different isotopic signature than the Earth. (It occurs to me that if parts of that made-up planet went into both Moon and Earth, then maybe they would even out, but what do I know--anyway I don't believe any such thing could have happened. :P)
Their finding? The isotopic signatures of the Moon and Earth are pretty much identical. So this rules out some of the relatively more straightforward Earth + mystery planet = Moon ideas. Still, according to that linked article, proponents of the idea have already switched tactics and proposed other outlandish explanations to support their mystery planet.
Why are some people so dedicated to believing in another planet knocking the Moon out of Earth on extremely scanty "evidence"? You got me. Obviously, a vast conspiracy is afoot! =P
Last update I talked about one of the leading silly theories in astronomy having taken a knock based on new studies--that idea being the one saying that the Moon resulted from a "Mars-sized" mystery planet hitting the newly formed Earth, its core sinking into and merging with Earth's, and the other lighter crust stuff blowing off and eventually congealing into the Moon--a big reason for the existence of this theory being measurements indicating that the Moon has an unusually low-metal core. I'm a big believer that the simplest explanation is usually the best, and while I don't have my own particular theory about the Moon's formation, I do know that hitting the Earth with a whole other planet is not a simple explanation. Well then, imagine my further delight when an even bigger silly theory in astrophysics, again based on trying to make measurements add up by inventing something completely out of the blue, took another big knock: that theory being the whole "Dark Matter" business.
Dark Matter, as far as I understand it, came out of calculations showing that the stuff we can see in the universe around us doesn't add up to nearly enough stuff to fit our current best model of the universe, the big bang and all that--the conclusion being that there must be a whole lot of stuff out there we can't see. That sounds plausible enough; the problem came, maybe, when people really latched onto this sexily named "Dark Matter" and started making up whole cosmologies about it being this mystical new energy substance permeating the universe and explaining everything; it's hard to go a month without seeing some new pop sci article about some new dark matter simulation showing how such and such galaxies might do blah-de-blah. That's great and all but it's all founded on missing pieces and inference--yet a lot of people have been getting carried away about it and, perhaps worse, convincing a lot of other people, even scientists, that "Dark Matter" was pretty much a done deal--never mind that we've never even caught a glimpse of the stuff, and no, gravitational lensing around blobs we can't see scattered far off in intergalactic space doesn't really count as far as I'm concerned. :P
That's a basically a roughly disc-shaped group of globular clusters, star streams, and "tidal" dwarf galaxies that appears to be orbiting the Milky Way, but nearly perpendicular to the galactic plane, and extending as much as twenty times farther out than the Milky Way's starry arms.
Boy! That's certainly something. What's it doing there? Well, their best guess is that it's debris from a collision, or near collision, between the Milky Way and another large galaxy about 10 billion years ago. MAN. The paper says:
We suggest that the MW has experienced a near-polar collision with an approximately perpendicularly oriented disc galaxy. Figure 6 illustrates this geometry with images of observed interacting galaxies and two model snapshots. They show that polar interactions of perpendicularly oriented disc galaxies happen even at the current epoch and result in tidal debris distributed in a polar structure.
The initial interaction could have been a fly-by of two galaxies or it might have ended in a galaxy-merger, destroying the infalling galaxy in the process. In a major merger, the two colliding galaxies will form a spheroidal object. As this event must have happened about 10 Gyr ago, the MW disc might have re-formed from gas accreted later (Hammer et al. 2005), with the spheroidal component being the bulge of the MW today. Ballero et al. (2007) estimate that the MW bulge must have formed rapidly on a time scale of 0.1 Gyr, in favour of a merger-induced origin. However, also in a fly-by encounter material stripped from the passing galaxy would be accreted onto the MW, possibly producing a bulge component. A bar instability would in any case channel gas onto radial orbits.
If the TDGs were not formed in a merger but in a flyby encounter, the passing galaxy still has to be nearby. Two candidates can be found in the Local Group: Andromeda and the LMC.
They go on to cite previous studies into the possibility of our satellite galaxies being the result of close encounters with the Large Magellanic Cloud, one of the classic 12 satellite galaxies of the Milky Way, and about 1% of its mass, as well as the Andromeda Galaxy, which is much further away (2.6 million light years), predicted to encounter (or re-encounter?) the Milky Way in about 4.5 billion years, and the member of the Local Group of galaxies with the most stars--1 trillion, about twice as much as the Milky Way--but strangely, recent studies have shown it to be perhaps only roughly equal to the Milky Way in mass.
That must mean the Milky Way has more Dark Matter! Well, no, says this study--that matter can be found in all these newly discovered dwarf galaxies in the disc above and below the Milky Way, and, furthermore, that disc contradicts the prediction of the best Dark Matter "models," which call for the stuff to be distributed around the outskirts of the Milky Way in a nice spherical, mystical "halo."
So, sorry, Dark Matter! This actual debris disc is much more interesting, AND much more convincing--well, I can't speak for scientists, but it certainly is for the layman such as I. I'm sure Dark Matter proponents will regroup and come up with some way around this problem, just as the Loonies have done with the study showing the Moon is made of the same stuff as Earth, and probably not a mystery planet's crust, but hopefully it will get at least *some* research directed back toward actual stuff.
(I suppose you could ask why I like that Milky-Way-hit-by-other-galaxy theory but detest the Earth-hit-by-other-planet theory, when they're roughly similar methods of explaining things, in a way. I guess a) the galaxy theory actually points to existing candidates for the hitter, whereas the planet theory has nothing to point to, except to say that the planet was neatly swallowed up into the Earth and the Moon, b) there really isn't another way to explain that huge disc of dwarf galaxies, plus it fits with what we can see in other galactic collisions, whereas with the Moon, there *are* other, less complicated explanations, even if they aren't completely worked out yet either, and c) the galaxy thing would solve more questions than it raises--it would help explain Andromeda's own distribution of satellite galaxies, for instance, and its relative lack of mass--whereas the planet one...well, wouldn't such an impact just have destroyed the Earth--blown it apart, I mean? Or at least affected its mass/velocity enough to knock it into a different orbit and, in general, just throw the planet way, way out of whack? And where would other planet have come from, anyhow, and why would it have crossed paths with the Earth? Etc! Well okay I should stop arguing so much about things I really don't know anything about, yeah. I'm just an artist, damn it! :P)
I came across a pretty good article on inking by MAD Magazine, etc artist Tom Richmond, in which he gives a detailed study of his work inking a large illustration.
He also shows how he uses his drawing board--propped up between his lap and the edge of his drawing table--and this has made me think I should go by the art supply store tomorrow and pick up an actual proper drawing board, because the one I have now isn't very long, which means that when I prop it on my legs to draw, it's leaning off a point about mid-thigh, instead of back near my body, at the top of the thigh--and I think this is becoming a problem, because it means my drawing arm isn't braced along a flat surface from elbow to brush, so my wrist is being bent downward; anyway, once in a while, like after today's intense feathering of all those little shadow lines, my wrist will be hurting, and that isn't cool. So we'll try a real art board!
I've also been thinking that maybe a wider grip on my brush would help--wider grips are supposed to take less energy to hold, anyway--but I can't find anything like add-on wide gripper things for brushes as exist for, say, pencils. So I think I'll get some kneaded erasers (they're sort of thick, grey, silly-puttyish stuff you can mold) to put around the narrow grip area of my brush--if a real drawing board doesn't completely solve the wrist thing, anyway. I'm also wondering if maybe I could fit the brush itself--possibly with the non-bristle end sawed off short--into a 5.6 mm lead holder. My size 4 Raphael 8408 brush is about 5 mm at its widest handle point, although it narrows to closer to 2mm down near the bristles, which is where you actually want to hold it. So, not sure that would work, but if it did, then I'd have a nice thick handle! Hm there's also things like crayon or chalk holders, but those seem to be even bigger; the chalk one is for 3/8th inch diameter chalk, whereas my brush is about 1/4 inch. So I'm not convinced those would work. You'd *think* someone would make an add-on wider grip for brush handles, but darned if I can find one.
Here's a sketch I did over the weekend with the Pentel Pocket Brush--I was reminded of it when I read superhero comic book inker Hilary Barta saying he inks with the similar Pentel Color Brush in Gary Martin's "The Art of Comic-Book Inking" that someone just got me off my A* Amazon Wish List last week. :) Barta gets really sharp lines with his, though (he just dips it in his own ink rather than using Pentel's cartridges--which would seem to defeat the purpose for which most people use brush pens, ie their portability, but he says he just likes their wider grip (I can see that!) and that they're cheaper than sable brushes). You'd think a pro who gets like $100 per inked page wouldn't mind paying $20 or something for a nice sable brush that would last them probably fifty pages or so, but I guess you gotta save money wherever you can. :P
Oh right, the sketch:
If you cover up the nostrils and mouth, which were drawn early on, when I thought I was doodling the face head-on instead of slightly to the side (faces have a way of twisting on me if I'm not being careful :P), then it looks pretty okay! I like how the secondary-light-source type shading came out, anyway, and the hair. Maybe a soft, mushy brush like the Pentel is actually good for those! It is pretty handy for quick, small brush doodles, at least.
Here's what's on the back of today's A* page:
That big part in the lower middle was the first layout I did for the page, but it ended up feeling a little too square-on Selenis' back--she's blocking the view of the knife, for one thing, and it's a bit too balanced to feel really dynamic. So I knew I'd flip the page over and start again on the other side, but first I used of some of the remaining space on this first side in practicing other layouts--the one in the upper right was the one I fixed on to try.
I've been talking about wacky astronomical theories lately; did you know that for much of the period between the two World Wars, the leading theory for the formation of planets was the tidal theory, which proposed that planets formed from material drawn out of the Sun by another star passing nearby? This funky scheme temporarily replaced what had been the leading theory, the "nebular hypothesis" first proposed by Emanuel Swedenborg in way back in 1734, and further championed by Immanuel Kant in 1755 and Pierre-Simon Laplace in 1796. There was a brief interruption in 1749 when the Count of Buffon proposed that planets were matter knocked out of the Sun by comets, but Laplace managed to show that planets formed in this way would inevitably fall back into the Sun.
Sharp guy, that Laplace! Among his many other scientific and mathematical exploits, he speculated that some nebulae seen by telescopes might actually be distant galaxies, 100 years before Edwin Hubble proved this was the case (c. 1923) by observing stars known to have a certain fixed brightness in two of the "nebulae," which we now know as the Andromeda and Triangulum
galaxies. And, closer to our particular interests, Laplace promoted the mathematically backed theory that a star of sufficient size would have such a gravitational attraction that even light could not escape; this had first been proposed by a geologist, John Mitchell, in a letter to Henry Cavendish of the Royal Society in 1783:
If the semi-diameter of a sphere of the same density as the Sun were to exceed that of the Sun in the proportion of 500 to 1, a body falling from an infinite height towards it would have acquired at its surface greater velocity than that of light, and consequently supposing light to be attracted by the same force in proportion to its vis inertiae, with other bodies, all light emitted from such a body would be made to return towards it by its own proper gravity.
This "dark" or "invisible" star theory was more or less dropped until people started investigating Einstein's general relativity field equations of 1915: Karl Schwarzschild used the equations to describe the gravitational fields of point and spherical masses a few months later; Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, in 1931, used special relativity to show that electron-degenerate matter (particles squooshed together just as tightly as quantum rules allow) above a certain mass is not stable--ie will collapse; and Robert Oppenheimer and others predicted in 1939 that although electron-degenerate matter (which makes up white dwarfs) could collapse but then stabilize as a neutron star (which is pretty much packed neutrons), above about three solar masses, nothing could stop its further collapse--and there you get a black hole, although that term was not used until the '60's, when black holes were more or less accepted as unavoidably real.
But back to Laplace and the nebular theory of planetary evolution: in '96--1796, I mean--following Kant's description of nebular collapse under gravity, he theorized that this collapse would form a star at the center with a thin disc of material spinning around it, which would eventually coalesce into planets.
Other theories came and went throughout the 1900s in particular, and it wasn't until the '70's that the nebular theory started a comeback, and not until the early '80's that it was really accepted, and this owed a lot to one star in particular: Beta Pictoris:
In 1983, excess infrared radiation was detected coming from Beta Pictoris by the American, British, and Dutch Infrared Astronomical Satellite, or "IRAS." Beta Pictoris was known to be an A-Type star, which are supposed to radiate most of their energy at the higher-energy, blue end of the spectrum, so an unusual abundance of infrared radiation was thought to indicate the presence of some sort of cooler--energy absorbing--material in the way of the starlight, and this was verified the next year, when the first stellar disc ever seen was imaged around Beta Pictoris.
^ That image above is a 2003 Hubble view of Beta Pictoris, showing the primary disc, and a fainter, secondary disc, which may indicate a planet orbiting the star. The black circle in the center is a mask preventing the telescope's instruments from being overwhelmed by direct starlight.
Beta Pictoris is a pretty interesting star system! It's only 63.4 light years from Earth, so we have a relatively good view. The star is about 1.75 times as massive as our Sun, but that stellar disc around it is really huge: about 1800 astronomical units on one side, and 1400 AU on the other side--yeah, it's lopsided. The Earth is 1 AU from the Sun--that's the definition of an astronomical unit, which is also about 150 million kilometers, or 92 million miles. 1800 AU would be over halfway to the "inner" Oort Cloud of debris around our solar system (the "outer" goes out perhaps as far as 100,000 AU); by comparison, Jupiter is a bit over 5 AU from the Sun, Saturn about 10, Uranus 20, Neptune 30, and Pluto 40 (to be more precise, it ranges from just below 30 AU to just below 50 in its elliptical orbit).
And while that inclined fainter disc--and certain gaps or masses at multiple places in the main disc, as well as red-shifted objects apparently falling into the star--suggest the presence of multiple planets, or at least "planetesimal" proto-planets, one actual planet has been observed, or at least as well observed as you're likely to get over a distance of 63 light years with modern technology and this type of star, which apparently is difficult to study with the radial velocity method usually used to detect exoplanets--and being a young and feisty 8-20 million years old, there's a lot of "noise" making detection of bodies around the star difficult--in fact, there's so much going on there that "material from the Beta Pictoris debris disk is thought to be the dominant source of interstellar meteoroids in our solar system." !! But an object, "Beta Pictoris b," was spotted faintly in near-infrared, first in 2003 on one side of the star, then in 2009 on the other, as demonstrated in this composite diagram:
In 2003 they couldn't exclude the possibility that it was a background star--but then in photos taken in 2008/2009, it had disappeared! Only later in 2009, it reappeared on the other side, and then they knew it had to be a planet.
Here it is seen in infrared by the Very Large Telescope in 2008 (this is another composite image: the outer, disc part is reflected light seen in 1996):
The estimated 8-Jupiter-masses planet appears to orbit at a distance of about 8 AU from the star. I do tend to avoid talking about exoplanet "discoveries" in general, since their "detection" usually relies on inference from exceedingly faint indirect observations. So I like that this one was actually imaged directly, even if it was really faint.
And getting back to the "giant impact hypothesis" supposed by some to explain the formation of our Moon, that idea was born from the 1898 speculations of astronomer and mathematician George Darwin,
fifth child of Charles, the famed naturalist and proponent of the theory of human evolution. His son George's theory of Moon-volution said that the Moon "spun" off the early, molten Earth as a result of the centrifugal force of Earth's rotation; this gained ground during the Space Race, when American and Soviet lasers bounced off lunar ranging targets showed very precisely that the Moon was in fact slowly moving away from the Earth, something George Darwin had predicted as part of his theory.
That theory couldn't quite explain the tremendous force required to get the Moon off of Earth, though, so in the meantime--1946--Harvard professor Reginald Aldworth Daly proposed that it was launched by an impact rather than centrifugal force--this wasn't really taken up until the mid-70's, however.
I still think it's silly, but there is some of the history of it!
I got to the art supply store today! This is the University of Washington Bookstore, to be more specific, and man they've got an amazing selection: not only did they have the specific "Cretacolor Ergonomic" 5.6 mm lead holder I pointed out online yesterday, they had two other models as well, and even a crayon holder! The crayon holder, as I suspected, was indeed even bigger, which is no good; the other two models were a round-wooden-handled Cretacolor, which wasn't as comfortable, and a triangular Koh-I-Noor.
So I got the Ergonomic home and tried jamming an old Raphael 8404 size 4 brush into it so that the lead holder could serve as a thicker, easier-to-hold handle. The brush didn't quite fit, of course
which I had known would happen :D. That's all right, because I could cut the brush handle down to a smaller size to fit into the holder; the fullest width of the handle couldn't quite fit through the holder--not to mention that the handle was too long, but in fact you can screw off the end of the holder, revealing the hollow tube, so that might not have been a problem in itself. The real problem with this scheme, though, turned out to be that the sturdy gripping metal teeth of the holder can't maintain a firm hold on the metal ferrule of the brush--that's the shiny part between the bristles and the wood handle that you actually hold while using the brush--and that's a problem because as a result the closest you can hold the brush with the lead holder is by the wood handle at the end of the ferrule, at which point your hand is too far back from the brush head for precise work. I'd suspected something like that might be the case even if the teeth could hold on the ferrule, but I still think it was worth a shot. Anyway I can take the lead holder back. :)
I don't think I'll need such contrivances anyway though because I also got a new drawing board, and after using it to support drawing today's A* page, found my wrist was quite happy! Yay! I was afraid at first that the board, a 20"x26" "Airlite," the smallest they had, was too big; it's nearly as big as my drawing table!
But that size means that I can work on an A* page sideways (tall), if necessary, and still have the whole thing easily supported across the board's surface. And even though it's large in size, this board is way lighter than my old ~10"x17.5" particle board board dredged up from scrap wood in the basement, because it's hollow! See it isn't a real board, but a construct of wood edges and some kind of firm but very thin woody surface stretched over them--it looks pretty much exactly like the photo of another brand seen close-up here (I paid nearly twice as much for the Airlite >_< which was a bit of sticker shock at the register since they didn't have a price tag on it, buuuut it doesn't have any of the construction problems mentioned by reviewers of those "Helix"-brand boards, so maybe it's a get-what-you-pay-for type of thing (I hope :P)).
So it's a pretty sweet board so far. I do find it curious though that the only two kinds of drawing boards I can find being sold now are this relatively thick, hollow kind, and a thin sort which seems like the more obvious construction, except it's got a big hole carved along one edge for a handle, and huge metal clamps along the opposite edge that are suppose to hold your paper--like these. How about not putting holes and things in it and just giving us a good thin board? Man. Art supplies can be silly.
Oh that reminds me, the UW Bookstore is actually having a 20%-off sale on fancy writing instruments, and I was tempted into trying out some of the lower-end fountain pens, like the relatively inexpensive ($20-$30) yet well-regarded Kaweco Sport and Lamy Safari. I've been sort of lusting after a fountain pen for a while--after conceiving the notion that I might be able to do A* art with something like one somehow, without scratching the paper as much as a standard dip pen, although subsequent research showed they wouldn't really be useful for scratching and ink reasons, among others--so I was excited to try them out after reading so much about these things online, and...I was underwhelmed. Yeah they've got a kind of smoothness to them that regular pens don't have, except that they do sometimes just decide not to draw part of your stroke--and there's all the fussing with ink and so forth. To show just how undeveloped my actual appreciation for fine writing instruments is, though, I actually liked the $3 cheap plastic Platinum Preppy fountain pen they had there better. :P Still I really have no use for such things, so when it comes to fountain pens I won't really use, I'll just stick with my Platinum Carbon Desk Pen, which never seems to have that not-writing problem, and with its waterproof pigment ink could even, theoretically, be used in actual A* artwork...but probably won't be.
Oh yeah, and that Tom Richmond guy whose article on inking I linked yesterday, from which I got the idea of getting a different drawing board? Well it just so happens a podcast I'd downloaded earlier that day and just got around to listening to today--Tall Tale Radio Episode 133 (TTR is a webcomic/comic podcast)--has an interview with him, and apparently he's, like, the president of the National Cartoonists Society, which is the thing to be in if you're one of those rare syndicated cartoonists. (They're sort of realizing they need to branch out, though, and the interview covers Richmond's spearheading of getting a category of their "Reuben" award dedicated to webcomics.)
Yesterday I got to talking about Beta Pictoris b, a planet around a star 63 light years from Earth that has actually been directly seen by our instruments, at least in the infrared. There is no doubt these days that planets are plentiful in our galaxy; says Wikipedia: "A 2012 study of gravitational microlensing data collected between 2002 and 2007 concludes the proportion of stars with planets is much higher and estimates an average of 1.6 planets orbiting between 0.5–10 AU per star in the Milky Way Galaxy, the authors of this study conclude 'that stars are orbited by planets as a rule, rather than the exception.'"
The vast majority of extrasolar planets thought to have been detected so far--767 candidates total, says The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia; the Kepler satellite team, whose mission it is to find planets around other stars, had identified 2,321 *unconfirmed* candidates as of February of this year--have been hinted at only through indirect evidence: as perceived regular wobbles or flickers in their parent star, or the center of what appears to be light bending around a large mass. The very first confirmed exoplanet candidate, for instance, was a pulsar planet--that is, a planet orbiting a pulsar; a pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star whose polar jet beams toward us in its sweep, making for a very regular bright blinking light in the heavens; any interruption of variation in the timing of that blinking, due for instance to the gravitational influence of a large planet nearby, is relatively easy to spot, and this was accomplished in 1992, when the first not one but *two* extra-solar planets were deduced to be altering the timing of millisecond pulsar PSR 1257+12. Due to limitations of our planet-finding technology, most exoplanet candidates found to date lie within 300 light years of Earth--quite a tiny space considering the Milky Way is about 100,000 light years across (and contains 200 to 400 billion stars).
But while hundreds or thousands of planets around other stars in this small local region have been hinted at, only 31 planets in 27 systems have actually been seen. Like Beta Pictoris b, just about all of them are of the "hot Jupiter" variety: that is, very large gas giants heated to high temperatures by a very close proximity to their parent star; this proximity means an orbital period as low as just a few days, making them easier to spot as regular patterns, and the high mass and temperature makes them possible to pick out in infrared light even across tens or hundreds of light years of space. 1 to 1.5% of all "sunlike" stars are thought to have a "hot Jupiter." Current technology makes spotting smaller, colder planets--like Earth, say--much more difficult; heck, we can still barely even see anything of Pluto from Earth, much less spot any small cold planet 6,000 to 600,000 times further away (about 3 to 300 light years) than that.
Also complicating this picture is the question of just what is a planet? There are all sorts of arguments on the small side of things--tiny Pluto being famously declassified as a planet, for instance--but there is confusion on the big side, too, because tradition has it that a "planet" forms from an accretion disc around a star, while a "star" forms from a nebula, and that a "star" undergoes fusion, while a "planet" does not. But free-ranging, apparently non-star bodies have been spotted floating through star clusters, and are thought to be planet-like objects that formed directly from the nebula that birthed the rest of the cluster, rather than from an accretion disc around a star; and bodies reaching about 13 Jupiter masses--11, depending on who you ask and what exotic compositions you admit--are thought to be able to start a fusion reaction thanks to their gravitational pressure, which makes them not a planet but a brown dwarf *star*; brown dwarfs, however, actually only undergo fusion for a small part of their existence, typically--and it's fusion of deuterium (nucleus of 1 proton and 1 neutron), rather than of hydrogen (nucleus of 1 proton) like bigger stars.
So is a thing a planet or a star depending on where it is currently, or what it is doing? Well, kinda yeah. The last official ruling on this subject from the IAU ("International Astronomical Union," the Paris-based collection of just over 10,000 active astronomers, of doctorate level or higher, from across the globe who set the "rules" on such crucial semantic issues) came in 2003, and went as follows:
1) Objects with true masses below the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium (currently calculated to be 13 Jupiter masses for objects of solar metallicity) that orbit stars or stellar remnants are "planets" (no matter how they formed). The minimum mass required for an extrasolar object to be considered a planet should be the same as that used in our Solar System. 2) Substellar objects with true masses above the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium are "brown dwarfs", no matter how they formed nor where they are located. 3) Free-floating objects in young star clusters with masses below the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium are not "planets", but are "sub-brown dwarfs" (or whatever name is most appropriate).
Oh dear, that doesn't entirely clear things up in all cases, does it?
So anyway I thought I would try compiling photos of all the sighted exoplanet candidates (from The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia's list) I could find via simple text search on Wikipedia; I'll accompany these with the name, distance from Earth in light years, estimated mass in Jupiter masses ("MJ"?), and you'll see that a lot of these are in fact in danger of being classed as brown dwarfs rather than planets--and who cares about yet another dull ol' brown dwarf? :P Well, not that many of us care about "hot Jupiters" anyway, I suspect--we're all just waiting for a real Earth-like planet to be found that we--or our distant descendants, rather--can go and trash, yes? :D--but, you know, I like space photos of unusual subjects, so let's do this thing. We'll start with Beta Pictoris b, since I already have that one from yesterday:
image by Michael Liu, University of Hawaii (source)
Since the planet is kind of dwarfy, this is actually a brown dwarf binary, apparently, although the planety one is one of the coolest (temperature) brown dwarfs known. The image is a near-infrared composite.
That's four hot Jupiters spotted around a single star 1.5 times larger than the Sun; their orbital radii are "2 to 3 times those of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune, respectively"; these were discovered in an order different than their order going outward from the star, thus the "e, d, c, b" arrangement of the names--oh man that kind of thing is gonna be really confusing later on :P; the planets are in the inner portion of one of the stellar largest debris discs known within 300 light years--it extends out about 1000 AU:
This planet is thought to orbit at 115 AU, just inside the inner edge of the star's debris disc. It was the first exoplanet whose position was spotted by irregularities in a debris disc (the disc isn't centered on the star, and the inner edge is unusually sharp), first imaged planet since Neptune whose existence was predicted prior to discovery, and the first spotted in visible light. It was spotted three times by Hubble, the third time--2010--it appeared in an unexpected spot that would require an elliptical path through the debris disc / dust belt, which wouldn't match its theorized effects on the debris--it appeared likely that a second planet outside the disc is keeping things in order; however, even b has not been spotted by another telescope--Spitzer looked for it in near-infrared but found nothing, which was a surprise, and led to suspicions that the thing spotted by Hubble may just have been a dust reflection. But the to-be-massive ALMA radio telescope array (which I talked about back in October) made Fomalhaut one of its first subjects of study, and just confirmed last month that the debris disc (the portion ALMA observed, anyway) has an unusually sharp edge both inside and outside--their observation is seen here superimposed on the Hubble observations in blue:
image by ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO). Visible light image: the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (source)
They also included a gorgeous general view of the star from the Digitized Sky Survey:
image by NASA, ESA, and the Digitized Sky Survey 2 (source)
and a diagram of what they think is going on there:
So was Fomalhaut b actually imaged? Well...probably?
Although the Encyclopedia's figure has Fomalhaut b at "less than three" Jupiter masses, ALMA's observations suggest a much, much smaller size range for both possible planets involved in sculpting the debris disc: between "Mars and a few times larger than Earth" masses; larger masses would have totally disrupted the dust belt.
That was all I could find on Wikipedia of the 31 imaged planets as far as actual images goes! I found a couple other images when I went so far as I peep into referenced scientific researched papers, but I guess those are copywritten and such, alas.
If you keep an eye on that Extrasolar Planets Encyclopedia, you'll notice the entries are constantly updating--it's a pretty hot field in astronomy now. I think I'm pretty much done with it, at least until we get a really good picture of an exoplanet, or hear of a really really exotic one (there's one Saturn-sized candidate that apparently orbits two stars--a low mass binary system; the planet is referred to as a "circumbinary"--for instance, but eh that wouldn't inspire me to write a news article, I don't think; hm and in my search for photos I found another, directly imaged circumbinary, Ross 458(AB) c (aka "DT Virginis c")), because otherwise we're just looking at little blobs and making all kinds of assumptions based on really, really slim data--the data given for the ones I did find on Wikipedia, for instance, varies so much from the Encyclopedia's list that it isn't even funny (I went with the Encyclopedia on the *assumption* that it is more up to date); and of course we won't get a good picture of one until we fly a probe to one, and even aside from the technical and economic challenge of building such a probe, it couldn't possibly get to one and beam back a photo within our lifetimes...hm so yeah, I don't have to cover exoplanets anymore, yay! :D Of course I don't expect much cessation in the bombardment of pop-sci articles touting a new "alien Earth" exoplanet discovery, complete with exceedingly lush, multi-mooned/starred artist's conception illustration, like a travel agent guidebook or something... Man I'm sick of those. :P
(Okay well one system that sounds kind of interesting in theory is KOI-55; it is now a helium-fusing "subdwarf" that will eventually collapse into a super-tiny, super-dense white dwarf, but it is thought that it was a red giant until about 18 million years ago; two or maybe three smaller-than-Earth-sized planets have been spotted (two imaged, but the photos must be copywritten or something :P) in extremely tight orbits around it--like they go around the star in a quarter or a third of an Earth day; they're the shortest-period planets found. "The two planets were most likely gas giants which spiraled inward toward their host star, which subsequently became a red giant, vaporizing much of the planets except for their rocky cores, which we today observe as terrestrial planets orbiting a sdB star.")
Thought I'd try putting grays to a bit better use in the art; I've been avoiding them a bit lately, since I wanted to make sure the impact of full black ink was coming across, and especially since a) I stopped giving myself the benefit of pencil layouts, so I've been relying on black strokes to form on-the-fly layouts, and b) I switched to a different, much darker ink about 23 pages ago, and found I would have to re-learn exactly how many swishes in water it takes to get such-and-such a gray tone out of it. In a hundred or two pages with the previous, sumi ink I'd pretty much gotten the hang of that, but in my ink testing I realized nearly every ink acts differently, especially in a wash, so I've been kind of scared to try anything more in the way of grays with this new one than simply adding a spot or two for decoration here and there after the full black ink.
But that, of course, misses out on really the whole point of using ink wash in the first place; I realized what I've been doing during much of the bar scene and then definitely during this fight scene has been kind of just traditional "get everything down in black" type of comic inking, which can do some things pretty well, but doesn't take advantage of the full range of ink wash for depth and atmosphere. In short, it was starting to look a little crude and lacking in subtlety to me. :P
Trying to work directly in with ink wash grays without any type of layout to follow is kind of scary, but I took the plunge today, and while it looked like a definite disaster at a few points, I think in the end it's a semi-decent start--kinda messy in some of those larger gray areas where it took me a while to get shapes and tones worked out, but there is at least some increased sense of light and depth that gets across, I think. It isn't any worse than any of the other artistic restarts I've tried of late, anyway. ;)
I thought I'd put together a little collection of where I feel I've had the most success with ink wash grays in the past; I've been studying these over the past day or so to try to see if I could figure out what exactly it was that worked in them, and how I could put it to use now, and that's actually been semi-useful. So clumping them together here will be helpful for my review purposes, and cathartic as I rattle on about each one. ;) Ready? Here we go!
^ This one felt like a breakthrough at the time--just about 20 pages after the switch from digital art--and I was never really quite able to replicate the feel of it. Like a few of these pages, it resulted from a long struggle: I'd started with black outlines of the facial features, but by the end I'd covered most of them with white ink, and reshaped the whole right side (her left) of the head, whose shape had been even more off than it is in this final version. :P
After I switched from digital to ink wash I'd very quickly worked up a little array of five pre-mixed tones of ink wash, from light to dark gray, that I kept in separate little bottles (old curry powder spice jars :P), and when I wanted to lay down some gray I'd say to myself "okay that's light but not to light, so we'll use bottle 2" or whatever. Pretty simple! ("Space Girl" comic book artist and ink wash virtuoso Travis Charest does something similar, I discovered later, but with just three gray washes.)
But I knew that I wanted to do a freestyle wash from her eye downward, around the cheek, as if eyeshadow was running in the shower. I hadn't really tried such a thing before, but I just kind of did it and it worked way better than I'd hoped! That pretty nearly completed the picture right there, but I went in with my measured washes to round out the face, get a little abstract (originally I was thinking like squarish light patterns from shining through a textured glass shower door or something) with the grays in the background, and fix the outline of the hair, although a lot of that would get buried under white ink eventually.
So that was pretty encouraging, and another, larger episode of sort of controlled freestyle washes on the next page went pretty well too--well enough that I then chucked the little wash bottles (they were annoying to have to keep around, anyway) and went all freestyle washes from there on out. This did lead to some disastrously muddled pages at the end of that episode (*shudder*), but by not too far into the next episode I kind of had a handle on it.
For instance, this page was almost all big washes, and went over pretty well, although it took me ages to get the shadow sufficiently dark under her eyes; one tricky thing about ink wash is that once the paper has been saturated by one wash, from then on out (maybe not once it's dried *completely*, but I'm not that patient) it is a little resistant to taking on subsequent washes, so what looks like a dark wash will only affect it lightly. So I went through a lot of washes, which was frustrating--oh and I had to rebuild the nose at one point, which had gotten a bit sideways--but in the end it resulted in this really thick-feeling, moody shadow on the face, which creates some quite effective atmosphere, particularly in conjunction with the bright light above and hanging shadows down the sides. It did kind of scare me off of trying another wash this thick...or maybe I just got a little better at remembering to go in with a darker wash on the second go-around. I should probably try some many-layered washes here and there, I suppose, although whether or not the paper will hold up well is always a question.
Trying another shadow across the face, but I needed to show facial features, so it had to be lighter, and it was a close-up, so it had to have more detail. Somehow this miraculously came out in what seems to me a fairly effective semi-abstract fashion; the first attempt or two weren't quite right, but dashes and sponging offs and swipes with the finger somehow resulted in things that suggested worn makeup, furrowed brow, and, the capper, an actual fully modeled nose, something I hadn't really done up to that point--and haven't matched since. I know I did a swipe with a paper towel or finger down the bridge of the nose to create that raised, lightened look, and then added just the barest white ink highlights to suggest protruding, glossy skin along the bridge and tip, but...well I still have the feeling that if I really tried doing something like that again fully on purpose it would result in a big muddle. Scaredy-cat! So, yet another thing I should really try to do more.
This was practice with the new paper I was thinking of switching to: from absorbent but potentially rumpley and hard to scan and sorta yellow (and expensive) Arches watercolor paper to Canson "Illustration" paper. This Canson stuff has an invisible clay or something coating designed to prevent ink from bleeding, and I found in this, which was almost all washes, that the coating can lead to sort of greasy looking patterns in wash areas. Which can be kind of cool, if you're open to it. This was also a rare one where I outlined in gray wash from the start, rather than leading with full black to define the main shapes--it gave a lovely sense of atmosphere and freedom (no enchaining black lines!), and that's one thing I'm trying to work in again here with my latest gray foray.
Well into my pen phase, I thought I'd try gray rather than black silhouettes for this view from the dark to the light end of a passageway; PITT calligraphy pen outlines made it pretty easy to keep the shapes in the desired form--a bit of a crutch, but it certainly works. I thought this was pretty successful, and I've been regretting getting away from a working method that could make such gray shadowed shapes possible.
I wanted to see if I could get a sense of atmosphere in a space scene by using really dark gray washes rather than full black for the background. The answer is yes, but it can get a bit fiddly if you find yourself having to readjust the edges of major shapes around the dark gray, as I did in attempting to get the planetoid closer to being circular, and then lighting it the right way. In the end I had to try a light *white* ink wash around the rim of the planet to restore a bit of the space/planet atmospheric interface, as it were, and this was frightening but seemed to work pretty well; in fact, since white inks wash slightly blue (whereas black inks wash slightly yellow, if anything), it created an interesting color contrast suggestive of a thin, separate atmosphere around the planetoid--well, in the full-color real life view, anyway. :P
That's about it! A lot of my grays have been disastrous, and there was definitely a period where everything was just *too* gray and dull. So I don't want to fall back into that trap--when in doubt, add black!--but I do want to be able to get the most out of all the grays ink wash can produce; and I think overall a nice gray tone looks better than a lot of black line hatching--well, better than *my* black line hatching, anyhow. :P
One idea I had that I tried in today's page was working from light to dark--the opposite of what I've mostly done all along, which is starting with full black ink, then diluting down into washes and filling in the dark grays, then the lighter grays. So this time I started with very light grays, sort of feeling out the shapes, and only brought in full black when I was sure I had some places that needed it. One thing's for sure: you can always go darker! You *can't* really always go lighter, on the other hand, because gray (black) ink washes don't look very good over white ink--they get this weird spotty texture, as you can kind of see in the gray lines on the right of today's page, which are over white ink that I used to cover up some black outlines that weren't working over there. You can try white ink washes to lighten over black ink, as I did in a few very small spots here, but those don't work great over large areas as they come out kind of spotty too.
Just for the sake of completeness, I may as well mention that the other main technical trouble with ink washing is that the wash tends to dry lighter than it looks while wet, so you have to get a feel for what what gray will be when dry, and this varies by ink.
Token science time! Researchers at MIT claim to have invented a slick "structured liquid" coating for glass that solves the ages-old problem of getting ketchup to come out of the bottle. WILL THERE BE A GREATER SCIENTIFIC LEAP IN OUR TIME?? Anyway you can see a video of ketchup dregs just flowing straight out of a treated bottle, supposedly, in the article over here.
Got an art show opening here in Seattle in just under two weeks; was working on planning a bit today, looks like there'll be about 26 pieces, 16 of them being framed A* original artwork--the 10 others are mostly framed A* prints, plus a few from The Princess and the Giant. Trying to fill up this big display space!
Oh and they made up these fancy cards for the show. I'm not sure why they left "free snacks" off them though, that's the important part! :d
EDIT: Here was the first version of today's page that went up:
The secondary light source effect is nice but the mess in the shading on the side of her face (I waited too long in deciding to put a shadow there), a sort of slight but pervasive slant to her face (still there kinda I...think?), and a general wash-outiness bothered me into blasting them with black ink.
Once the nose cone is removed, of course, it becomes a giant interstellar bottle of Coke. Also I may have gone a little overboard on spattering stars in there. ;)
Space news shorts! The privately owned (although they're on a fat NASA contract, plus additional NASA subsidies) SpaceX unmanned "Dragon" cargo module docked with the International Space Station over the weekend, and the station's crew have begun unloading its cargo. There was only one problem with the docking, as far as we're told, and that was that one of the two "laser imaging systems" the module uses to see with was "picking up stray reflections from the station's Japanese module" that more or less blinded it--fortunately, the remaining laser imaging system was able to do the job on its own. Maybe don't spit-shine those modules quite so much next time!
And there's an interesting brouhaha brewing in Kazakhstan between the Kazakhs and Russia; Kazakhstan has put three Russian rocket launches (carrying seven satellites, from Russia, Belarus, Canada, and Germany) on hold, claiming that an agreement about the zone in north Kazakhstan--they're due to launch from the vast Baikonur Cosmodrome in south Kazakhstan--where the first booster stages from the rockets are planned to fall back to the ground has not yet been completed. Baikonur Cosmodrome was built in Kazakhstan by the Soviets, of course--Kazakhstan being part of the U.S.S.R. at that point--who currently use it under a least that is "due to last until 2050 and sees Moscow pay Astana almost $115 million in rent annually." BUT in January 2011 Russia began building a launching facility on its own soil--Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East, due to be completed in 2018--and you couldn't blame the Kazakhs for suspecting that Russia plans to break its lease at Baikonur as soon as Vostochny comes online. So perhaps this current tiff is just a symptom of the looming rent issue.
Somehow I found myself watching videos on comic inking on YouTube this afternoon. I've probably mentioned the ol' How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way comic-drawing guidebook that first came out in 1978 and formed the entirety of my youthful instruction--well, aside from reading hundreds of actual comic books :p--in the comic art form. Little did I know all this live-long while that co-authors Stan "Wearing Dark Glasses and Hyperbole Indoors" Lee and John "I. Am. Not. Reading. From. Cue. Cards" Buscema put together a video version around 1988 that more or less covers everything the book does, even recycling the drawings in the book (low-quality copies of them being placed not-so-convincingly under Buscema's roving pencil), all amusingly--in so many ways--narrated by Stan and John themselves. It came out on VHS and then DVD but I don't see a current release of it on Amazon--so here it is thanks to the magic of YouTube:
(Unfortunately the final section wasn't included, so I had to splice it into that playlist from another uploader's series, which isn't embeddable :/; here's the full playlist of the unembeddable version if you'd rather just watch it all on YouTube.)
The Amazon seller trying to sell a "new" version of the DVD for $241 may be out of luck. :P This video version is pretty good at covering the basics of their now-somewhat-dated (I had to chuckle when Buscema intones something along the lines of "always draw your scene as if it is lit from a strong single light source") method!
Then I stumbled across this hour-long video of I think heretofore unfamiliar to me comic artist Tim Vigil penciling and inking a very detailed "sketch"; I like the rough yet graceful look of his brushed lines, which he seems to emit effortlessly in all sorts of shapes: