November 15, 2008

This week: pointed sticks

I'm terrified of Rapidographs. They scare the living bejeezus out of me. I know they're hands-down the best tool that exists for getting a consistent dead-line for backgrounds and lettering. They come in different sizes and they have dark, waterproof india ink in them. Everyone I know who uses them likes them. But the cleaning, the tiny little parts, the expense...they send me screaming for the hills.

This leaves me in need of a replacement tool, because having a tool that can produce a dead-line of various weights is pretty important. Japan makes some great pigment markers that make American and German markers look like garbage in comparison, but I hate the feel of markers on paper. Especially my paper, which is vellum surface and fairly rough. Plus, if I don't move the markers slowly, they skip and don't leave a solid line. And disposable markers aren't cheap either. I have pen nibs specially made for writing that will produce a dead-line, but they're a bitch to use and clean and finding good ones means buying antique. For years, I struggled to find a liquid ink tool that would produce the lines I wanted but wasn't a Rapidograph. The chinese were there to answer my prayers:

These are bamboo skewers, and they're
one of my most important tools.
As you can see, they cost $1.25 for a package of 100.
These miracle-sticks saved my life. You can use them as-is, or whittle the tip with an exacto knife to the width you want. Then you simply dip them in ink and draw normally. They're great for backgrounds, architecture, machinery, lettering, and anywhere else you need dead lines to contrast more fluid nib work. Because they're a cheap, mass-produced product not made for drawing, you do need to do a little quality control when you pull one out to use. Make sure the sides are smooth and free of splinters, as in this picture:

The tips also aren't quiiiite uniform in size, so have a look before using them. If you get lucky you'll get one exactly the right size an not have to whittle at all.
For comparison purposes, I'll show you some demo lines as drawn by what are, in my opinion, the three best markers on the market (I've literally tried every available kind that I'm aware of, but I love testing new ones, so let me know if there's one you think I ought to know about.) in comparison to the three sticks I have in service right now. These are the markers, if you're a person who actually likes markers and would like to try them:
The black Deleter is a new version of the Grey and blue Deleter. The new one is archival. Here's how the Deleter and Copic look:
As you can see, they're both good markers, and they even offer a little line weight variation if you lean on them a little. I actually do use both of them sometimes, because they honestly are very good tools. But now here's my bamboo sticks:
As you can see, you can get a lot of very interesting lines out of these, and even a dry brush effect from the larger one. Here's a doodle I did with them to show how they might be used in drawing:
And in this page, everything in the background was drawn with the bamboo sticks, including the swirly lines of drunkenness around the bearded dude's head. The more uniform line contrasts just enough with the nib work to help set it apart, but it doesn't look out of place, because the bamboo doesn't make lines quite as clean as markers. Best of all, I can move the bamboo sticks much faster on the page without the line breaking up than I can with any marker I've ever used. Click on the page to see it full-sized.

The overall lesson here is, if you don't like the tool you're using, use something else. Anything is an art tool in the hands of an artist.

Next week: How to draw in any direction with a nib.

6 comments:

Eric Dyck said...

um...wow. Thats really...wow!

B2-kun said...

Neat idea! Got to try it sometime, thanks for posting it.

A. Bullett said...

Matt, I tried these a while back for lettering. They felt great but the inkflow stops so quickly. Are you just dipping every two seconds or do you have a way to get more life out of a line?

matt said...

I get about 30 seconds of inking out of each dip. Different inks perform differently, though. I use Dr. PH Martin's bombay black, which seems to flow best off the sticks.

gonzalexx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gonzalexx said...

Gave it a try. Did a quick dry run (dry is the keyword). Maybe its because I haven't really tried a real brush with ink. My previous experience involved kids crayola brushes. Here's my first bamboo skewer inked test I like the texture and the super fine line, albeit short It suffered from the early-dry point syndrome.

Maybe you can pre-treat the skewers to make them hold and flow better? I don't know... just throwing that in.

But I really enjoy the primal feel of this.
Thanks for sharing. (hope that link was done right).