Bitchy Artist Newspost #1

posted February 12, 2004 by Jer


Okay, I've done the bitchy artist thing in Backstage, but I've never done a newspost about it. Maybe I finally have enough respect for my own artwork to start complaining about it. That or I'm bored and just feel like bitching. Anyway, lately I've been irritated with my lack of consistency. To start though, here's a quick rundown about how I do what I do.

I always start with a pencil sketch. I've been doing that for years, so even in the days when Backstage looked like garbage, the original pencil sketches looked pretty good. The trouble has always been in developing a process for inking. After trying markers, brushes, India ink, and even just ignoring the ink and darkening the pencil lines in Photoshop, I finally came up with a method that suits me.

My current method for inking is to scan the pencil sketch into "Kanti" (my Mac Powerbook) and use it as a guide to ink it in Macromedia Flash with my Wacom pad. I tried using true illustration programs like Freehand and Adobe Illustrator, but I didn't like how those programs feel. In comic art, the shape of the ink can make or break the final piece. Flash makes the inking process less like painting and more like sculpting clay. If the line is too thick in one aria, you can make it thinner, and vice versa. You can accomplish the same thing in Freehand or Illustrator, but the path manipulation in Flash it just so much better suited for comic art.

Once I have the ink done, I export the paths as Adobe Illustrator files and save them to "Eskaflowne" (my Windows desktop), then import them to Photoshop. This produces a beautifully crisp transparent ink layer. To color, I create a layer under the ink, and paint in the base color. For print-quality stuff, I can get away with using the paint-bucket with a bit of a trick that Shawn the Touched helped me perfect, but if it's 72DPI like Backstage, I draw the color in with the pencil tool. Once the flat base-color is down, I create two copies of the color layer, one dark and one light, and mask both layers out. The highlights and shadows are arias of these two layers that I unmask using my Wacom tablet with a slightly customized airbrush tool.

That's what I do once a week. The best part about doing Backstage is it gives me an opportunity to always push what I know how to do and develop better techniques. The results are wonderful, as it's pretty obvious to see how I've improved over the course of Backstage. This is why I always advocate starting a regular web-comic to beginner artists.

My trouble with my own artwork, though, is my apparent lack of consistency. Lately, my focus has been drawing the wrinkles in clothing and fabric. I'm definitely getting the hang of it and it always looks good in pencil, but while sometimes it turns out beautifully in ink, other times it just doesn't work at all. Lack of consistency seems to be a recurring theme in my progression as an artist. Backstage has gone through as many high-points as it has low-points. If I could ever manage to do everything I know how to do at the same time all the time, I could finally convince myself that I am a real artist. But then, a lot of popular artists' work looked terrible when they started out.

I know I can do it, it just takes focus.

Oh, cruel irony.