I’m sure most people don’t care but I thought I’d explain why I’ve decided to start drawing comics digitally. I like reading about the creative processes and tools used by other artists so this post is for the few nerds like me. First off this is not the first time I’ve drawn comics on the computer. A great bulk of Kitty Litter was drawn digitally and I really liked it until writers block and the stress of schedules destroyed my love for producing comics all together. Throw in a broken wacom tablet not long after I quit Kitty litter and there you have the end of that digital period. I’ve stated before that when I started Slackmatic it was a real return to my roots. Drawing comics on paper at my old drafting table gave me a real feeling of nostalgia and helped rekindle my love for the comics medium. I was a kid again. But slowly I started getting a little uneasy with the process. And here’s why.
I love art tools. I love going to art stores and finding new pencils, brushes, pens and paper to try out. Unfortunately the selection at many art stores has dwindled as of late. I’ve left many an art store with out a thing in my hand, which has led me to have to order supplies over the internet. Which is OK and sometimes cheaper but requires much more planning on my part. Then let’s get to the tools themselves. I’ve never been much of an art snob but once you’ve been drawing for as long as I have you know what’s good and what you like. I’ve seen the quality of paper drop and drop. I’ve seen increased feathering and God forbid I’ve got a page with a bunch of black spots. The entire page curls up like a pirate’s map. I could buy even more expensive bristol but you’re talking a couple bucks a sheet and when you’re drawing up to 8 pages a month that’s a ton of money. Since page one of Slackmatic I’ve used Faber Castell brush pens for the lettering. I don’t know why I chose those but I did. I liked the brush like quality it gave the lettering I guess. However, I’d get maybe two to three pages of good lines out of the pen before it was reduced to squishy nub which made it feel like I was lettering with a sock. I tried a few other pens but never got the result I wanted. Now to brushes. November of 2013 I switched from inking with a pentel pocket brush to a real brush. The Winsor and Newton series 7 to be exact. I love this brush. If you’re an inker you know what I mean. It’s made from the tail of the Kolinsky weasel which is found in Russia and Asia and somehow its genetic code is programmed to take india ink very well and have great snap. I’ve had the same brush since then and it’s help up OK but I thought I’d get another one because it was starting to split. So I jump on the internet to order one and every art store I find is out of stock. Every one. Indefinitely. The reason has to do with an unapproved shipment of kolinsky hair from China and the US fish and Wildlife organization and what do I care I’ve comics to ink. I’m told the problem will be resolved but the whole situation led me to searching for alternatives.
Not too much to say here other than I hate scanning. It’s never been a huge reason to go digital but I hate it. The problem is I have a traditional scanning bed which is 8 1/2″ by 11″ and the pages I draw on are 11″by 17″ which forces me to scan in pages in two pieces. Sometimes this goes easily and sometimes a page is a little crooked and I have to spend more time than I’d like moving a page around to get it to fit. They make larger scanning beds but if I were to buy one I would have spent at least double what I spent on my current digital set up. So yeah. Not gonna happen.
Time and Portability:
Yes time and portability. These two things are the biggest reason I decided to go digital and they go hand in hand. As stated before I love drawing at my drafting table. I’ve been doing it at the same table since I was 13 and I’m 34 now. However, being chained to a table is not the most productive way to get comics out. Why you ask? Well I work a minimum of 50 hours a week at my day job which includes several 12 hour, fairly labor intensive days. When I get home, sitting hunched over a drafting table is not my idea of relaxing. Falling into my recliner or bed is though. And if I could figure out a way to hold my 11″ by 17″ bristol board with a vile of ink and a brush in bed without making a mess I would. But I can’t and if you CAN think of a way don’t tell me because I’ve already committed to this whole digital thing. So I started thinking, how could I draw comics wherever and whenever I want? And the answer was the Surface Pro 2. It’s small, has a touch screen, wacom digitizer and can easily run Manga Studio. I started thinking about getting a Suface a year ago when my wife got a tablet. I downloaded Manga Studio 4 on it and messed around a little but decided I wan’t quite ready to make the jump yet. When the whole kolinsky weasel brush shortage happened I started thinking about it again. And day after day when I would return home from work exhausted and I was laying in bed watching Star Trek thinking “I should really be at my drawing table” I thought about getting one even more. I agonized over this decision as this comic illustrates. I love inking and I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it and was afraid of losing that skill. But I love telling stories and drawing comics more. And if I can have a way to do that more often and still be happy with the results than I’m going to do it. And I did!
What’s Changing:
Uhhh nothing. Well ok the lettering changed. My first intent was to continue to hand letter on the surface. It looked OK but the Kid Kosmic font from blambot looked even better and I felt was close enough to my natural hand lettering. Other than that I’m drawing the comic the same as I used to, only on a screen and wherever I want, sometimes still at my drafting talbe. I’ve been using a digital version of my favorite brush and pencil and I’ve gotten pretty used to it. I also upgraded to Manga Studio 5 and it was well worth it. I’ve been using Photoshop for 10 years and I think I’m done with it. Manga Studio is a quarter the price and just as useful if not more useful for cartoonists. So in the end has the switch to digital made me more productive? Well I’m two weeks in and this is my third consecutive week with at least three posts so I’m gonna say yes. Time will only tell if I can keep that up but I’m pretty optimistic. If anything, the ability to draw silly stories about my day in bed with the lights out has made the change a good one.