Sunday, 12 February 2017

SDOAR Updates


Progress is happening slowly but surely. The sequence bridging issues 1 and 2 is done and I am working on the 2 to 3 sequence, which includes this page.
No stats, plus another four of the same image, hand drawn, on the following page. It was an exercise in zen calligraphy. I made just one mark over and over throughout all of the panels rather than complete one panel at a time (except the cross-hatching!). On later pages I will probably do it panel by panel because the zen approach is very slow. Have fun playing spot the differences, there are plenty.

Some technical tricks I have discovered regarding getting teeny-tiny lines that are different from the tricks Dave presents in SDOAR:

I did not like the Speedball Super-Black India ink I used in the four pages of my tryout. The black doesn't apply evenly. If you build the ink up to get a darker black it creates a shiny surface because the ink mixture has shellac added to the soot and water. This makes the dried surface durable and waterproof but gross to look at. So, I switched from India ink to Sumi ink.

Sumi ink uses animal glue rather than shellac.The ink applies much darker, and dries with a beautiful, silky finish. It also feels drier on the end of the brush. This means it does not flow as fast as the India ink. It is too thick for the Hunt 102 nib, but on the end of a Winsor Newton Series 7 #2 the slower flow gives you thinner lines for the same amount of pressure and speed. I began to suspect that part of Raymond's ability to get such thin lines was due to the type of ink he used.

Two weekends ago I went to the Cantor Art Center at Stanford University to check out their Comics In America show. The show was pretty disappointing. It was stuffed in what seemed like a cleaned out janitors closet and only had about twelve pieces, BUT, two of those were Milton Caniff Strips! These were OBVIOUSLY done in Sumi ink, or something like it.

The blacks were extremely dark, consistent, and silky, even after all these years. India ink tends to fade. This confirms that other major strip artists of the era were using something other than India ink. I haven't seen a Raymond or Williamson strips in person, so I don't know for sure about their work, but some of the Heritage Auction scans of Raymond's work do look like Sumi to me, especially the ones with lots of thin lines. Some of the looser strips do have washier, India ink looking, marks. Hard to tell for sure. Raymond might have been doing what I am doing, using Sumi for the brush and India for the nibs, sometimes using India on the brush for whatever reason.

Another trick I picked up a couple of pages back has helped me get smaller lines out of the nib while also affording me more control over the pen, so better accuracy and increased speed. It also preserves the nib tip for a little bit longer (not much).

I noticed that when hatching near the upper corners of pages the nib felt like it was gliding along the paper in a way it was not on the body of the page. It dawned on me that the paper in the corners wasn't flat on my board, which meant the paper was flexing under the pressure of the nib rather than the nib flexing pushing and flexing against the hard surface of the board. I started slightly lifting my paper up in whatever area I was hatching and, voila, the same thing happened. The pen glided along the surface. I could use more pressure, but get thinner lines. A boon for the wrist and elbow! So, if you are working in this very particular style with lots and lots of super fine nib lines, try lifting your paper off the board a smidge. I imagine Dave, and/or Ger, had to have figured this out at some point in the twenty years they were crosshatching the hell out of Cerebus.

The Cantor Museum also had a show of etchings and engravings, including a ton of Rembrandts. Talk about super tiny lines! the dude was a total stud.

Also, an artist named Jess, whose stuff reminded me a lot of the Cerebus in Hell? strips.


al roney said...

Very nice Carson! Excellent! 'nuff said.

Jeff Seiler said...

I think you and Dave may have touched on this once before, Carson, but why aren't you copying and pasting these essentially identical images?

Nice background lines. Very pretty.

Jeff Seiler said...

Yeah, I took a much closer look at the eleven panels in the store and I see lots of differences: the door, the shading on the objects above the door, the letters in the EXIT sign, some of the white part on her jeans and especially the stripes on her shirt. I'm sure to your eye there are many more...

Carson Grubaugh said...


In his notes for the page Dave said something along the lines of, "You should probably just stat these, but doing them all by hand sure would make a nice, saleable, piece of art, but you should probably just stat them."

Maybe it is because I have spent the last 10+ years making things meant to hang on walls, but I like the idea that each page is a saleable, frame-ready, piece of art.

So, no real good reason beyond foolish pride.

crazyyears said...

I hope I'm well heeled when the time comes for you to sell some of these pages. Beyond the admiration for the work itself, some of these pages have generated within me that inexplicable feeling in which genuine pleasure is felt at their mere viewing. Something akin to but more than, "Wow!" Something slack-jawed.
--- Michael Hunt

Carson Grubaugh said...

Wow. Thank you so much! That is the absolute highest praise I could hope for as an artist.

Dave Sim said...

Carson - When you're looking at the inks on Milt Caniff originals, you're looking at two artists: Caniff and his "backgrounds and everything else" guy (who, at one point, if I recall correctly was one of Norman Rockwell's relatives). Caniff would rough in the strips and then get them lettered and then the "everything else" guy would ink everything except the hands and faces which Caniff would do.

[This was one of the unspoken areas of friction, I infer, with Alex Raymond: that Raymond always did all of his own work except for VERY occasional bits and pieces and filling in solid black by Ray Burns. While Caniff always had an "everything else" guy from a very early stage on TERRY AND THE PIRATES. Coupled with the fact that Raymond was far more realistic than Caniff could ever hope to be, it really stuck in his craw, I think]

I'm not in charge of who gets to be a Comic Book Legend, but you definitely get my vote, actually drawing and inking all of those repeating panels individually! As I say, not even Al Williamson on "The Success Story" did that -- and that was only three panels! Definitely document what you're doing and the thought processes that go into it: because you're the only one who has ever "been there". Or ever will "be there".

Dave Sim said...

Unless you can, Tom Sawyer-like, make it sound like TOO MUCH FUN!

Lee Thacker said...

I remember being impressed/bewildered whenever Chester Brown did a similar thing in a lot of his comics(esp. Louis Riel, redrawing the same characters/backgrounds in many continuing panels with little or no discernible difference(why not just 'copy and paste'?!)but in a much more minimalist/cartoony style than what you've achieved here, Carson. How you had the patience (and time) to get this done is both impressive and, well, not bewildering, but... incredible! Kudos.

Carson Grubaugh said...

I guess I should do the I DO NOT BELIEVE DAVE SIM IS A MISOGYNIST thing? I do mean the words, too. Curious, what led to that?

Thank you Dave, that is a crazy compliment coming from you. I know Garry Trudeau does this in Doonesbury. He will re-draw the same still shot of the White House over and over, which is more crazy, too me, because he has deadlines I sure do not.

I don't know if there is much to document about my thought process except for the lack of thought process? At least while drawing. Just put on some music and draw.

On this set I took a really weird approach where I isolated a single mark, or a limited set of marks to make. I repeated that mark, or set of marks, in all fifteen panels, and then moved on to a new mark or set of marks. This would not have been bad if all of the panels were on one page. Constantly flipping between two boards ate up time and killed the flow a bit.

The idea was to get all zen-calligraphy about it, trying to get each mark more distilled to its essence with each repetition. Not surprisingly it was usually the first mark that was the most focused, and the fifteenth being lazy and over-confident. Not sure which is better. I think I prefer the immediacy of the first response.

The hatching was just hatching. Same task in any panel.

On the next set I think I will try finishing a panel at a time.

As for the inks on the Caniffs, I was talking about the material quality of the ink itself. It was obviously not India Ink and looked a lot like the Sumi Ink I have been using, which I find much easier to make small lines with. That you were getting teeny tiny lines with the wetter India Ink only makes your technique even more impressive.

Carson Grubaugh said...

Also, I did stat the pencils. Only the inks were actually done over and over. I am not THAT crazy/stupid. Only KINDA.

Dave Sim said...

Would it have made sense to jump around on the panels? Or did you always go #1 to #15? That would have been strange, I think, "setting yourself" on random play.

Yes, my point was that you might have been looking at two different brands of ink: Caniff's and the "inker/background guy's". I can't really picture telling an "inker/background guy" what ink to use. You use the ink that you're the most comfortable with, right? It would be like me telling you "No you have to use the Super Black because that's what the rest of SDOAR is done in."

Paper, that's different. You're going to have to use the paper that Caniff uses because Caniff has to work on it.

There's a real untold history on that. As far as I know, Gerhard is the only credited background guy in comics history.

Carson Grubaugh said...

I DO NOT BELIEVE DAVE SIM IS A MISOGYNIST (I still misspell "misogynist seven times out of ten.) Misosoupist however? One can only speculate.

Ahh, gotcha! It was the same type of ink all over as far as I could tell.

I went in order through the panels, mostly. Whatever page got the last mark I would jump back to the first panel and make a new mark, so the starting point continually rotated between the first panels of the two different pages.

Not sure what jumping around would afford other than an increased chance of smudging wet ink. I guess that would force the palm off the paper and add another level of unnecessary difficulty. Soooo, howzabout, no thanks! Ha-ha.

Travis Pelkie said...

I don't know how much Trudeau still does the repetition in Doonesbury (for the past few years, he's had reruns in the dailies and only does a Sunday strip, and doesn't really do it there), but I know I've read before that he has someone else doing most/all of the inking for him, and has since the early '80s, since his first major sabbatical.

Ah, right from the Wikipedia that the kids all like:

"Doonesbury is written and pencilled by Garry Trudeau, then inked and lettered by an assistant: Don Carlton[3] then Todd Pound. Sunday strips are colored in by George Corsillo.[4] A daily strip through most of its existence, since February 2014, Doonesbury has run repeat strips Monday through Saturday, and new strips on Sunday."

So, impressive, but not quite as much as what Carson did here.

Dave Sim said...

Carson - If the exhibit is still on, it might be interesting to go and see if the faces are done in the same ink -- and same darkness of ink -- as the backgrounds and figures. I know that Russ Heath was George Wunder's assistant for a while and I recently saw a scan of an original that was obviously mostly Heath: jet black, perfect. Everything Heath did was perfect. And then these really washed out brown George Wunder faces. Wunder favoured the diluted ink theory: that it spread more easily.

I've told this story before, but it's a great story:

Russ told me that Wunder used to have a PAN of India ink so he could just turn and dip his pen or brush anywhere in the pan without having to focus on where the mouth of the bottle is (which is an interesting concept: how many man hours did I spend looking for the mouth of the bottle and then focussing on where the ink level was).

Of course, that bit Wunder on the a** the time he was almost finished a Sunday page and turned around to talk to Russ and turned back and his sleeve went through the ink pan and all the way across the Sunday page. Russ was very impressed because Wunder just said, "Damn." once, tore the page in half and started over.

Barry Deutsch said...

Wow! That is VERY impressive.

(Something similar happened to me once, and I screamed the f word at the top of my lungs about 20 times in a row while doing an angry stomp dance around the room.)

Carson Grubaugh said...

Unfortunately the show close Jan 30th.

I think the truly foolish move was wearing long sleeved shirts to the drawing board! I have designated "inking" t-shirts and shorts so I can wipe my ruler and brush on them, pick junk out of the nibs with them, etc. Those old school cats are always pictured dressed for a day at the office, which cracks me up.