Sunday, 18 November 2007


I find it a little bit annoying that I haven't been able to settle on a style yet for this project. I haven't found one for Mademoiselle de Maupin either. It's not as if I haven't got anything more basic to do and learn than develop a style for these stories - I mean, writing a scenario would be a nice start ;-). But for some reason I like to know about the visual element too; it goes hand in hand with the story and atmosphere for me, and I am used to developing both at once. For my previous project things actually started with the style and developed from there. So I'm feeling a bit blah about my inability to settle on a particular visual approach. I did a few try-outs, but none of them feels right so far.

The first thing I tried was inking with Faber-Castell PITT pens (see image above). Compared to my earlier inking style, it is rather loose (I used a brush pen as well as a more ordinary one), with an attempt at slightly more realistic shadowing. I don't really know what to think of the result. I guess that for me it is not neat enough, but on the other hand I am not sure whether my usual preference for a more polished style is all that suitable to a story about a brutal war...

Despite my love of black and white illustration, I rarely use quill pen and ink, and have never ever attempted to ink with a brush. I can't control them very well, and only started to ink my drawings when I discovered Staedtler pens - teensy felt tip pens that don't run, don't stain, dry very quickly and produce really neat lines. With them I have about as much control over the linework as I am ever likely to get. The drawback is that they don't allow much variation in the lines in the way that quill pens or brushes do when you apply pressure or swirl them. Drawings done with Staedtler pens arguably lack in spontaneity, too - they are perhaps more static than pictures done with a quill or brush, or at least they are when I am drawing.

In this drawing of Catuvolcos and Ambiorix I thought I would give classic inking a try. It is done with quill, brush and waterproof Chinese ink. I suppose the result could have been worse, but I am not entirely happy with it. Once more it is not quite neat enough to my liking, though that may be because I am just not adept enough at using these tools. Also, I am wondering whether my lack of insight into realistic shadowing does not make this type of drawing look merely clumsy.

Another thing I tried was to combine graphite pencil linework with colour pencil. I am not yet comfortable using colour in a comic; up until now I have always worked in black and white. But the Celts were a colourful people, so much so that the Greeks and Romans felt obliged to report on the many and bright colours of their clothing. Not to use colour means not to counteract the drab costuming in so many films...

One problem I already have to face is that the scanner, for one, does not like my pencil colouring very much. Quite apart from my merits in using pencils, the subtleties just don't register in the scan :/. I am garantueed to have trouble if I should try to get art like this printed from scans. It just won't look the way it should, and it's not a mere matter of enhancing contrast in Photoshop - I tried that.

Apart from that, I don't suppose it is very practical to use only pencils and no inks. I need to try a combination of colour and inks and see where it takes me. I have no idea whether inks and colour pencils combine well... So far I have only ever tried inks with watercolour, but that requires special paper, which is not very practical either.

If I manage to sort my colouring problems out, I should very much like to adopt clear colour schemes for each main character. It would make them more recognisable, and say something about the character at the same time. For Ambiorix I want blue and gold, and royal purple for Vercingetorix. Rigantona, as a priestess, I would dress in vivid greens. Green is the colour of the supernatural and of nature; I should like to give my druids green clothes too, in order to avoid the cliché image of the white-clad bearded man who is in remarkably little evidence outside of Roman sources.

I'm not sure about Comm's colours yet. My very first plans involved lots of black for him, but I wonder whether that wouldn't be a little too unusual. I'm still considering it. Maybe a black cloak and a red tunic? Volca will probably end up in browns and reds - warm colours, but not too striking. She isn't supposed to be someone who likes to draw attention to herself, unlike Ambiorix, who is a bit of a showoff.

Anything watercolour-related takes a bit more preparation than anything you see in this post - I can't just try it out in my sketchbook, because for sketching I like a very smooth sort of paper, and watercolour simply doesn't catch on that. I will be posting painted colours for comparison, hopefully soon, and comments and advice are very welcome :-).


the comics expert said...

I can't really give you any advice, but I've recently re-acquainted myself with a buddy who's studying animation. I'll inquire as to his experience, appreciation etc.

On another note: fun stuff! I do think, regardless of colour or B&W, solid shapes is the way your art shines. Even if colour ends up in the end result (and by all means, I feel it should) the linings need solids and little in the way of rendering. I know, I've got it easy.
Keep it coming!

ampersand said...

I confess I have let Sebbe's comment about clear line worry me a little too much. I love clear line, though it doesn't make things easy, but I felt a little stung and tried, I guess, to prove that I can do something else too. Only - the results don't satisfy me all that much. I miss my clear line :P.

I'm going to experiment a little further to see if I can find a solution to my colour problem; I'd love to hear what you animation friend has to say. I am also considering Sebbe's tips: he said to ink the normal way, then photocopy the inks very faintly on watercolour paper, paint, scan the paints and inks, and stick the inks over the paints in Photoshop. It sounds like an elaborate process, but I can see distinct advantages in it. Could work for pencils too, if I can find a way to render the pencils properly on a scan...

the comics expert said...

What did that Sebbe guy say exactly, again?
I've heard of that process, sure, if it works for you. Give it a try, we'll see.

ampersand said...

Apparently - but I didn't hear it directly from him, so I am not sure what exactly was said - he voted against my Oscar story because he has a thing against clear line. On the other hand, that might have been only part of the reason, because Peter also told me that they all agreed I had grown as an artist between the Oscar story and the Snape comic...

I think I just have an altogether more traditional take on comics than most of the Plots crowd. Sebbe's problem with clear line might be part of that.

As for the Photoshop thing, I have to figure out again how to paste two images together. A few months ago I could do it, but I have forgotten it again! *headdesk*

the comics expert said...

I recall what he said now. Ridiculous and at the same time impossible to comment on further, a criticism like that.
I dunno if you're all that 'traditional'. It's all about the labels and what they mean to whom. I'm sure Sebbe's fine, but plenty of material in the magazine's... typical. Anyway, RL discussion.