Oak Toad on a Leaf
Micron 05 and 01 fine point pen
And that’s it for my drawing pad of 6×8 paper! Though I have a couple other blank sketchbooks waiting, I might get another 6×8 pad to have around. I like working in this size for several reasons. One, it takes less time to go from concept to completion than it does with a 9×12 drawing. Two, the dimensions make it easier to crop to a 5×7 aspect ratio for custom-printed greeting cards. Three, I can find mats and frames for a much more reasonable price at this size, compared to the relatively exorbitant cost of matting a 9×12 to an 11×14 frame. And four, since I draw all my mid-tone lines by hand without a ruler, it is less challenging to cover large areas of the drawing than it is in a 9×12. Just try drawing hundreds of straight lines across a 9×12 sheet of paper sometime, and you’ll see what I mean!
Like last week’s damselfly, this toad had as its photo reference one of my mother’s recent nature photographs. She’s taken some especially crisp and detailed photos of small animals lately, and it’s been fun using them as inspiration for opportunities to practice inking with fine point pens.
Micron 05 and 01 fine point pens and Sharpie marker.
You can tell this is a damselfly, not a dragonfly, by the folded wings. A dragonfly at rest would hold its wings out flat. Damselflies fold their wings above their thorax like this.
Mom deserves credit for taking the original photograph this drawing is based on.
Our little pad of 6×8 drawing paper is nearly empty now, so we cracked open our pad of 11×17 bristol board to do a quick ink study. Though we’ve painted on much larger canvases, we haven’t gone bigger than 9×12 for drawing. We broke the ice with a Diatryma based on a smaller study from a year or two ago. We’d like to do a whole series of 11×17 prehistoric animals in marker and pen, but working in these dimensions will take a bit of getting used to.
This wind-up toy dutifully marches through a sky filled with Kirby Krackle in tribute to the 1978 toy created by Tomy. For a photo reference, we used a picture taken for our eBay listing which sold this robot a few months ago. This black and white drawing was created with Micron 05 fine point pen, various Sharpie markers, white gel pen, and black pastel. 5×7 aspect ratio, from a high-resolution (300 dpi) scan of original art.
This little frog revisits a 4×6 drawing we did with our very first set of fine point pens in March, 2013. The original 4×6 sold on eBay. This one is bigger at 6×8, though the image above is cropped to 5×7. It uses more solid black in the background than the original version did, but the frog is pretty much the same.
We didn’t post it last week so here is a new illustration for one of the Meteor Mags stories. It was fun to produce. It began with posing for the shot, so yeah it’s sort of a self portrait. But with more awesome hair.
This was the first time we used a white gel pen to put some stars in the sky. For a guide, we studied the stars on the cover of Iron Man #215, shown below. That’s a book we bought at the drug store in the mid 1980s, and maybe we’ll feature it here sometime.
Every so often we do a study of this old comic panel from Weird War Tales. As our inking improves over the years, so do the studies. One of these days we won’t screw up hand-lettering this piece so badly that we have to paint out all the words and re-do them digitally. Here we used the Brian Bolland font purchased from Richard Starking’s Comicraft, a company you may be familiar with if you ever read Elephantmen.
This Sketchbook Sunday, let’s take a trip down memory lane. I made an auction listing for the last surviving remnants of my sketchbooks from the 1990s and early 2000s. I’ve scanned and reworked some of them into new art, and I’d like to re-do a few with fine-point pens. Even though some are pretty ragged by now, I’m sentimental about them. Maybe they will find a new home. [Update: They did find a new home! SOLD.]
Micron 08 fine-point pen and Sharpie marker
While looking for a poem in our archives this week, we recalled a scan of a bee that we never got around to using as a photo reference. The poem received an edit and the bee enjoyed an evening in the spotlight after all this time.
Instead of sketching this week, we devoted our sketch time to framing and listing several of our favorite pieces from the past year. It turns out to be quite a process: selecting and ordering frames, photographing each piece, and coming up with something compelling to say about them for the listing. Add to that unpacking, assembling, packing, and uploading, and you’ve suddenly got a pretty big project on your hands.
But, at the end, the final framed piece of art gives you a major feeling of satisfaction. You’ve taken an idea and made it real. In today’s world of goods and services performed virtually and delivered by email, we sometimes lose an important reward: that day you can step back, take a look at what you accomplished, and know it as a tangible thing.
Ellie the Studio Cat advised us that it was entirely too nice a day to be drawing inside, so the two of us chilled at the little picnic table outside sketching prehistoric animals. We’re doing some very rough studies to get a feel for rendering these ancient critters with a combination of Sharpie and fine-point pens.
And yes, Ellie does look like she’s scowling in this photo, but she is just relaxing, contentedly hanging out for sunshine and sketching.
Anyway! Trilobites seemed like they would be simple, but their unique anatomy presents some conceptual challenges. Since this sketch we found some more photo references from the Burgess Shale that depict a few different types of trilobites with anatomical variations. We will master the trilobite yet!
Rod Ruth has a pencil drawing in Album of Prehistoric Animals that makes a great reference for Diatryma feathers and anatomy. This was the easiest one of the bunch to pin down where we would want fine lines versus bold chisel-tip inking.
Smilodon smiles on, with Rod Ruth’s cover of the same book giving a perfect snarly pose to work from.
The skull of Dunkleosteus appears in one of our favorite books, Extinction. The interesting plate structure of this placoderm’s head easily lent itself to bold black lines.
An Archaeocyathid from the same book was rendered in ink by one of the contributing artists, so we studied the way light and shadow define the curves.
Here is our first rough pencil study of a panel by Bob Powell with a whacky sci-fi wasp from another planet who comes to earth in a globe of pure force. The sketch isn’t so great, but this is how we get to know our subjects.
Our previous posting of Somewhere Between Mars and Earth got some encouraging response. We returned to it and filled in the lower right corner with more mega-doodle madness. Framed, it looks pretty darn trippy.
Our first Sharpie study of And One of Them Was Destroyed felt good enough that we want to do a more finished version on some high-quality artist paper. While we get materials together for that endeavor, our two-page sketch can enjoy this 12×18 frame!
Last but not least, we framed our little frog from our book of watercolor paper postcards. It will list on eBay soon, and we will be picking up another book of those blank postcards. In the next round, though, we will take care to leave a border around the edges. Frog looks great, but another one of our cards really needs to be matted to a 5×7 frame to preserve the details at the edges. Live and learn! UPDATE: Diving Frog sold on eBay to an overseas buyer. Rock on!
Somewhere Between Mars and Earth
Micron fine-point pen and Sharpie marker
We began this 8.5 x 11 mega-doodle as a study of Ian Miller’s line work in the illustrated edition of The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.
It soon took on a life of its own! Peter Deligdisch advises “keep calm and draw lines” in his collection Line of Thought, a work that Amazon groups with “zentangle.” We hadn’t heard of zentangle before, but that’s exactly what our art teacher called it when we started making textures with tons of lines. It may be a hot new art thing, but dig the way Ian Miller zentangled us on the road to Mars decades ago.
We like the energy effects and dynamic lightning bolts in the heart that Miller drew for the chapter called May 2003: The Wilderness. By drawing lines in one direction or the other, Miller creates distinct spaces and shapes. The lines serve as texture to give the area form or identity. Miller uses stippling and tiny circles to achieve a tasty variation of our favorite thing in the universe: Kirby Krackle. And, because so much of the page is “textured” or rendered, his empty white spaces also become solid objects. We have long admired this artwork, and approaching it analytically with the right tools for the job turned out to be fun and educational.
The Ian Miller edition of the book includes this quote from the Bradbury text as a preface: And somewhere between Mars and Earth everything of the message was lost… and his voice came through saying only one word: “Love.”
Here it is framed:
And here is an early version where we almost stopped and left negative space in the lower right corner. But, something told us to press on.
Sharpie Marker study of a comic book panel from The Eternals by Jack Kirby (Marvel, 1976.) I don’t recall exactly which issue, since this page is lacquered onto my table top. Here is our digital restoration of the original splash panel (two page spread) from a scan. So much Kirby Krackle!