Sunday, April 24, 2011

Man versus machine versus competence

I'm always tinkering with the way I work to see if I can do better. Working purely digitally has vastly improved the finished standard of my comics, as I was never a great draughtsman and my composition was weak when I started working that way. But there are downsides to it - I have no originals to sell (an important part of many cartoonists' income), and I have to rely on a lot of expensive equipment. The trade-offs are worth it in terms of time saved and the knowledge that errors made in ink aren't fatal (the latter took a lot of stiffness out of how I draw, on or off the computer).

But I thought I'd have a go at inking some of my Manga Studio "pencils" traditionally and the results were very interesting!

I made a "blueline" out of my Manga studio page and printed it out at A3 portrait size (about 29cm high). I probably made it a bit pale, which created a few extra problems.

I had a go at inking with a Sailor variable-width nib fountain pen and a 0.3 graphic pen.

Now, bearing in mind that I had printed the panels out at twice the height and width I used to draw them at in the old pen and ink days; it was very hard to achieve the accuracy and detail I get on the Cintiq, and I mangled a lot of details on the first page I tried. The page was full of tiny figures that I suppose I have become very used to zooming in on to ink on-screen. I had no idea. I'm not sure that I could have accurately finished their features with a pin, let alone a pen.

I pretty much got to grips with this panel, but I was very aware as I worked on it that I couldn't really do any decision-making as I inked, something I've got very used to. It's not like I spend my time deleting a lot of things and re-doing them (inks only take me about an hour) but I really felt like I was missing things as I went around. Probably because I could barely see what I was doing.

This is the original panel as-was. If you compare this to the pencils and my quick inked version, you can see how much of the final brain-work is done in this stage.

Neither of these techniques is a panacea. I enjoy the level of precise-ness I can achieve with the computer, but I can never achieve the spontaneous, exciting shapes I can get with ease using traditional means. All those precise tiny lines come after I do the hard work of composition with a pencil and paper in thumbnails. It's just a style that does a job on the sort of comics I do. If I'm trying to make a point here, it's that once you've mastered the basics, just do whatever works best. But try to keep your hand in with everything.


Hayley said...

hey mr. allison, i don't know if you read the comments, but i wanted to leave one for a few reasons. i'm a HUGE fan and have been for several years. i'm also secretly collecting just such tips as these in the hopes that once i'm done graduate school i'll have time to try my hand at webcomics, as i've wanted for so long. so i love reading stuff like this. thanks for sharing.

i was thinking recently about your comment (somewhere) that what you do is like being a plumber who does plumbing work for free and then sells the homeowner a sandwich to make ends meet. and i think this is sort of how the music industry is becoming, too--most people don't pay for music, but support bands by going to shows and buying t-shirts. maybe this is the way of the world nowadays? it does seem odd.

anyway if i ever get a job (soon, soon) i will be making a huge purchase of "sandwiches" to help you make ends meet so you can keep drawing the best comic on the web (and i read a lot of webcomics).

Juan Ochoa said...

I agree completely, the contiq takes soemthing away from my lines... *sigh*