March 25, 2012

Hi new people!

For any regulars who didn't see my facebook post or tweet about it, Heidi at The Beat wrote a post about last week's entry, specifically in regard to the articles by Jim MacQuerrie I posted last week regarding three current cinematic archers. (By the way, it turns out Jim is also a cartoonist. Here's his site.) I'd like to welcome the new readers and fill you in on what this blog is.

Comic Tools blog is a resource, first and foremost. The blog was started by writer/cartoonist MK Reed (who just put up a new chapter of her comic About a Bull, based on Celtic legend, go see.) Comic Tools blog began as an interview blog. MK is a very social person, very amiable, and much more developed in her writing than her art, though I rather like her drawings myself. She decided that the way she'd find out about drawing tools and techniques was to ask people whose work he liked, and she figured as long as she was educating herself she'd educate the world while she was at it, so she made a blog of it. Here's an old post by MK, surveying Hope Larson, a longtime good friend of this blog.

Eventually for various reasons MK couldn't work on the blog anymore. By this time I was an ardent Comic Tools fan. Mk had started branching out from the rigid survey interview into posts about tools. I LOVE process and craft stuff, it's sort of my thing. MK had even linked to a few posts from my personal blog. When MK decided her time at Comic Tools was at an end she asked if I wanted to keep it going. I said yes absolutely.

For awhile I hewed pretty close to the format MK had established, interviews and tool info interspersed with illustrative pictures and links to interesting articles or websites.As I became more comfortable as this blog being my thing I started doing tutorials. I love tutorials. I can't decide whether I like reading or making them more, but goddamn do I love the passing on of hand skills with illustrated text. Some were strictly about physical tools, like how to use ruling pens, or brush care, or how to keep your white out from ever drying out. I built the camera mask, which allows me to take POV photos of both of my hands at the same time, so when readers go to replicate a technique it looks to them just like it did in the pictures.

Other posts used a more expanded definition of tools, to include not just physical tools, but mental tools. Little bits of craft that can be implemented immediately with little or no practice, which will instantly improve someone's art, regardless of their style or level of ability. This post on Balloon shape is one of my favorites.

I was working on a major book project at the time that required me to really beef up my ability to render somewhat naturalistic figures, and I found that when I went looking for good anatomy resources for comic drawing, there basically were none. Human anatomy texts basically tell you "Here is a box. Here is a picture of every muscle, vein, and ligament in the body. And here is a useless visual metaphor for how some parts move by George Bridgman. Now just draw the box and then fill in perfect anatomy." The very best human anatomy resources for artists, the guides by Andrew Loomis, still basically say "Here's some basic shapes, now just lay perfect anatomy over them." That's when I did the anatomy posts, which I'm most proud of of anything I've done here. I am the first person, to my knowledge, to create a system for drafting or checking anatomy for comic drawing. My basic shapes can be used with no further additions to position and correctly proportion any humanoid character, no matter how cartoonish. If you take them a step further, merely by adding a few dots and connecting some lines, you have a good enough skeleton to check really basic non-realistic anatomy on, especially helpful with weird poses or characters you can't quite draw on model yet. Finally, because all of the basic shapes are based on real skeletal features and not boxes approximating body masses, you can hang muscles off them, with as much or as little realism as you like, very easily.

Those posts, and the tool posts, started to bring in a pretty big readership, enough that I had a brain pool to draw from. I could ask my readers, which include many professionals, for help with topics they knew that I didn't, and in comments readers will chime in with incredibly useful information, which I'll then post. Readers have done whole posts for the blog, in fact, even photo tutorials.

I'm the current author of Comic Tools blog, but what this really is is a centralized, free, one stop resource for information about making comics, most especially the sort of information I don't see available anywhere else. I hate how difficult it can be to find basic craft information about comics, even in colleges. Again and again it's like artists have to learn from scratch. How would it be if science were that way, for goodness sake? The goal of this blog is, and will continue to be, a one stop resource for knowledge about the craft of making comics, drawing from an enormous brain trust of artists we've interviewed, readers who are most of them working professionals, and every post, article, and book I can lay my hands on. When someone is just starting with brushes and has no idea how to use them, or wonders what a lettering nib is, or wonders what Jim Woodring uses to make his distinctive lines, they should know Comic Tools Blog is here with the answers, and if we don't already have it, we'll find out and post it.

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