As you can see, this is still unfinished–I was able to get the lettering done, but the computer is balking at handling shading. The laptop woes will probably be over soon, though! I’ll tell everyone about that anon 😀
Therefore, I have a lot of empty sketchbooks. Many of them are made for watercolour, which I used to do a whole lot more of than line art but have kinda sorta forgotten how to do now. As it happens, I have a lot of watercolour paints. Last week/month/year I went to the art store for comicking supplies and saw there was a 50%-off inventory-clearance sale (old-formula-pigment Quinacridone yellow to be had for less than the day’s coffee and morning cinnamon danish? I mean, who can say no to old-formula-pigment Quinacrindone yellow, amirite). But I realised that if I bought it, that too would go in the drawer with the supplies that aren’t used up because I’m always, always afraid to DO ART WRONG.
So, to get past this, I assigned the sketchbooks a purpose: In January, once a day, I’ll do variations of a subject in each of several sketchbooks; and not as an end in itself, not trying to do the Arting right, but to a technical and practical use–to determine the paper that best suits investing in more of the same. For the time when I might want to do a real sketch journal or go out for some for reals urban sketching or really use those fancy-palette watercolours in the way they deserve. It’s not that I’m messing up sketchbook pages so they won’t be inspiring carnets for others to see. This is specifically the task of figuring out which paper I like best. I’m trying spiral bound pads, and those economy watercolour paper blocks that are glued down on the sides and give you mad deep papercuts when you loosen a sheet, and softcover sketchbooks that come several to the shrink-wrapped package, and hardbound journals like what those urban sketchers use, and if the art is so-so–or so, so bad–so what. That’s not what this is for. This purpose does not include “BE PERFECT” anywhere in the description.
The sketchbooks, at least, have found a meaning in life for 2017.
Yesterday I only used Sennelier paints, plus that of Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold. This is on Cotman Montval 300gsm cold press paper:
Things I don’t plan to fret about just at the moment: perfect uniform details; perfect body proportions; perfect use of colour; colour theory (don’t get me started; at least, not in this post). The sloppiness isn’t bothering me at all, nope nope nope. I do need to care about skin tone–this particular paint sometimes dries paler than I’d expect, but I wanted to scan the drawing before I go back in with another glaze to fix Felix’s pallor. Maybe adding a layer will mess up the drawing, but, hey, that doesn’t bother me, nopey nope nopers, not at all I tell you.
On Arches 300gsm cold press watercolour pad, not going to get fussed about the wacky skin tone tests here either:
Pencils with washes, paint over waterproof ink, seeing how that works on the Arches paper:
This paper–Fluid 4×6-inch “Easy Block” cold press–I’ve deemed inexpensive enough to use for itty bitty test sketches and mixing and layering tests. Do I care that the sketch is completely wonky no of course I do not ha ha ha it’s fine no really i am ok with this:
Next test piece in progress in a Strathmore 400 series 300gsm watercolour sketchbook:
Semi-Related Recommendation: If you love the love of history and archaeology and discovery, and are in the mood for a quietly (and sometimes outrageously) funny comedy, try Detectorists, created by actor/writer/director Mackenzie Crook (The Office, Pirates of the Caribbean). It’s available in the US on Netflix. It gave me all the feels there are. It made me want to stick with something I love, even if it breaks my heart sometimes, even if it means ruining a perfect sketchbook cover. @detectorists
I gathered all the colour pencils I could find in the art drawers and arranged them by brand. Now there are Niji rolls everywhere. (I’ve given up the dream of having a home with a room just for arting and art supplies where they can be laid out on work tables and readily to hand, instead of crammed into drawers in a corner, but maybe for the next few days I can get away with calling the unrolled rolls holiday decorations. Maybe if I string lights on them.)
This post will be about the dry pencils only. I’ll get back around to the watercolour pencils later.
Utrechts as a brand name have been discontinued–they’ve been rebranded under the Blick name, though they’re purported to be manufactured still at the same Koh-I-Noor pencil plant in Czech Republic (the same plant where some of my antique pencils were made). The Utrechts can be found in open stock at Dick Blick stores, but they’re running out.
The verdict is still out on whether the Blick-branded pencils are the same as the Utrechts, and I don’t have a set of Blick pencils to compare. I do have the Blick blender, and I can definitely say that the Blick blender pencil was not as good as the Utrecht blender. The Blick was scratchy and did a mediocre job of it; the Utrecht, though presumably older stock, created a smoother blend. The Blick blender was equally as scratchy as the Caran d’Ache Full Blender pencil–which costs considerably more, crumbles into flaky bits, and overall has turned out to be a disappointment.
Utrecht/Blick pencils can be had for as low as 85 cents each, as opposed to US$3-$6 for the high-end pencils. At that price, the next time I’m downtown I can nab a few Blicks to compare to the Utrechts. If the Blicks hold up, they’re a reasonable budget pencil; you won’t have to feel twitchy about using them down to a nub.
SIDE NOTE: A reasonably priced brand that I’ve had trouble with lately is Prismacolor.
Some online reviewers say that new formulation has made the cores brittle, and substandard casing makes them difficult to sharpen. I’ve experienced that myself, until I just gave up on two Prismacolors at the halfway point, as I couldn’t get them to sharpen without constant breakage and splintering of the case. They seem to hold up until anything disruptive happens, such as dropping a pencil, or simply using it a lot.
These are the Utrechts:
And a little Damon scribble to try out a pale skin tone, just scribbled, not burnished to evenly smooth (the chin isn’t quite his):
The quality, ease of use, and waxiness vary from colour to colour. They wouldn’t be my first choice in brand–Polychromos probably wins–but they’re not so bad, they sharpen well, the points don’t wear down quickly. I managed to do a decent drawing of Iusta with them on plain Moleskine paper. They erase without a fight.
The assortment of colours I have in each brand is a bit random, rather than a thought-out palette. The easiest to use were the Faber-Castell Polychromos; I scribbled a little column in a garden, and that was that. I felt like I had to fuss with the Caran d’Ache Pablos until I’d overworked the image, then tried again, and fussed again. Polychromos and Pablo are oil-based pencils; the Caran d’Ache Luminance and Utrecht are wax-based. Some of the columns are a little tipsy.
(click on any of these images to see them larger)
Overall thoughts? I want to love the Luminance the most, for their vivid hues and lightfastness, but the Polychromos behave the best, have a nice smoothness to them that I appreciate. When I’m just doodling, playing with concepts or scribbling something I’ll later toss out, the Utrechts are a great option. I’ve been known to be up all night with insomnia and Netflix, drawing ideas and poses and wonky stuff that isn’t worth keeping. I fret about using up supplies, but I don’t have to tie myself in knots about using up or misplacing an inexpensive pencil; and it’s an inexpensive pencil that isn’t frustratingly waxy or hard to blend. Maybe it’s because pencil isn’t my primary medium, so I’m a little less exacting, but Utrechts don’t make me feel like I’m wasting energy not going right to top-of-the-line materials to doodle in a notebook.
A few days ago I rejected a comic in progress because the anatomy was off (arms all over the place), but since I’d already thumbnailed it out, I’ve decided to finish it. I was experimenting again with layout, and I’d like to follow through on the idea.
Here it is in thumbnails-and-sketches form; click pic to see the whole thing. NSFW for bare bottoms, female chests without nipples, suggestive balloon tail placement, and “what are those hands doing outside the panel borders?” I could make it completely SFW and tame, but this isn’t an all-ages comic and, as I frequently pontificate, it wouldn’t be an issue if the images were merely battlefield slaughter and bloody assassinations. It’s also probably NSFW for being on the topic of “three portraits of using sex to get someone’s attention.” This would work as the alt tag.
The final version will be a wee bit censored, and there will be some tweaks to the balloon placement/flow. I’d have posted this WIP as a bonus on Patreon, where I don’t feel as concerned about little kids meandering by, but I’m still waiting on follow-up from Patreon tech support on technical issues.
For those who don’t follow @spqrblues on Twitter, where I sometimes post works in progress while I’m drawing at the Carmine St. Comics art space, here’s yesterday’s warmup exercise, done on a blank cover variant for a new Archie Comics series featuring Riverdale High’s resident tall-dark-and-handsome villain, Reggie Mantle, as seen through the eyes of his loyal pooch.
I’ll have to get around to adding a real (not Photoshopped) “FELIX” banner to the bottom.