November 8, 2006

Matthew Bernier

Comics: Out of Water
Art education/schools attended: SVA


Pencils: I hate sharpening pencils, and I hate reloading pencils. My solution? Paper mate Sharpwriters. Disposable yellow plastic pieces of crap, they have #2 HB lead and a pleasant springiness. I bite the eraser off when I start a new one, because the eraser is useless, and I chew on the back of all my tools.

Pens: for finnished artwork I always use ink, and my favorite nib is the T3-G japanese nibs. I'd tell you what company, but it's in Japanese. They come in beige little packets. These gleaming steel wonders can take a beating for months and still produce a near-crowquill thin line. Dave Sim says he goes throgh one hunt nib a page. He should try one of these.

Brushes: Windsor and Newton Series 7, #3. A warning, though: Windsor and Newton makes the best brush in the world- once and awhile. You need to test them in the store. Get a new brush good and wet- really soak it- and then rap the middle against your wrist. The brush should immidiately, and IN ONE TRY, come to a perfect point, with no splaying hairs. If it doesn't, don't buy it. You'll be sorry. Splaying brush hairs are like hydras- you cut one off and two that weren't there appear. Eventually you have no brush. Make sure you get a good one the first time.

Paper: I've teken a liking to hot press watercolor paper, because it can take more of a beating than bristol. I abuse pen nibs and paper badly. I make rain effects by dragging a razor blade across a drawing. Bristol will die if treated like this. I like Arches, but there's lots of good kinds.

Inks: This is where I get insane. Pens leave a thicker trail of ink than a brush. This means that with the same ink, a pen line will take about four or five times, or lobger, to dry than a brush line. So, I don't use the same ink. I use thin, quick-drying inks in Pens, which would clog and cripple a brush, and wet, thick inks in brushes. But it gets worse. Quick hatching and slow linework also have very different drying times. I have seperate inks for those. (My hatching ink is also runnier, so it won't skip if I move too fast.) And with brushed, the darkness and thickness needed to properly make a line is different from that needed to make a solid, scanner-proof black. Drybrushing also needs a good black, or else it will read as greytone in the scanner, and I'll spend a half hour in photoshop making it look black without losing any of it. Different inks? Right again. I letter with a bamboo skewer. Some inks don't flow off it. If you guessed I have a ink for that, you've caught on. (Actually, it's the same as my hatchink ink.) Oh, and I forgot panel borders. I have another, super-quick drying ink for that, which would mess up any other tool but my ruling pen, but which dries near-instantaneously, saving me a good ten minutes per page.

I told you I was nuts. My respective inks are:

Pen hatching: Black star High Carb/ new F&W/ deleter, wichever's available.
Slow Pen lines: Old F&W, or old Black Star High Carb.
Brush lines: Black star High Carb or Deleter
Big black areas/dry brushing: F&W which has been allowed to sit open for two days, until it takes on a thick, sauce-like texture. This will make your blacks ABSOLUTE black, but don't let this sit in a brush, it will kill it.
Bamboo skewer: only the Black Star High carb will flow off it. Other inks stop.
Ruling Pen: Doc Marten's Bambay Black. This is the fastest drying ink I've ever seen, so it's terrible in any other tool. It's a pen clogger and a brush killer.

Oh, and I just love Deleter White.

Color: I don't do much, but when I do it's photoshop.

Layout/Composition: I do my thumbnailing super-small, no more than two inches high. If a page doesn't make sense at that size, it won't make any sense large, either. I always draw panel borders first, then dialogue balloons rought, then super-rough layouyts, then finnished balloons/lettering, then the rough pencils, then the finnished pencils. then inks. When I ink I go in a similar order to the pencilling: Borders first always, then lettering, then balloons, then drawings. Because the page was planned around the balloons, they never look out of place, or like afterthoughts. They blend into the drawing more and participate in the storytelling.

Convention sketches: Pentel Pocket Brush, Some felt tip pen. Same in sketchbooks.

Tool timeline: I recall when I was very young I'd use a pencil like a marine trying to run someone throgh with a bayonet. I would leave dark carbon gouges in the paper. Later I seemed to like shitty black ballpoints, because no one taught me how to use dip pens properly and I couldn't make them do what I wanted. Sometime in High school I switched to drawing straight to ink, never pencilling. My composition got pretty lousy, but my inking got...a little better. In college I finally learned how to use a pen and a brush competently. I have no preference for either. I switch between them depending on the effect I want. I love my ruling pen best of all my tools, becasue it's an antique implement that hardly anyone uses, and because it eliminated all markers from my toolbox.

Tools I'd never use: Sharpies, because I used to use them and those pages are deteriorating like Dorian Grey's painting. Markers in general, because I hate their feel on the paper. Rapidographs, because they scare the crap out of me. Higgins ink. Could they put a thinner neck on those bottle, by the way? It's not hard enough to reach their shitty ink.

Advice: Don't become like me. No, really though, good tools do help. It's true that a great artist can make good comics with the worst pen available. But- I could never get the exact kind of line I get out of a good brush with a bad brush. Bad tools slow you down, break your rhythm, harsh your mellow. I pay good money so that I can know for certain that any problems I have at the drawing table are my fault and not my tool's.


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