Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lazy Eye Process

Most of my panel cartoons only have captions, but occasionally I draw one that includes a voice or thought balloon. In this example, the position of the balloon seemed obvious, but what I overlooked was the positioning of the elements. The monolith and volcano were both needed in background, and they are—without fail—always arranged in a left to right layout (google Mordor, you'll see).
  When I drew the initial thumbnail, I placed Frodo on the left, thinking it felt natural since he was speaking. Unfortunately, this created a problem with linking the voice balloon to him—and I didn't want to contrive an odd connector snaking underneath and around Mt. Doom. So in the final draft I swapped the characters' positions to bring order back to Middle-earth.

By the way, wouldn't you love to try that Lembas bread? I imagine it tastes like a good batch of buttery Scottish short bread with a hint of lemon. Or a lemon bar. Either way: Mmm.

Monday, June 8, 2015


This one came together pretty smoothly. The initial post-it thumbnails were scanned and composited in P-shop and then re-outputted as a redline. I filled in the beach and background with a red pencil, then went over it again with a pen. Once rescanned and re-outputted as a finished redline, I inked the final piece. A little Easter egg for those who have been to Muscle Beach (original or contemporary): if you look in the background of the cartoon, you can see the arch for Muscle Beach Venice. 

According to Wikipedia, the original “Muscle Beach refers to the exclusive Santa Monica location of the birthplace of the physical fitness boom in the US during the 20th century, started in 1934 with predominantly gymnastics activities on the south side of the Santa Monica Pier.[1]  

Muscle Beach Venice is the contemporary title of the outdoor weightlifting platform constructed in Venice, California, 18 years after Muscle Beach was established. Muscle Beach Venice was officially titled in 1987 by the City of Los Angeles with the distinguishing name 'Venice' added to the location to honor the original Santa Monica site.[2]”

Thursday, June 4, 2015


Currently I'm finishing up the stragglers for a book of 100 Incompatibles that I'm putting together at the end of July. I actually love this point where I've taken my little cro magnon thumbnails and evolved them into page-sized homo sapiens. It’s fun to see the details fill in as this transition occurs. I usually go overly detailed on the redline, but then weed out a lot of fussiness in the inking. I have to keep in mind how the step after inking—the digital coloring—will affect the composition and focal point(s). I ask myself things like: What color arrangement will best reinforce the gag? Narrow the focus? How can I make the illustration interact seamlessly with the caption? Is there too much visual information? Too little? Does the cartoon make intuitive sense when all is said and done?

This is the schizo conversation I have when redlining.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

3-Leaf Technique

I forgot to post these doodles from church two weeks ago. I did these using a technique where I take three leafs of tracing paper (or drawing vellum) and fold them over to create nested signatures. I saddle stitch them with my stapler and then start doing very loose doodles on the inner-most page. I then turn the page and do a more improved version, and repeat again on the outer-most leaf. At that point I really know where my lines and shading should go. This is a great technique when you want to draw loosely at first to establish proportion (or exaggerate it).

Monday, June 1, 2015

Tips of the Trade 1

So I thought I'd post some tips on techniques and materials–mostly so I don't forget what I've learned through the school of trial and error.

Tip #1: You don't have to get the most expensive brushes to pull off excellent inking art. I've owned Windsor Newton brushes in the past (and they are wonderful brushes), but you can avoid the sticker shock of the Series 7 brushes by trying lesser-known brands for your cartoon inking. Princeton's 9560 Snap! series is one example. I use their Round #6 and even though it’s a synthetic brush, it loads ink well and handles beautifully, yielding wonderful thick and think lines.

Tip #2: One big issue in using synthetic brushes successfully is keeping tips intact. I've experimented with home remedies and found that CVS styling gel (which is water soluble and contains glycerin) does a great job in keeping your brush tip in shape. I just wash my brush immediately after each use, then apply a generous glob of gel, making sure to work it into the brush fibers. Then I sculpt the brush tip in the fold between my thumb and index finger. Works like a charm. When I next use the brush, I rinse if off easily with water and I'm ready to go!