The Street Dancer’s Romance (and tool talk)

Here is the opening image from my new short story, The Street Dancer’s Romance. It will be a wordless story comprising 65 images or so, each on its own page, much like in an old-fashioned woodcut novel. It is safe to say that I have been utterly beguiled by the work of Otto Nuckel and Lynd Ward, and presenting images in this way will also allow the reader to spend more time mulling over each image and absorbing the message behind it. I’ve drawn and inked more than half the pages in this book so perhaps a Christmas deadline is not so unrealistic after all.



Most of us will have seen buskers and street performers out in the street before. I can’t recall exactly where I saw a street performer like this, it might have been while strolling along the South Bank in London, but I rarely pay much attention to street performers in general. But anyhow, I’d mulled over doing a story about these people for some time and their lives away from the public eye. I chose to do a word-less story this time because it posed a unique challenge to convey a fairly sophisticated story without words, and I had enjoyed drawing The Snack Bar in ‘Painting Stories’. For some reason, it was also one of my more popular stories. It also felt liberating to work on a story without the burden of words.

Maybe I should get around to some tool talk now, having popped down the road to Cass Arts to pick up a Winsor and Newton Cotman III No 2 brush. I’ve more or less worn out my 6th or 7th sable brush so far, and the costs are definitely building up. Despite doing my best to clean the brushes after use, they tend to lose their point after some months and I no longer know whether it’s just an intrinsic problem with sable brushes or my own inadequacies when it comes to brush care. So I noticed on Craig Thompson’s blog that he used the Cotman III No 2 brush for his inking, and being a devout fan of Thompson’s art, I thought if it was good enough for him, it was definitely more than good enough for me. Cotman brushes use synthetic bristles and are therefore a lot cheaper than Kolinsky sable ones.

Well, unfortunately that didn’t turn out too well. I found the Cotman’s bristles rather too stiff, and inking with it felt like drawing with a felt tip pen, the line did not vary as much as I’d wanted. After doing one panel with it, it was a pleasure to return to my somewhat battered Winsor and Newton Kolinksy series 7 sable brush (size 3). Looks like I might have to shell out again to buy yet another one, having started using this one only a few months back in the summer… Despite arduous care, it looks like some of the bristles have fallen out and it is gradually losing its gorgeously pointed shape. But it is still a pleasure to use after a few minutes with the Cotman. But can anyone see the difference between the inking in the panels? Back to Cass Arts tomorrow then, another 10-11 quid poorer!





Enter the Deleter pen

Right now I am part of the way through drawing and inking my graphic short story, “The Street Dancer’s Romance”. I’m a little more than a third through already so I am making slow but steady progress, achieving at least 2 panels a day. Not posting any previews here yet, but since a blog requires occasional updates, here I am again, pondering over what to write as a suitable update.

Oh yes. I’ve decided to stop using my Hunt 102 vintage nib with the fast-disintegrating wooden holder, and replaced it with a Japanese manga pen – the Deleter pen, to be exact. I ordered some wider G-nibs and the fine Naru nibs from Dinkybox along with an attractive, bright yellow pen holder which accommodates different nib sizes in its innovative nib-holder, so one doesn’t need different holders for different nibs, what a neat idea! Why didn’t anyone think of that before? Something that Speedball should learn from, as its current holder is frankly, quite substandard; an overly thin brown cheap plastic rod which one needs to ‘pad’ up for a more comfortable and steady grip. I’m a Deleter convert, so far I haven’t blotted anything since switching over to these fine nibs. And they are far easier to clean, which probably means greater nib longevity. So I can store away the remaining vintage Hunt 102 nibs for a rainy day.

Can I make Cabaret Voltaire volume II ready for Christmas? That might still be a pipe dream…


A new beginning

Well I made a major blunder. I had decided more than a month ago to move away from Dreamhost (after enjoying a full year’s webhosting for only $5, a special Father’s Day offer, ne’er to be repeated!) because of its high costs, to something a little more economical, in keeping with my very modest webhosting demands. After all, this site barely sees any traffic and there seemed to be little point in retaining a hosting plan with plenty of bells and whistles which went unnoticed.

I forgot to migrate my database before switching my domain name over to my new host, so excited was I at moving into a new home…. so now I have to rely on Dreamhost’s support team to help me. I may have lost all my old blog posts and am trying not to feel too dejected about it. I may end up rewriting my thoughts on all my short stories so far.

Anyway it’s a new beginning. Let’s hope this webhost proves as reliable as Dreamhost was for the last 12 months. I’m tied up for the next 2 years.

Redesigning ArtemisDraws

After too much time away from drawing and working on the website in general, I finally had some time yesterday to tinker with Javascript. I found some excellent resources online to help me do exactly what I wanted with the latest story I am working on – The Snack Bar (up to 7 pages now…) – there is no point trying to reinvent the wheel when there are already resources available. This was Cody Lindley’s excellent Thickbox script which utilises the jQuery library. I should not really turn this drawing blog into a semi-technical one by describing in detail what I did exactly but in a nutshell, I managed to customise the scripts to jazz up my comics page, although the main comic itself has been much reduced in size. Being a wordless comic though, it is still possible to work out what is going on, and the absence of scroll bars is another benefit. So I have changed the index page for the Snack Bar, I hope it will be tested out on a wide variety of browsers and monitors eventually. I’m in the process of sprucing up and redesigning the main pages as well with yet more Javascript additions. I’m still pondering on a good logo for the website….

And I’ve also migrated from my mouse to a Wacom Bamboo pen tablet. It didn’t take a lot of time to get used to, and now I don’t use the mouse anymore, except for occasionally selecting/dragging text around, which the pen is still somewhat clumsy with. It’s a very good pen tablet but not an extremely high-end one, so I don’t know how good it is for illustration work. I find the nib a bit rotund and possibly not nearly as responsive as I’d like it to be, but then this is my very first pen tablet so I don’t have the faintest notion what the expensive models are like. I don’t see myself getting into digital art in a big way at all, and will still do all my drawings traditionally. The tablet itself is very small and perfect for my needs, I cannot see why I would never need an A4 sized tablet. Anyway the website will most likely change a fair bit over the next week or so as I get to grips with scripting again and catching up on the latest HTML standards.

Fond of fonts

I’m just going to write about fonts today, an important part of making a comic book. It just occurred to me that I never mentioned before what font I used for my Card Players comic, and after all this is a blog about making comics so I would like it to be as comprehensive as possible. Initially, I wanted to hand-letter the comic myself but after doing the first few pages, I decided my lettering was atrocious. I’m far too impatient to write slowly and so everything comes out looking like a dog’s breakfast. I even have an Ames lettering guide that I picked up from eBay some years back but no patience to use it properly. So I decided to do all the lettering by computer, so I could tweak it as I went along, which turned out to be the best strategy.

For my Card Players comic, I used the free font ‘Chronicles of a Hero’ from the excellent Blambot website. Many years ago I used to collect free fonts and had a stack of 3.5″ discs full of font archives. Now I’m on the hunt again.

Great font sites I found recently: but these are pricey!