How I’m Now Inking My Work – Part 1

I started inking a new piece and I decided to do a little self-serving thing and talk about my “process”. I like inking by hand, its something I’ve always enjoyed. Later we can discuss that, inking over originals, etc… When I was in college, I thought about getting a job as an inker since it was, oddly enough, it was one of the things that was kinda calming in art. Its an art form in and of itself, but its a really nice way to relax.

So what does an inker do? Well, Chasing Amy did a good job of explaining it:

Which, oddly enough, is part of the reason I didn’t get a career as an inker, as well as why I made this tutorial; to show what an artist does in terms of inking their own stuff.

Step 1. One problem I had for years was not being happy with the line weights and getting something consistent. In order to change this, I decided to do something different: Start with a small pen and work up. Sounds simple, and to a degree it is.

So I start by mapping out most of the detail I want and some basic shapes. I tend not to work on the outlines yet and wait until later to give them extra power.
Oh, and listening to KMFDM helps. A lot. For some odd reason, it helps me to concentrate.

Step 2. With all the fine details done, its now time to start using another pen to start adding some emphasis and details. Now, one thing people may ask is what type of pen I use. Well, until 2003, I didn’t have a standard pen. I, like everyone reading this should, used a lot of different pens to get what I liked. I went from Straddler Rollingball pens and Sharpies to Micron Pens and Sharpies. I’ve never been good with a brush, and I envy the guys who did!

I use something called Faber-Castler PITT Artist Pens. They come in 4 really simple sizes: Small, Fine, Medium, and Bold. Simple, right? They use actual India Ink and the Bold is a brush. The downside is that the Bold dies faster than the others so I tend to buy more of them. If I need to do a really bold outline or some really interesting effects, I take out a brush and a bottle of India Ink.

So, at this point, I’m using the Fine pen to map out a lot more places.

Step 3. OK, this is where it gets tricky. Everything from here on out is nothing more than knowing what works and what doesn’t, and trying to make it all make sense. At this point, I take out my Medium pen and start working on some more of the thicker lines. In the case of this piece, its mostly based on perspective, so the more something is upfront, the thicker I make the line.

Step 4. I consider this the part where I make the piece sing! I take a Bold pen and start adding the dark shadows and really thick lines. Its actually interesting how I got to a point where I use a thick line around most of my work! In 2003, I met Joseph Michael Lisner at Wizard World 2003. At this point, I had met him a few times and I had just finished inking my first comic book (which… well, I won’t show it to anyone these days). I also showed him my first attempt at drawing Tattoo Flash art. He looked at the two and asked, “Hey, did you ever think about putting a bold line around your ink work? It seems to lend itself really well to it.”

I’ve done it ever since.

Step 5. Well, after all the hard work, we have a finished piece… or, really, an almost finished one.

From here is just refining and taking care of details before scanning it in. I need to erase all my pencil lines and certain things pop out more than usual at that point and really, its not as interesting as you may think.

Oh, and the nearly-finished inks:

This time, the pools of black REALLY helped to make it pop! I was worried about if it would work until the very end when I got to this point, and it really was worth it, you get a sense that this thing just emerged from the water and is read, and willing… TO KICK YOUR ASS!

Look out for Part 2 soon!

Some Useless Notes on Inking

I’m in the middle of inking 2, count them, TWO new pieces right now. I finished up the first (for now) and have started on the second. Its actually is amazing to me; to draw normally takes longer than to actually ink a piece! For this piece, which I call “Don’t!”, was actually a change. It is of a snake skeleton and if you’ve never seen one… well, they’re a lot more complicated then you think, especially the skull!

I started with a sketch in my sketchbook and blew it up to trace it since I loved the feeling and emotion of the sketch. The problem? The skull wasn’t accurate and I had to go back and fix it! So after getting the gesture, spending an hour on a sketch that didn’t help at all, I went back to the piece and it came out looking just great on the first try!

I spent, maybe, an hour sketching the piece and refining it. It took me nearly 2 1/2 hours to ink it! The skull alone took over an hour to ink!

I don’t know if its because I’m a little out of practice, but I think its actually because of the sheer amount of detail in the skull alone. I tried out a different inking technique then a lot of my recent work, with more of an emphasis on hatching than just clean lines. I’ve wanted to do that for a while and never got the amount of detail I wanted. This time, though, I got very close to it and its looking very faithful to the pencil sketch, a VERY hard thing for me to do!

The next piece I’m working on is similar to a few pieces I’ve done lately, but the final should be greatly different than a lot of what I have done! I’ve been inspired by a lot of my peers, and its in the early stages right now. I’ve got 2 hours until I head out, and if I want to do that, I need to get this one done AND done right! Or, at the very least, enough so I can take a well-deserved break.

I have a few notes on inking by hand versus digital and vector, but I’ll save that for later.

What Makes An Artist "Legit"?

Someone on a message board I got to started a new top called “What makes an artist legit?” It’s an interesting question, and a lot of people have opinions on it. The topic alone got around 80 different replies and comments in about 24 hours!

My opinion, my 2 cents on this matter? I have no fucking idea.

“What makes an artist legit?” is, to me, a fairly new question in human history. I think we can safely assume to a large degree that until the beginning of abstraction in art to such a large degree thanks to Impressionism and Dadaism, we were forced to ask, “What is art?” in the first place. We went from artists being these figures of society that were looked upon in aw and given money if they were smart to… well, the same thing.

When we think of an artist being “legit”, we tend to come up with ideas such as “honest”, “sincere”, “sheer expression”, and “not doing it for the money”.

So let’s look at two people: One person was commissioned to work. A lot. I mean A LOT! More work, in fact, than he could handle alone. In return, he hired people to work for him on his art while we focused on the more important stuff. He did really well and built up a great reputation. Another person is constantly drawing, painting, and creating pieces and loves art. The problem, though, is that he never sold any of his work. Nothing. Nada.

To most people, the second guy is more legit since he slaved over his work non-stop and never made a dime off it. If I mentioned he was always depressed and into self-mutilation, it starts to seem like someone who doodles and draws and writes bad goth poetry and wonders why no one likes their crappy anime drawings they have on Deviant Art. The first guy sounds like the type of guy most artists want to punch in the fact because it seems he’s distant from his art… like he’s a Creative Director or something,and most of society would say he’s not an artist, or a “legit” one.

Well, you guessed it, these people are actually really famous. Leonardo Da Vinci was able to get a ton of work and commissions thanks, not just to being brilliant, but for getting his name out there and working hard. Meanwhile, Vincent Van Gogh spent his entire life working and toiling in obscurity, wanting to sell his art and become a famous artist. In the end, he died alone, went color blind, and his art was worth millions…. and he never saw a cent.

In the eyes of many, both artitsts are legitament, not for how they created their art, but because of what they created.

I have a problem that I am willing to admit and share: I fell into the hype of the “artist”.

Society today has a meaning of “artist” that isn’t the reality. Many people think an “artist” is someone who spends their life in poverty and pain, putting paintings in the fire to stay warm and go through mental anguish and pain. Well that is true, it’s only half the reality. These same people also think that the output of the artist is always “honest”. It rarely ever is.

When I fell into the “hype” of being an “artist”, I stopped being honest. I went into a funk that lasted years where I just hated myself, yelled at myself, just felt worthless because I never thought that what I thought was “honest” WAS “honest”! Why? Because when you love what I do and create what I do, people come to the conclusion, as unfair as it is, that it’s NOT “honest”.

What is unhonest for one honest is pure honesty for someone else. I like Bill Watterson, and he always had a view of art different than me. When he created Calvin & Hobbess and went for syndication, he didn’t want anything more than the strips. He didn’t want to make cartoons, plush toys, greeting toys, stickers, t-shirts, or anything like that. In the end, he is known for being brilliant at what he did and taking the stand he did against a syndicate, something incredibly rare for an artist to take.

On the other side is… well, me. If Bill Watterson was the anti-capitalist artist, I’m the pro-capitalist one. I was born in 1985 and watched a lot of TV when I was a kid. I mean A LOT. I went outside and played, and I played with my toys a lot, but I was still a really ad-observant kid and its part of who I am. If I create something, something I want just for me, I can’t help but think how cool it would be on a shirt or an action figuer or something! I love toys, and I love having fun and decorating the things in the world around me.

A lot of people have taken this route in the modern day, too, namely a lot of street artists who I’m sure are considered “legit” despite the fact they could be making a nice tidy profit.

So what makes an artist “legit”? In the end, it means only one thing to me: Were they happy? IF you enjoy what you do, you’re as legit as anyone.

Photo thanks to Banksy! You kick ass!