November 30, 2011

This week on Comic Tools: Oblique Nib Holders
James Gurney did most of my work for me this week posting about oblique nib holders. (He says pen holder, I say nib holder.) It's the tool to use if you want to draw lots of slanty lettering without ruining your hands. He even carved his own out of wood so it's fit his hand better:

It turns out, a company named Yoropen makes oblique ballpoint pens and pencils:

According to testimonials on the site, oblique pens and pencils have distinct advantages for many people. In the case of left-handed people, they allow the writer to see their work, and to not have to hook their hand over awkwardly as they write. They're said to promote a more correct grip in small children learning to write, and aid in letter formation. Their ease in grip is also said to be helpful to people with weakness in their hands, such as stroke victims, and people who suffer from writing strain. I'd like to get ahold of one sometime to try it out. I'd also be curious if an oblique nib holder helped left-handed cartoonists ink better. Anyone out there tried it?

They also make oblique nibs (also called elbow nibs) that fit in a regular nib holder. They look like this:

And now for some extras:

One of my favorite things on the internet is Vera Brosgol and Emily Carroll's series of drawings called Fashion From Old People. This blog is a fantastic resource to see how to really dress characters in clothing. They take a real dress from a photo, and then fit that dress to a cartoon character. I save every other drawing to my morgue (That's an old-fashioned illustrator's term for an illustrator's personal catalogue of reference and inspirational images) because I have trouble drawing overly generic clothing on characters, and seeing the different body shapes and types Vera and Emily fit the dresses to, and how the woman and the dress change one another, is always an inspiration to me.

Another one of my favorite things on the internet is when cartoonists post video of themselves working. Well, here's two great tastes that go great together: Vera drawing one of her FFOP posts. There's a LOT of great process stuff here, especially for people who draw all or partially digitally.

How ballsy is Schweizer's inking in this panel:
See you next week!

November 21, 2011

This Week: Escoda Brushes
So, many of you will remember the post where I retracted my endorsement of Rosemary's brushes, after several readers who had purchased from her reported a precipitous drop in quality to the point of being unusable. You're better off buying the cheapest nylon brush rather than a bad sable brush, and with Japan making those insanely resilient and sharp pocket brush pens, a sable brush had better be good for the money you pay.

In that same post I actually did review an Escoda brush, which I'd totally forgotten about. I got it on my trip to SCAD Atlanta, liked it okay, and suggested it for people as a possible alternative if Raphael brushes weren't available. I haven't drawn with brushes for awhile, so I totally forgot about it.

My current workplace sells Escoda brushes, and they're specifically mentioned in our training video on brushes. The owner, Larry, who travels all over the world to meet his suppliers and see their factories, talked in the video about what makes a brush good and why some good brush companies have lost their way *cough Windsor and newton cough*. Basically, what it comes down to is time spent in a single location. Brush making takes years, even decades to learn, and making the kolinsky sable brushes is the hardest, requiring workers who've been brush makers for 20 years or more. If a brush company moves it's facilities, (W&N), and the brush makers don't or can't follow, their experience is lost, and therefore the quality. You do still see, every so often, a decent W&N brush, but the rarity of them leads me to conjecture it may be as little as one person making those elusive few. I imagine an old man, surrounded by fumbling whipper-snappers, weeping to himself as he places each of his perfect brushes on a conveyor belt alongside their splaying messes of expensive hair.

Larry chose Escoda because their factory has been in the same place since 1949, 18 years longer than Raphael, which seems to make some of the consistently better sable brushes these days. I tested 3 of the brushes in our store to decide what size I wanted to buy to test for Comic Tools, and all of them came to a sharp, single hair point. THAT was encouraging- I wanted this company to be consistent, not just good, if I was to recommend them to my readers. I selected a size 4 to test.
I love it. It's better than Rosemary's best brushes ever were. It has great snap, which I prefer to the well-formed, but to my hand mushy-feeling Raphael brushes. (I don't want to seem like I don't like Raphael brushes, By the way. Habibi was drawn with one for chrissake. I just don't prefer the feel of them.) I compared it to my trusty W&N #3 brush, and in doing so a sense memory came back to me. It doesn't feel like my W&N brush does now (which I still prefer), but it does feel like what my W&N felt like new. I could feel the Escoda pushing my hand into making the sorts of movements that led to my inking style when I drew my first book with my then brand-new W&N. How's the tip? That's a hair from my head next to those lines: Can it do drybrushing well? Yup:
Wispy lines? Uh huh:
Fiddly things like eyes and faces? Yes, and well: I look forward to using this brush and seeing how it ages. Now, there's another lovely characteristic to Escoda brushes, probably having to do with being made in Spain as opposed to Britain or France: They're relatively inexpensive. My W&N #3 cost me around $30 new. My Escoda #4? $16.40. No, really, go see. If you buy some from Artist and Craftsman, put a note in your order that Comic Tools Blog sent you, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt my standing with the company. I should tell you, however, that Blick has a better price. Buying from your local art store, if possible, is always best, especially since you can test the brushes, but if not, I feel obliged to ask that you consider Artist and Craftsman, a Maine-based and very fine art supply company, for your Kolinsky needs.

On another topic, it seems Amalgamated Biscuit has started something. Now Comic Tools reader Kat has made this adorable Totoro ink well as a more stable platform to resist upset by cat:

You can see more photos in her post about it. This is the inkwell I've been using, given to me by a friend:

(Remember, never dip your brush more than halfway if you can help it, and rinse it immediately if you do.)

See you next week!

November 13, 2011

Home made inkwell

Comic Tools reader Amalgamated Biscuit just showed me this terrific inkwell he made:

From his post:

"When my ink runs low I have to fish around at an angle to get enough ink on my nib and I usually end up covering my pen and hands. So I created this inkwell which is just deep and wide enough for my biggest nibs."

Too cool, right? Though I feel it's seriously lacking in a pair of googly eyes. The bottom in-action photo is slightly obscene, which I also feel googly eyes would help. Not help make it less obscene, mind you, just more hilarious.

Thanks to Amalgamated Biscuit for sharing!

Best nib holder I've seen:

Tachikawa Comic Pen Nib Holder - Model 36 - White Grip

No surprise it's from Japan, where drawing with ink tools is still so large an industry that nibs and other inking tools are still made with quality. I have several friends who've switched to this and they just love it. One really cool thing is it accepts crowquil/mapping nibs, which have round, circular bodies like this:
as well as regular nibs, which are concave troughs of metal like this:
Most nib holders can only accept one or the other, and the holders for mapping nibs tend to be thin, exacerbating strain during fine work when using a tool used almost exclusively for fine work. The Tachikawa's thick body reduces wrist strain, and the rubber grip makes it easy to hold. Nibs sit securely in it, but the plastic isn't as rigid as on a Speedball holder, so you don't have to jam nibs in or strain to pry them out again. also has a fantastic selection of Japanese cartooning nibs, the best money can buy, unless you go antique hunting. (Fun fact about the two brands of Manga "G" nib: they're literally made across the street from one another. Both factories buy the same steel, mill it on the same machines, and put different brand stamps on them. They're otherwise identical, sort of like Olfa and NT blades, also made in Japan in neighboring factories using practically identical methods. NT's cutters are way better, though.) They also stock the sometimes hard to find Pentel Pocket brush refills at a not-bad-not-amazing price, and sell the brushpen itself at a pretty amazing price.

The Tachikawa is well worth the six bucks, being comfortable and well made, and would be the only nib holder you ever had to buy in your life.
Hey everyone, Comic Tools is now on Facebook and Twitter!

Both featuring my new, more dressed icon photo:

My old icon photo, which was actually my first photo of the face rig I use:

This week's title is a video:

Start at 6:32

Wow, I still have 237 followers? Why? Did you all forget to unsubscribe? Well, either your loyalty or your laziness are to be rewarded, because I'm starting again.

It's funny, you know what the impetus was, the thing that finally broke the intertia? I'm working at an art store now, and some old man came in having had trouble with his nibs, which he is new to using. I was explaining to him what he was doing wrong and how to fix it, and then driving home that night it hit me: I can't really deal with giving advice to strangers who walk in the door, and not my Comic Tools readers, who have truly done for me in the past. And besides, my broken life is finally back together enough that I feel like I can bust out a column about something regularly.

So, Hi! Surprise! And let me start my being back with the advice I have this old man: keep your nib clean while you work, always move it towards the concave belly, and always clean it when you're finished.

And Happy Birthday, Rivkah!