Monday, July 10, 2017

Waterproof Ink

It’s been a frustrating day at Raven Towers.

In preparation to move my caricature work into a Watercolour folio, I wanted to find some proper waterproof ink (as you know, I use watercolour for the base of my caricature sketches, and having waterproof ink is a must).  So, here is what I’ve tried…

  • Noodlers Bullitproof Black Ink (in various fountain pens)
  • Platinum Carbon Ink (in various fountain pens)
  • Sumi Ink
  • Kuretake Black Ink 60
  • Winsor & Newton Indian Ink (my last resort)
  • Various pigment markers - such as Sakura, Faber PITT, DR, Kuretake Mangaka

The results were dissapointing…..


As you can see, virtually everything apart from the W&N and the pigment markers wasn’t waterproof – even ink that specifically  said that it was.

So, I’m left using either pigment markers, or W&N if I want to use brush or dip pen – fountain pens are OUT (a real shame, as I like my Rotring Artpens…)  I might have to try some Rotring drawing ink and compare that…

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Ian McKellan as “Magneto”

Ian mcKellen - Magneto

To “Pro”, or not to “Pro”–iPad that is…

Today has been an interesting day.  Over the last few weeks, I’ve been looking into the iPad pro, and asknig myself “is it really worth it?”

Well, the answer to that depends on a lot of factors.  To begin with, let’s look at my digital cartooning history.  I started out using a HP TC1100 tablet pc and stylus (originallly made in 2006) and OpenCanvas.  This combination wasn’t bad, but OpenCanvas started to get a little glitchy, so I moved on to Manga Studio and Xara Xtreme.  This software forced me to upgrade my tablet rig to a Fujitsu Stylistic 5112 tablet pc.  I’m still using this rig, but lately I’ve moved the drawing side to a Samsung Galaxy Note Pro w/Sketchbook and the colouring to an iPad w/Procreate.

In the course of moving hardware, my software requirements have changed accordingly, becoming much simpler.  All I want now is an app to create good linework, and one to create good colour work from that linework.

So, what have I found?

Firstly, that accuracy is important to me.  When I draw with a pencil, I expect the mark to be in a certain place.  With WACOM penabled tablets, even good ones like the Galaxy Tab Pro, there is an offset due to parallaxing between screen and stylus which can be very annoying and offputting.  i found this today when I was colouring my works xmas card with the Galaxy, and I’d never really appeciated it before – until now.

Secondly, that software can make or break the deal when it comes to digital cartooning.  I’m not talking features here, but basic functionality.  Essentially, will the software let me create the way I want to, or do I have to fight it?  An example:  I was trying to pick an existing colour, something that should be easy (and in fact is very much so in Procreate), but found that in Sketchbook I was struggling to accomplish this basic task.  Yes, I know that it’s reletively easy, but something that simple shouldn’t break your flow.

I’ve moved away from Tablet PC’s because I find that the software adds too mcuh complexity when I’m creating – I just want to get the drawing down, ink and colour it – I don’t want to have to fight through menus and options.  If I want to do vectors, that’s a different kettle of fish, but pushing pixels should be easy. 

i’m starting to move away from the Galaxy Tab Pro because the s-pen does have some parallax and becomes annoying to use.  Also, there’s only really two apps that cut the mustard for cartoons on Android – Sketchbook and ArtFlow.  “Not a problem” I hear you cry.  But I answer that with “No – but they’re not Procreate”.

I cannot explain just how good Procreate is.  It is the sole reason why so many artists choose the iPad to do their artwork.  I would seriously, rather colour my pictures with my finger in Procreate than use any other software – it’s that good.  My highlights are the brushes, the colour picker and the sheer pleasure that is blending.  If I can’t use Procreate, that’s a real deal breaker.

So here we are – I’ve ruled out PCs & Android – that just leaves IOS & Procreate, and now we come to the final item – the Apple Pencil.  i took the time recently to try one with Procreate on an iPad Pro 12.9 at an Apple Store recently – and I was blown away.  The accuracy is astonishing.  There is virtually no parallax at all, and the Pencil feels natural to draw with.  Add the that the tilt sensor and …  wow, just wow!

Not everyone will agree with my findings, but I will be moving to an iPad Pro 12.9 with an Apple Pencil and Procreate – just as soon as I can get the money together…. Smile

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The 10 Minute Epiphany...

I've been getting very annoyed at myself this weekend, with my caricature work.  I didn't seem to be able to get a good likeness done, and what I was doing was taking forever.  After looking at the caricature tutorials again, I had an epiphany...  I was taking too long. It was taking me over 40 minutes to get to a stage where the drawing looked something like the subject.  To get better, I have to do more caricatures, and that means getting faster...

The answer?  Simplify, and go back to basics.

Take a good look at the subject, but concentrate on the shapes that I see.  Once I have the shapes in my head, I give myself 10 minutes to capture the best likeness I can with a blue pencil.  Like this...

As you can see, I've got a reasonable likeness of Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) and Blofelt (Donald Pleasance) - both of which I'll ink over at some stage and produce a finished colouy version.  The 10 minute limit forces me to get the basic shapes right first - once that's right, the rest is easy.

Friday, April 01, 2016

Digital Caricatures - Note to self...

Keep it simple stupid.  Concentrate on the drawing and line art, then colour simply - just use airbrush to create light and shadow.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

...And the results are...


Here's what I did.  I decided to do a quick background comparison test using a piece of watercolor paper (with a gesso coating) versus Bristol board.  At the same time, I decided to test my new purchase - a Winsor Newton Series 7 size 2.  The only waterproof ink I had to test it with was my little bottle of Winsor Newton Indian Ink, so that's what I did....

The image on the left is the watercolor paper with gesso, the left is untreated Bristol board.
First thoughts?  I HATE inking on gesso - it's not just the feel of the brush on the surface, but it catches my fingers making the inking more "wobbly" as a result.  I used my Rosemary brush on the gesso, as I didn't want to ruin the W&N straight away.  I did use it on the bristol, and liked it a lot - but the ink!  The W&N Indian ink just didn't want to flow!  I normally use Sumi ink, which is gorgeous with a brush, but compared to that, the W&N ink felt like tar - it just didn't flow.  The upshot is I'm going to try to get some Pelikan ink (supposed to be really good with brushes), but I digress...

I did the background using the same basic method - that is, I got the page wet, and applied some diluted Golden Fluid Acrylic (Pthalo Blue), trying to get a gradual fade.  I obviously didn't succeed, but that was becausse I was short of time.  Both surfaces were much less absorbant than the basic watercolor paper (which I expected), but both behaved in different ways.  The gessoed watercolor page did have some texture, which stopped the paint from moving very freely.  The bristol board is much smoother, which lets the paint flow better.  You'll notice that the bristol has a more "watercolor" feel because of that - the quite stark color gradient is because I had to mop up the remaining blue paint on the surface as I ran out of testing time.  I think that given more time, the result would have been more pleasing.  It also leads to another point:  with the bristol board, I could lift the paint off more like I would with watercolor, so I could fix mistakes.

So what's the result?  Well, I prefer both surfaces to untreated watercolor paper without a doubt.   The thing is, I'm not sure if I'd prefer gessoed illustration board to Bristol Board.  Bristol is cheaper, more easily available, and takes ink better - I may well stay with that.What I might do is sand the gessoed illustration board a bit, and see if that helps...

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

'Ruddy 'Ell!

Just tried a background in acrylics on watercolour paper, and found that I couldn't move the paint around how I wanted.  Problem appears to be that compared to Bristol or Illustration board, the paper is so much more absorbant that it literaly sucks the water out of the paint.  Also, even though I sealed the ink drawing with fixative, the ink still ran when water was applied!  The answer appears to be to gesso the surface, so I might try a couple of experiments..

Friday, March 11, 2016

Trouble at t' mill...

This blog of mine as sort of become a post facto diary of sorts for my journey in art, so here's the latest debarcle...

I've started experimenting with liquid acrylic paints, specifically Golden, and the results are quite good.  I used a similar method that I use for the watercolour base (light to dark), just with more layers...

I'm really pleased with my version of "Leia" (Carrie Fisher), and it gave me the confidence to go further, so I tried "Castle" (Nathan Fillion again).  Nathan is a really hard subject, but I thought my sketch was pretty good, so on with the painting, and...  oh dear....

Unlike "Leia", I tried to do clouds as I would have done with oil paints, but by using an acrylic blending medium - the results were horrible.  Not only were the clouds "patchy", but the illustration board reacted badly in one place, the surface "bobbling" until it went a very strange shade (almost like I'd damaged the surface).  I'll tried to tone the background down a lot to get over that problem, but that wasn't the end of it.

The mask I used to cover the subject failed in places, leaving bright green smuges on the paper.  The answer (I thought) was titanium white, but of course, the different absorbtion rates between the paper and the white paint left me with horrible blotches.  I tried guoache, but that just mixed with the acrylic paint!  It took a lot of work, but I finally covered the mistakes.  Then the painters tape ripped the board - bacause it wasn't gessoed...
Next step was colour pencil - and that really didn't work.  The blending just went straight to hell, although at least the pencil "took".  As I look at it now, it's not terrible, but it's nowhere near "OK"...

So, for future projects....
  • Gesso the surface to make it "even" when the paint is applied and prevent "Bobbling"
  • Go from light to dark, and assume you CANNOT lighten it.
  • Don't mix guoache with acrylic!
So, I may try "Castle" again using the lesson's I've learned - watch this space!