Alex Raymond's 'Rip Kirby' strip from 27 June 1956
Top: Alex Raymond's original art; Bottom: Lee Thacker's reproduction
(Click image to enlarge)
I chose to copy this strip for a number of reasons:
1. Sparse backgrounds (I hate drawing backgrounds!)
2. A nice close up in the last panel
3. It related well to Raymond's alleged affairs (in my mind)
4. The pretty girl
5. It was from 1956, the year of Raymond's death
The text is really just questions that went through my mind as I was drawing it. The final question (posed to the reader) in panel three could be applied to both sexes I think!
Drawing and inking – some background info:
Between 2008 and 2010, I immersed myself in photorealistic portraits of celebrities and musicians. 16 of those ended up being a part of the Judenhass inspired Yellow Stars book, available as a free pdf and a physical copy. Most of the rest of them were used in The Festive Fifty: An Illustrated Memoir. See some examples below.
I spent those 3 years tracing from photos on a light box and inking them using a prolene pro-arte #2 brush. My first attempts were a bit sloppy, but I got pretty good at it and it was lot of fun. I then got the call to start creating comic book stories for David Gedge (of semi-legendary band The Wedding Present) and I've been honing my craft over the past few years into a much simpler, cartoony style with little or no time left over for photorealistic pieces. I should be working on issue 11 of the Tales From The Wedding Present comic this week, but I've taken a two day break to have a go at an Alex Raymond strip. Shhh. Don't tell David Gedge! Ha ha!
Anyway, a few observations on my attempt, panel by panel (in reverse order). I traced off all three panels in pencil using a light box and then inked them.
This was the first panel I 'attempted' to ink. I decided to use a prolene pro-arte #2 brush as this is what I was using when I was doing the portraits six years previously.
No matter how gentle I was with my brush strokes, I couldn’t even come close to Raymond's thin lines. I thought with it being a close up, it wouldn't be too difficult. How wrong can you be? It took me a good hour and a half just to ink this single panel - I can usually get half a page of 'cartoony' comics inked in that time! I put my brush away and vowed to myself to do a better job the following day on panels one and two.
This went a LOT better. I opened up a fresh bottle of India ink, popped open a brand new Winsor & Newton Series 7 #2 brush and it was a breeze. Still not quite getting ALL of the fine lines, but definitely on the right track. The only real failure in this panel is Honey’s chin. I put just a little too much pressure on the brush during the inking of her jaw line and it’s slightly too small.
Now I’m starting to 'get it' in terms of knowing when the brush was capable of a thin or thick line. Only Honey’s eyes turned out wrong – there should be a small gap between the lower lashes and the iris which I couldn't quite pull off.
This was a lot of fun to do and a real challenge. It's been many years since I filled in any blacks on the original artwork as I usually fill them in using Photoshop. It's also VERY tricky to render spontaneous lines deliberately. I've never seen any of Raymond's pencilled work, but I’m betting he didn’t pencil in every single hair highlight or clothing wrinkle!
Lee Thacker's Photorealistic Portraits:
Top row: Jack Kirby, Art Spiegelman
Middle row: Neil Gaiman, Lou Reed
Bottom row: Gene Tierney, Neko Case
(Click images to enlarge)
(Click images to enlarge)