Drawing Irritability

I've answered several emails in the time I've had this comic online asking about the methods I use to draw and scan Irritability. I've gotten enough of these that it seemed useful to make a section of the site devoted to answering such questions. The purpose is not to present a "proper" method. This is how I do things, you may or may not want to do it the same way.


Obviously, coming up with an idea is the first step. Immediately after that, I strongly reccommend drawing a practice version of the comic you are about to draw, to get your layout figured out before you start. After you've been doing comics for a long time, most your panels will be similar enough to a lot of panels you've done in the past, so you can draw the real thing without a dry run. I still draw practice versions of panels I think will be unusual, though, even after more than 500 comics. Even if you decide not to do this, proper planning is very important. If you get the layout wrong the first time, you'll have to redraw it, which takes time, or you'll just have a crappy looking panel.


I use a kind of blue pencil that doesn't show up on black and white scans or on photocopies. You shouldn't have any trouble finding these at a Hobby Lobby or some such establishment. The advantage these guys have over graphite is that they don't smudge, you don't have to erase before scanning, and you can white out as you go. (erasing over white out makes a big mess, so you have to wait until you're done with the panel and have erased it to apply your white out, and even then you sometimes forget and erase over the white out anyway, and it's a big pain. By the way, I recommend the white out pens over the traditional pot type) The disadvantage the no-copy pencils have is that they are very light, so you might have trouble seeing if what you've drawn looks good, and that they don't make mechanical pencil lead of this type as far as I know, so you have to sharpen.


For inking, you can use pigment liners, which are a kind of marker, or a quill pen and dipping ink. The pigment liners are definitely easier, but once you get good with a quill pen, you'll get better results, finish things more quickly (Since you control line thickness, you don't have to go over a line again and again, nor do you have to constantly switch out different sizes of pens.) and you'll be spending a lot less money. However, quill pens can be extremely frustrating, so I'd recommend you wait until you're comfortable with all the other aspects of of comicking before switching to quills. That said, I like a flexible nib with a fine point. I haven't found an ink that I like yet. The type I'd been using is Higgins calligraphy and it sucks. I guess it's fast drying or something, but it drys so fast that it drys on the nib, and refuses to flow if I let up for even a moment. Also it builds up in these sticky masses which are hard to remove. Recently, I acquired a bottle of "Quink" by parker, it was left behind in the desk I work at by the previous occupant. It's very thin, but works quite well. The only problem is the bottle, It's prone to get ink all over the place. If anyone knows another good kind of ink for very fine lines, I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me. Getting back to the pigment liners, you probably want about three different sizes for drawing. (I used 01, 05, and 005) Even if you use quills, a fat pigment liner is good for panel borders and other straight lines that you'd need a ruler for.


If you want to become a good artist, the best method is of course practice. Hopefully you don't need me to tell you that. How you practice can significantly affect the rate at which you improve, though, so I'd like to put my theories on this out there. Basically the point is this: quantity over quality, quantity very much over quality. In other words, don't spend much time on most of your pictures, instead spend that time drawing more pictures. This might seem strange to you, (the people on the message board I first proposed this system on got really mad, which was.. surprising to me...) but here's the reasoning: Look at some pictures you drew about 3 years ago. If you're like me, you're embarrassed by the quality of them. It's not much of a leap of logic to assume that in 3 years you'll be embarrassed by the art you're creating now. (this only really goes for technique, if you have some really good elements of composition, or design or something, it'll still look good) So, effort spent going over and over every little line, erasing and redoing everything trying to get it just right is wasted effort, since in a while you'll be disgusted by it regardless of how much time you spent. Getting poses, proportions, compositions, and all that right is usually more important than having every line optimized. This picture is a good example. I spent a lot of time on this, and I think it shows. But, after I was pretty much done, I noticed that her head was way too big. Fortunately, photoshop helped me solve that problem, so you can't see it in the image I linked to, but it's still a problem. Photoshop wasn't able to fix her left arm, however. If you'll look, the left elbow is about 3-4 scale inches below the right one. That's not a mistake I would make today. Now, if you enjoy drawing, you probably have trouble with being told not to bother making good pictures. I'm not telling you to NEVER take your time, I'm just saying, make a distinction between drawing for practice and drawing to have something to show off. In the early stages of your career, you should focus on the practice.
Even if you decide so, it's hard to resist the urge to go back and fix something that bothers you. and another. and so on. The best way to force yorself to leave one picture alone and move on to the next is to use pen so you don't really have another option. Also, if you can't erase, you start making fewer mistakes. For practice purposes, I reccommend using ballpoint pen. It's easily portable, cheap, and easy to use. Finally, it's really important to draw people in many different poses. At least if you're interested in drawing people. If you can take a life drawing course, or whatever they're called, It's probably a good idea. I never did, but people who have always seem to have much better mastery of posing and proportion.
That's all I have for now, sorry if you were expecting more explicit instructions. I don't really consider myself qualified to give out that kind of advice. There's more I want to say here though, so don't give up just yet.