Friday, September 17, 2010

Sabbatical, Day 34 (The Zen of Delineation, Part One)

I remember when this used to be a daily blog. *sigh*

I have been busy though. (Excuses, excuses...) I just finished inking page seven, and after finally taking my shower and getting something to eat, I'll also attempt to complete my double-page spread. If I can get it done today, that will make it my highest productive day since this sabbatical began -- a whopping 2.25 pages in a day! We'll see though...I'll keep you posted.

This last week, I've spent more time at the drawing board inking than I have in years, and the specifics of this aspect of the craft have been pinging around in my brain. Being a comic-book creator is a lot like being a doctor, in that there are so many specialties and sub-specialties to work in. I suppose I could be considered a general practitioner, especially on a project like HERO CORP., where it's a one-man show.  My specialty would be pencilling, and it's a toss-up what my sub-specialty is: I love writing and inking, and am likely as adept at both. But I must say, I feel more comfortable writing. Because inking is weird.

The joke is that inkers trace. (Thanks Kevin Smith. The laughs never stop with that one...) And there are a number of artists out there who just essentially trace. Many of them don't get it, many of them are hacks. But a skilled inker is the one who brings polish and permanence to the artwork. Inking, delineation, finishing, whatever one wants to call it, is the most permanent part of creating comics. You commit ink to paper, and for the most part, that's it. And depending on your comfort level with your tool of choice, the commitment will either enhance or detract from the final piece.

Many artists don't even ink anymore, employing a system of "digital inking" which essentially means darkening and cleaning up the pencil artwork before adding color. (This isn't counting the artists who produce fully rendered comics, either traditionally or digitally painted. That's an entirely different blog.) I have mixed feelings about digital inking, because I've seen a mixed bag of results over the years. Traditional inking, which establishes the "look" that is mentally associated with comics, was born out of the constraints of print technologies roughly a century ago. Those constraints have all but evaporated over the past twenty years or so, mostly due to the emergence of digital print systems.

I mention all of this because, to be frank, no one HAS to ink a comic book these days. It all comes down to a choice of aesthetic. Artists must ask themselves a  host of questions, ink-luding(!) the practicality of inking. Are they skilled enough to do it consistently? And if so, do they go traditional or digital? If traditional, what's your tool, pen, marker, quill, technical pen...or brush?

I chose the brush years ago. And I'll tell you why.

Cover of BIZARRE HEROES #1 (1994) - Art by Don Simpson
When I was 18, I had the good fortune of sitting in artist Don Simpson's studio for an afternoon, as he explained and demonstrated some techniques of the trade to me. I'd never actually seen a working professional, and the experience of those few hours was ultimately as valuable to me as all the concurrent time spent at art school. The single thing I gained the most insight on from watching him was the precision and artistry of proper inking.

Don Simpson is a masterful inker and his linework was killer, delicate at one end of a stroke, and bold at the conclusion. And watching him wield a brush just made it all come so perfectly clear. It was hard to believe he was able to make that brush do what he did. He also used quill pens and related tools to do fine detail and such, but it was the brush that came to life that day. He gave his art solidity, which had never fully sunk into my brain until then. This was something I had to do.

Cover of VIGILANTE #1 (1983) - Art by Keith Pollard
Don explained to me that artist Keith Pollard had done the same for him years before, and concluded the day by giving me one of the brushes he'd demonstrated with. I was beyond thrilled, and immediately set about the task of using this new tool to work similar magic on my own artwork that Don had worked on his. After all, I knew what to do now, I'd seen it done, and I had the brush that I had watched work magic.

But do you remember the theme of mystery from my previous blog? The thing about the best mysteries is they can often be layered enigmas, bringing you headlong into another question. I thought I knew what to do with that brush -- Don had made it all look so easy, and I had been attentive. He'd unlocked a key secret in my transition from comics-creating novice to aspiring professional. I thought the rest would be relatively easy.

I was wrong.

More to come after the two-page spread...!

Today's Music (so far!): Barry White, George Michael, Vivaldi, the Electric Six (Yeah, I'm eclectic.)

No comments:

Post a Comment