April 22, 2012

This week: 3mm lead holder battle

So finally, a comparison between two of the cheapest currently available 3mm lead holders. There's the Graffiti, given to me by Comic Tools reader Alberto, and the Koh-i-noor, which I bought on Amazon.

First, a word on why I'm using these, when I already have a perfectly good 2mm lead holder, and more leads for it than I could use in several years. As I'm developing a style of drawing for this book I'm working on, I'm being led towards a method involving colored leads. I want erasable leads, and not a lot of colored leads are erasable. If you like thin leads like those in a mechanical pencil, several readers suggested the Pilot Color Eno leads. Reader Greg H had this to say about them:
I can back-up that recommendation for the Pilot Color Eno soft blue. I got hooked on the col-erase pencils while working in animation, but started to look for something that wasn't so hard and waxy. The Pilot leads have a softness that makes them pleasurable to sketch with and they erase beautifully. Aside from Jetpens, you may find a supplier on ebay.

Stay away from the Uni color leads if you're the least bit ham-fisted like me. They snap repeatedly. 
Pilot is a great company and with so many similarly enthusiastic recommendations I'd say that if erasable colored leads for your mechanical pencil is what you want, those are what you should buy. They come in different colors, btw.

But I'm starting to really shy away from thin pencil tips, which is why I like my lead holder. I can go pointy or blunt like with a pencil, but I don't waste all the lead that you do with a pencil. (Yes I know they make special cigarette holder type dealies for when pencils get short, but why pay for the wood and extra assembly?)

Here's where we get to this post from two weeks ago, wherein I dissected out the lead of a Prismacolor ColErase pencil to put into my lead holder and found that it didn't fit.

So, if you are an insane person like me, and you have a wood pencil lead (which is usually 3mm), and you don't want to just use the damned pencil, and instead you want to use it's lead in a lead holder, these are your two cheapest options.

1: Graffiti
 I thought the shortness of this thing would bug me. I figured either it would be awkward to hold, like knives with small handles can be, or that it's balance would be all messed up. I also worried that the thickness would make it feel clunky and imprecise to draw with, the way those things you put on pencils to help ease carpal strain can. In fact, this tool is quite the fleet and natural in hand. The fatness is actually up in your hand, not at your fingertips, and your precision feels just the same as if you were using a fine pencil. Yet because of the fatness farther back, your grip is eased and comfortable. The taper  towards the back hits right about where the webbing of your thumb is, so there isn't thick wood hindering you when you swing the pencil about into different grips. And the length is such that my tiny hands can actuate the lead feed ball without moving my hand up the shaft. 

What affects it's performance the most, and is what in my opinion would divide people over these holders, is the weight. It's VERY light, and what that means for me is my hand will get ahead of itself, especially when using harder leads, and lead me to be less precise with my marks. I've found I love it for thumbnailing, but it's a bit of a nuisance for more detailed drawing. 

One last thing, it lacks an integral sharpener. I don't care because I prefer a knife sharpened pencil point, but if you're not so good with a blade it could be trouble, as it won't fit into a lead pointer. 

2: Koh-i-noor
 I loved this the second I touched it. I was worried about the lack of knurling near the tip, but it turned out that just like with pocket knives, a textured handle often hides the sin of poor ergonomics. This pencil is weighty, metal, and confidence inspiring. It's not so heavy that it's hard to draw with, which I was also worried about after having had a past lead holder that was. But the weight does affect the drawing- the weight of the pencil will make a mark, and when you draw circles and straight lines it steadies your hand with a reassuring pressure that make precision drawing seem easier and less scary. I found myself not needing to hold my breath as much when drawing straight lines or precise curves. On the other hand, if you try to sketch all crazy fast it's intertia will inhibit you, slightly. I've found that I like this holder for finish pencils.

It has an integral sharpener in the lead feed button, and it works well. The pocket clip is VERY robust. You aren't going to lose it.

If you want one, you can buy it here.

Remember the entry I did awhile back where I linked to some articles about how piss-poor movie Hawkeye's archery form was? Well David Aja seems to be doing the opposite of that.  Almost comically so. Google basically any drawing of Hawkeye and these look cooler than whatever bullshit he's doing in those, I'll tell you that.

Remember that entry I did awhile back about Oblique nib holders? Here's Dennis Pachenko using one:

I'm using a Hunt Imperial 101 nib with an oblique nib holder. For the bigger letters I'm using C5 and a C6 lettering nibs. The Hunt 101 is very flexible for some line weight variation, but thicker than the Hunt 102.
I'm really intrigued by the simple and effective way Joseph Lambert conveys Hellen Keller's mental picture of herself and her surroundings in his comic biography of her teacher, Annie Sullivan. It's one of those effects only possible in our wonderful medium.

April 14, 2012

This week: World, meet Elizabeth.

I got the lead holder I ordered, but it shipped from the Czech Republic and arrived a lot later than I thought, so I have not had time to properly test it. So instead I thought I'd share with you a milestone I had this week.

As either a nerd who reads everything too thoroughly and retains everything, or as a stalker compiling facts about my life, you may be aware from past entries that I basically didn't draw anything for almost a year and a half, and that I am nonetheless working on a book written by a friend of mine. I've mostly been doodling and doing character design while my drawing hand slowly regains it's lost abilities and my mind remembers dozens of lost tricks. I've mostly been working on one character, the female lead character, Elizabeth. Some of you have probably had the experience,when designing characters for a story, that there's always at least one character whose likeness escapes you. You can't quite capture their glance, or the line of their jaw. You draw face after face and the expressions on them aren't the expressions your character would make. (By the way, something that goes a long way to solving that, and this is one of those tricks I forgot with disuse, is whenever you draw a character's face, think the thought they're thinking at that moment. Same for the whole pose, actually. Think the thought they're thinking, and your picture will look like a character existing and doing, and not like a posed wax figure.) I had actually captured her general appearance my first time out, in this quick sketch:

But in this sketch she looks menacing, troubled. And she actually smiles a fair amount in the book. But she's not a character to whom smiling comes easily; it wouldn't be her expression at rest. The other tricky thing about her is, her face is designed around animal features, a reflection of her true nature. And although she'll never look as animal as she does in these sketches,

I do want to be able to subtly make her more or less animal in some scenes. All the non human characters will share this general design attribute.

So my quest was, take that first drawing and find out what she'd look like smiling. That proved to be difficult. In the end I'd do 202 drawings, all unsuccessful. Many, like these, looked good as drawings, but simply weren't her:

The problem with character design is, you're trying to capture the likeness of someone you've never seen until you draw them. I finally started making small drawings that almost looked like her, like these,
So I decided to go bigger. That led to this drawing. And there Elizabeth was, finally smiling at me: (at Daniel, actually.)

Now, by no means is this a good drawing as a drawing. It's lopsided, fails the mirror test, and is far, far too overwrought. But none of that matters because this isn't a finished drawing, it's a sketch, and it's the sketch in which Elizabeth finally revealed herself. I can now imagine her making any expression at all, striking any pose at all, in the way Elizabeth would and no one else.

The title image is just this drawing photoshopped a bit to show more of what I see when I look at this drawing: I always see my inks when I look at my penciled drawings, even rendered ones.

Kate Beaton's Katniss
is the best Katniss.

I love it when Craig Thompson posts about pages that would have been perfectly good and shows how he pushed them to make them amazing.

I get such a kick out of this drawing by Sam Hiti:

April 7, 2012

Col-Erase leads

There aren't any.

Let me back up.

So, many of you don't pencil with graphite pencil that requires erasing afterwards. Many of you use blue pencil, or red, or whatever. Because we have scanners now you can use just about any color you want to. Well anyway, one gripe many have with colored pencils and colored mechanical pencil leads is that if you DO want to erase them, they don't erase well, if at all. The reason is the wax binder they use. You can buy the fabulous Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils, but if you're like me and you both loath pencils and prefer lead holders, you're SOL because they don't sell just the leads, they only sell pencils.

Well you know me, that just wasn't going to do at all. So my first thought was, I'll just split the pencil open, carefully remove the lead, and put it into my lead holder. Well, getting it split open worked great...

...and then I found out the lead inside is 3mm wide and my lead holder is 2mm. Wouldn't fit. And there aren't a lot of 3mm lead holders on the market. So, I put out the call to see if anyone had one to spare. No one wrote back for a bit with what I needed, so I bought this one on Amazon, which is still on it's way. But in the meantime, Comic Tools reader Alberto dug up one of his Grafitti 3mm lead holders, and graciously sent it along to me, along with a ton of other goodies. Look at this load!

Included in the package was, appropriately, a non-photo blue pencil,

a whole bunch of leads in various unusual packages, including this flippy door one,this wooden one,

and this very unusual pack of short leads in what I can only describe as a cardboard blister packet:

He also sent the replacement guts for two sizes of Staedtler Marker.
So here is the extracted lead, and the pencil to fit it:

And here they are together. Exactly what I wanted!

So what I'm gonna do next week is review the two lead holders against one another, since they're actually still both for sale, and see which comes out on top.

In the meantime, my great thanks to Alberto, you are too generous!

Oh, and it looks like someone tipped Jesse off about my attempt at fundraising for his podcasts. Thanks, whoever! See you next week!