Hm, Alistair feels like talking. Wonder where this is going to go. Lucy’s thing of calculating the ages on gravestones is something I like doing as well, especially on the super old gravestones you see in the graveyards around Halifax. It amazes me how long people lived, even back in the 17 and 1800s; there seem to be many stones with people who’d lived into their late 70s and 80s. However, that might be because they were important enough to merit a gravestone. As I mentioned in a previous post, there is one graveyard in downtown Halifax which has over 12,000 people buried in it, but only 1,200 markers. So maybe no marker if you die young?
There are also a lot of families buried in the old graveyards around here, and sometimes seeing their gravestones can be kind of heartbreaking. I remember one couple who lived into their eighties, but their large gravestones were surrounded by five tiny gravestones: all their children had died before their 20th birthday.
Thanks for all the great info about people who’d died at sea, btw! You guys are super knowledgeable. I thought there might be an absentee grave-marker tradition in place (living in a historical city by the sea for the last five years has impressed on me how much seafaring traditions mean to the place), and it’s nice to know more about it.
On a completely different note, I’ve been thinking about my giant blog post about my comic making process (glad you guys enjoyed that!), and I just wanted to add a few more thoughts about making art, although these are a little more abstract.
Basically, I wanted to stress that nothing is more important than finding the art tools and methods that work for you. The tools I use (and talked a lot about in that blog post) are tools I took a very long time to find. I like to show them to people because they might be the right tools for you to make art with as well, and my telling you about these tools might save you a few years of flailing about trying to find the right equiptment to draw with. Or they might be the completely wrong things for making your comics.
For example, the Pentel brush pen. I used to do all my comics with the Pentel. I drew Zombies Calling with it and The War at Ellsmere. Also, about half of Brain Camp. For comparison, here’s an early panel from Brain Camp, inked with a Pentel:
And here’s a panel after I switched to inking with my current inking tool, a Winsor & Newton Series 7 watercolour brush (and bottle of ink):
To me, one panel shows a lot more technical skill. My opinion is that my art got a lot better once I found a brush that allowed me to develop my drawing style in a realistic direction. I don’t know why that made my art better, but it did. Art is weird like that: sometimes something works when it shouldn’t, and doesn’t when it should. ART! It will drive you crazypants, amirite?
Anyway, the point is, I know people who use the Pentel, or even cheap-arse brush markers and make gorgeous artwork, because these are the tools that work for them. I remember once watching Darwyn Cooke draw the crap out of a Spirit sketch using a brush marker, a tool I frankly hate. I feel like I’m inking with mittens on when I use a brush marker, but that dude could make it do magical things. It just worked for him.
So I guess my rambling point is, find what works for you. Buy weird crap at your local art store, and give it a try. Something that is cheap and busted might work better than a $70 brush.
One of the worst experiences I ever had in art school was trying to learn to lifedraw. I HATED lifedrawing. I had to use a smudgy charcoal-like stick (I think it was called conte) and draw on giant sheets of paper. I dreaded lifedrawing. Nothing I drew looked right or felt right. When I graduated from animation college, I swore I’d never lifedraw again. I was terrible at it, and didn’t know how to do it right.
Well, unfortunately, that wasn’t an option, because in order to get better at drawing people, you have to lifedraw. I believe this firmly: you must draw lots of naked people, and learn your anatomy and what people really look like in order to draw great cartoon people. I really think this is one of the cardinal rules of making great looking comics. But what could I do? I hated lifedrawing. The answer came from changing how I did my lifedrawing.
I decided: no more giant sheets of newsprint, or standing at an easel. That made me feel uncomfortable. I would sit in a chair, and I would draw with the tools I enjoyed using, which was ink and pencil. So I did. I drew some naked people that way, and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I didn’t make great drawings, but I liked what I was doing. Later, Dr.Sketchy’s Anti-Art School came to Halifax, and I started drawing there. The laid back atmosphere was a really nice enviroment to draw in, as were the costumes some of the models wore (some, I wish, wore a little less costume. I wanted to learn how to draw bodies as well as clothes). Lifedrawing went from something scary and frustrating, to something enjoyable. I’m not saying I got good at drawing people all of a sudden, but that didn’t matter so much. What mattered is that I was doing it.
So, final conclusions … go and draw, don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid to ignore the instruction of professionals and teachers. I offer my advice about making comics with an asterisk: it is what works for me, but it may not work for you. And that is just fine, really.
Btw, you can see some of my Dr.Sketchy’s drawings on my Facebook page (beware, contains scantily clad women, so maybe NSFW).