I’ve been having some fun lately drawing pages, panels and characters from Mike Mignola’s The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects. Not that I’m saying I’m any good at it, but I get so involved with rendering the details of these drawings, learning with my hand what only looking will not convey, whiling away a lunch hour like it was only 5 minutes, having fun like a kid with a new box of crayons and a coloring book. There’s that word fun again. Never was that common in my vocabulary, sad but true. But I am having fun now, especially with Emperor Zombie. Now I certainly appreciate, nay, admire, the grit and ingenuity of our Mr. Head, but I am smitten with Emperor Z. He’s the perfect foil for doughty Mr. Head; a puckish Darth Vader with his soulful, empty eyes and his ever-present halo of flies. How can you not love this guy?
What did I do on my summer vacation? I went to visit my sister in the North Country, which involved, as it always does, lots of walking and eating exceptionally well, sitting on Monona Terrace in the sun and just general lazing about, but also a bit of drawing every day. (It helps to visit an artist.) We got up every day late-ish, ate a leisurely breakfast, then drew. I always felt a need to hurry so I could get on with the adventures part of the day, but it was an excellent practice to do the work first. You could go have fun with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in your gut. And when can you better do that than on summer vacation?
A few of the drawings were even interesting:Jamie Hewlett lost in his work and a watercolor inspired by Moebius. Great shading and exciting color–I was inspired. Can you sense a theme here?
These are the main things I’ve been working on over the last few days, although there are doodled people I see on the streets, practice drawings of hands and the Gorillaz characters scattered throughout my journal and on scraps of paper that seem to proliferate wherever I am. Aside from Moebius and Schiele, I’ve also gotten very excited about the work of Sergio Toppi, Bill Sienkiewicz and Kenneth Rocafort. Still reading Harold Speed’s drawing book from 1913 (free download on Project Gutenberg), which is full of all sorts of helpful thoughts on composition, brushstrokes, line quality, and exactly what it is that an artist gives us with his work. Or should. Maybe more thoughts on that later…
The new inking technique, which I’ve been developing all week… I like these. The style is linear, the form structured by the new hatching style, an exploration of deep shadow, but there is also an element of my old, freer scribble.
This one took me two days to complete.
It’s probably better than almost everything I’ve done before, so I can’t put my finger on why I’m not satisfied with it, but I’m not. Perhaps I’m spending too much time looking at the very skilled work that Jamie Hewlett is posting on Instagram these days, or maybe it’s the miles of images by Moebius and Sergio Toppi that I’ve been ingesting lately that make my work look so milky and anemic by comparison. Posting to Twitter is great for its kudos and positivity, which definitely helps to keep me going, but right now, what I need is a crit and that means it may be time to line up a class for the fall. There’s only so much you can learn on your own by reading, imitation and practice.
I think I need a teacher.
And my view is that a living studio you will never find ready-made; it is created from day to day by patient work.–Vincent van Gogh
And it shows perfectly that to get at the real character of things here you must look at them and paint them for a long time….it is not enough to have a certain cleverness. It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper understanding.–Vincent van Gogh
I had an amazing drawing day on Saturday, 8 full hours of absorption and concentration and a hell of a lot of fun. The work was something I don’t usually do and a subject I’ve only begun to look at–studying the color, style and layout of Hewlett and Martin’s Tank Girl from the early 90s–which may have contributed to the fun. A little. Tank Girl is just fun all by itself; raunchy, juvenile, gross and violent but funny. Hewlett’s drawing style kept me captivated–granted, not in every panel, which at times seemed hurried or dashed off–but often enough; moments of solid draftsmanship and studiously observed detail beside pure flights of imagination, resulting in something like a movie co-piloted by Tim Burton and Quentin Tarantino. How could I not have fun?
But…days like that up the ante, so that on Sunday when I could barely make myself draw, it was really depressing. Reading Vincent on the bus in to work this morning though, made me take another look. Maybe I was able to sustain this working day on Saturday in the same way as someone training as a runner: day by day you go greater distances, even run a race, but can’t expect much the day after an extraordinary run, at least not from a beginner. I hope with time I can have more sustained days of work like that because it seems the only way to get a grip on drawing the way I’d really like to.