February 21, 2011

Gerhard. Gare-hard? Jer-ard?

Sean Michael Robinson at The Comics Journal did an exhaustive interview with Gerhard, Dave Sim's background artist on Cerebus. It's a must read for every cartoonist who cares about technique, as the Robinson asks Gerhard about specific pages throughout the comic's decades-long run, with Gerhard talking about everything from his preference to toothbrushes over airbrushes for snow effects to showing photos of the models he built ho help him draw rows of houses on slanted streets.

Gerhard with his models.

Gerhard is one of the best draftsman in the last 50 years of comics, and this interview is one of the richest resources I've ever had a chance to bring to your attention. Read, and watch as a man grows from a talented amateur into a true virtuoso, sharing his secrets with us.

A floor plan to a room in Cerebus.

Jesus, I love how loose Guy Davis' pencils are. I always learn something about keeping freedom in my inking looking at them.

Oh, by the way, I'm selling some clothes on Ebay, if anyone's interested:

Rare Red Swiss Army coat
Green double-breasted jacket
Tailored brown suit

February 13, 2011


My internet's been spotty all night, and now it's late, so I'm going to bed and writing this thing Tuesday night. (Monday is Valentine's dinner with the lady.)
This week on Comic Tools: Futzing with nibs

I'm insomniac tonight, so I'll type this sucker up now:

A few weeks ago MK (Remember MK? Started this blog? Wrote the fantastic comic Americus, illustrated by Jonathan Hill, to be published by First Second later this year, which you can now read in webcomic form? That MK.) wrote me with this:

"Hey Matt. So possibly right under your feet all day at work are these scroll nibs, which are usually used for making filials and jazz for fancy calligraphy. Also, at the very bottom, is a thing called a music nib, used for making musical notation lines, it is made by Brause, not Mitchell, so it won't be in the kit. I got mine from scribblers in the UK after seeing them in someone else's catalogue, and I assumed they must be hackable for cartooning short cuts. Double vision, quicker hatching for bgs that must be covered in them, plaid shirts, checkerboards... the list is not gigantic, but you can get some interesting results. I'm not entirely certain that they are in NY Central, but I believe I saw mitchell caligraphy kits hanging over the doorway to the little room the G nibs are stored in, so if you see them, you could probably come up with some ingenious use for them that I am missing. I've used them for a bit of grass in the new comic already, and it was delightful to use something a little different."

She included this photo:

Indeed we do have these nibs downstairs at New York Central. If you walk straight into the store about halfway, you'll see these cheesy looking beige cardboard bubble packets sitting way up high where the managers sit:

You'll have to ask for someone to help you reach them, unless you're seven feet tall. These are what the packets look like up close, and what they cost:

New York Central got the whole lot of them in a buyout of another closing supplier, so once these are gone, they're gone. Fortunately, for anyone who might want them, they don't seem to sell well. Anyhow I've got them back at home now, and I've been playing around with them. I've narrowed it down to 8 that produce various effects I like, and I've been futzing around with them, like MK did.

My first impressions are that either these types of nib are either all made of unusually crappy and thin steel, or that the tinyness of the individual nibs having to share the space makes them weak, much like too many babies sharing a womb, or that this particular brand may just be crappy. I don't know, but nonetheless I've found some uses for these that might induce me to buy more anyway.

The nibs with evenly spaced, equal-sized points make hatching large areas really, really easy and SOOOOOOO much faster. They also make great speed lines.

The evenly spaced nibs with one point larger than the other make pleasantly dynamic and perfectly spaced pipes, dowels, poles, and rope. If I wanted to to an entire series of knot-tying illustrations, one of these nibs would very possibly save me from insanity.

The nibs with multiple slits cut going to the same point hold extra ink like a lettering nib while remaining flexible like a quill, and so far the best use I've found for these are really fantastic willowy tree limbs that you can draw with the line variation of a brush, but with a line quality that is unmistakably of a nib.

Anyhow, I'm gonna mess around with these some more and then do a proper post on them.

Finally a link: A fantastic interview with Mike Mignola about setting and architecture. One lesson learned: you neither need to like drawing, nor even actually draw, straight lines or perfect perspective in order to draw houses, cities, and other settings in a convincing and lively way. Slanty lines and age are your friends.

See you next week!

February 6, 2011

This week on Comic Tools: Eraser Showdown 2!

As I've mentioned before, I currently work at New York Central Art Supply in the paper department. Downstairs on the side of the checkout counter alongside all the other impulse buys, they have a bunch of little bins with erasers in them. There were three I'd never seen before, so I decided to buy them and test them out against the current champion, the Tombo Mono eraser.

The new contenders are:

  • Pentel Hi-Polymer
  • Faber-Castell "Dust free"
  • MOO eraser

Unlike in the last test, all of these erasers erased a well dug-in line cleanly and completely. None of these products fails in role as an eraser. That leaves us with the next characteristic, amount and size of dust. This is how each of them fared with each eraser brand-new, using the corner to erase the line:

It seemed like a pretty clear-cut win for the Tombo, with the MOO a close second. My next test was to see how they affected ink, whether they'd lift your drawings off the page. Some erasers can be so aggressive that they remove not only pencil but ink and paper fibers, like an art-destroying tornado. All of these performed roughly the same in that test, but as I used them to erase over the ink with their now ground-down corners, I found that the two really dusty erasers were now producing snakes, as they should. I made new pencil lines and tried again, with these results:

The scale of these photographs is slightly out of whack, as the Tombo's snake of dust was actually smaller than the Faber-Castell's. Nonetheless, with a blunted corner all of them performed adequately, and certainly better than the losers in my previous test. Now a new problem revealed itself, namely that certain erasers were using themselves up far more quickly for the same amount of erasing. The MOO, in particular, crated a hilariously long and thick snake of eraser waste, enough that an earthworm might have tried to mate with it were it any larger. The Tombo won again, with the MOO second in creating less dust, but the Faber-Castell coming in second in not using itself up too quickly. They all erased adequately, and I'd recommend any of them.

Links time!

Sarah Glidden has been regiggering her watercolor process for her comics. Here she is experimenting with different techniques:

She finally settled on one, and the results are beautiful to behold.

Becky Cloonan step-by-step process art? Hell yes please.

Evidently the best perspective book for cartoonists ever made has a sequel now:

Extreme Perspective! For Artists: Learn the Secrets of Curvilinear, Cylindrical, Fisheye, Isometric, and Other Amazing Systems that Will Make Your Drawings Pop Off the Page (Book & DVD)

In this sequel to the classic bestseller Perspective! For the Comic Book Artist, David Chelsea takes perspective to a whole other level—by exploring the most dramatic viewpoints employed by today’s artists. Many of these techniques have been carefully guarded secrets for centuries. But David, and his hollow-headed friend, Mugg, make them accessible to a new generation of artists, cartoonists, illustrators, and animators. In Extreme Perspective! For Artists, you’ll learn how to

• Render complicated multi-sided objects in perfect perspective
• Create accurate shadows and reflections from your own imagination
• Master the most difficult kinds of curvilinear perspective systems
• Draw eye-popping images in fisheye perspective
• Use your computer to create elaborate scenes quicker and more easily
• … And much, much more!

Also included is a comprehensive library of perspective grids on DVD, suitable for printing or using with Photoshop and other applications.