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seawigs part 5: pens, ink and brushes

Yesterday I posted a photo of this work-in-progress illustration for Oliver and the Seawigs:



And I got a couple questions about it on Twitter:



So here's the answer! To illustrate my story with Philip Reeve, I'm using a mix of metal nibs and a brush pen; mostly the nibs so far, because I can be very precise with them, but occasionally the brush pen for thicker lines, or when I want to fill in a large area and have it dry quickly. (India ink can take ages to dry, and I'm always having to pick gloppy bits off my scanner window.) I was playing around with the big swan feather nib, for a big blobby line, but I haven't needed it yet for this book.




I don't know if the Winsor & Newton ink is the best ink, it's just the one I found at the shop and have been using for awhile, because it's a big bottle. That said, I had to throw away at least a third of my last big bottle because it went sludgy after a couple years. And I always have a little jam jar with water in it and a paper towel to rinse ink off the nib every so often, so it doesn't clog. Occasionally I'll give a nib a really good clean by putting it in a tea cup, pouring boiling water over it, swishing it around with a toothpick, then wiping off the loosened ink with a paper towel. Comics artist Will Kirkby got me using Deleter nibs, I think he may have even gone and bought me a pack because he was so sure they'd work for me. My studio mate, Gary Northfield, uses them, and I think he also draws with Deleter ink. The wider of the two nibs is the Deleter nib and the narrow, round one is a Gillott mapping nib.



Pentel's brush pen is a lovely thing. Lots of people dip brushes into their ink instead of using brush pens, but I find this particular ink goes clumpy on my brushes so quickly that it doesn't seem to work for me. Gary got me into using Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens, the 'F' pen seems to work for most things when I need a regular sort of line, not the flexible line I can get with a nib. (All these pens have waterproof ink, which is handy when I want to add paint, but I'm not using paint for this book.)

So here's an update on the artwork progress. I'll take you through all the stages on this one. Here are the thumbnail roughs, and the same roughs but with some tone added (by tone, I mean the non-black, non-white bits).



Then the pencil rough, also with tone, because I decided I wasn't going to outline the mountain, just surround it with the sky colour to make it stand out.



And the final artwork with blue tone. I still haven't picked the exact blue I'm going to use, I really hope I can get it right. I kept the guidelines around the edges to show you what's called 'bleed'. When you make an illustration, often you need to have a little extra bit around the edges so that if the printers cut the paper slightly out of line, it won't be obvious. For this book, the designer, Jo Cameron, told me that I need to leave 5mm around the edges.



The left-hand page gives you a little hint about how Mr and Mrs Crisp first met each other. Actually, Mr Crisp looks a lot like my dad, but with a beard (photo here, scroll down). Dad's always been a big mountaineering enthusiast. When I was a kid, we always had Mr Rainier looming over us, in the same way you see Mr Fuji in postcards from Japan. My dad decided that climbing Mr Rainier would be a sort of coming-of-age thing for my sister and me when we each turned 16. So we joined his mountain climbing buddies and practiced getting into harnesses and hanging from trees to simulate falling into a crevasse, and using caribiners and Prusik slings and things to haul ourselves up. I thought I could draw an ice axe from memory, but looking at this video about ice axe arrests, I realise I got it wrong. (Note to self: go back and fix the ice axe.)



Here's what it looks like down a crevasse on Mr Rainier. It's SO BLUE! I wish I had photos from mountain climbing, but I think they're all back in the USA with my parents.



I also wish I could show you photos or a video from Mr Rainier's ice caves. When I was a kid, we visited these huge blue caves, like cathedrals, they were some of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. But they melted a bit and all fell down. Since I can't show you that, here's a video from steam vents inside the crater. I don't know the guy in the video, but I've passed either him, his dad or his brother while climbing on the mountain, I remember my dad and his climbing partner pointing out the guy. I'm not sure exactly who it was, but the Whittaker family and Mt Rainier sort of go together, they're all over that piece of rock. My dad almost worships this mountain. Some day I hope I'll have a chance to make a comic about it or something.

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Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
missaprilnash
Sep. 20th, 2012 06:42 am (UTC)
Wowzers!
This is AMAZING! :D it's exciting to know what materials other artists use, you can pick up some brilliant tips! (Although I tend to clean my brushes in cups of tea - Mostly because I'm not paying attention to where I'm putting it!)I love watching the progress of Seawigs! :D Exciting! x
jabberworks
Sep. 20th, 2012 07:00 am (UTC)
Re: Wowzers!
Thanks so much, April! Ha ha, I do that with cups of tea, too, especially when I'm watercolouring. Oh, and this:



Edited at 2012-09-20 07:00 am (UTC)
chamonkee
Sep. 20th, 2012 09:09 am (UTC)
It seems so long ago since those days. I just use pencils now. Also I hope alls well down south :)
jabberworks
Sep. 20th, 2012 09:20 am (UTC)
Hello, Will! *waves northward*
(Anonymous)
Sep. 20th, 2012 09:17 am (UTC)
Seawings
Really interesting for you to talk so much about technique and materials. Very generous.
(Anonymous)
Sep. 20th, 2012 09:19 am (UTC)
Seawings?
I of course meant Seawigs.
jabberworks
Sep. 20th, 2012 09:21 am (UTC)
Re: Seawings?
Ta! :D
(Deleted comment)
bunn
Sep. 20th, 2012 10:31 am (UTC)
Excellent question, I have the same problem!
(Deleted comment)
jabberworks
Sep. 30th, 2012 07:26 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, thanks for the reminder! I must do a scanning blog post. My scanner is pretty awesome, but it's just a standard A4 Epson scanner. And I do tweak the images in Photoshop. If I scan in Grayscale, I generally turn up the Brightness and Contrast, in roughly equal amounts. (Sometimes I try changing the Levels.) But if I'm scanning hard-edged black line work, I scan at 1200dpi in Bitmap, then bring it down to 600dpi. That keeps things pretty clean, no hidden shadows.

The Grayscale shadows are annoying, I can't always see them on my laptop screen. I've tried loads of things, recalibrating the screen, changing the screen brightness, but I still don't catch everything.
(Deleted comment)
jabberworks
Sep. 30th, 2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
Cool! Bitmap scanning works well for solid ink, but it's useless for pencil drawing.
kirstymcallister.blogspot.co.uk
Sep. 20th, 2012 11:54 am (UTC)
I like the effect of the non-outlined mountain.
I haven't used pen & ink for a while, but I used to clean my nibs with meths - worked really well. I think a spot of it could be used to dilute ink too?
jabberworks
Sep. 30th, 2012 07:27 pm (UTC)
Oo, that's a good tip! Cheers!
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