Here are the pencil and ink versions of my Spirit cover for issue # 29, previously posted in full color.
For the pencil stage I’m not going for a final, razor-sharp style of penciling, not trying to emulate an inked look with my pencils. I don’t mind if it looks messy and raw, a haze of stray lines and erasing–all signs of searching thought. I’ve learned painfully it’s better to be rough at this stage, as long as I get feeling into the thing, and a sense of ‘rightness’; the clinical precision aspect can come later. So, I’m aiming at good overall design planning: setting all the elements up strongly and clearly so that I can comfortably ink with confidence, knowing that a sound basic structure is in place. Exactly like constructing a house. The penciling is like the framing, the raw structure, with the inking being the detail work which goes on top. To that end, I’m thinking masses, masses of black, placements, patterns, proportions, rhythm and connections, silhouettes & positive & negative shapes, elements, intersections of elements, focal points, and so on: in a word, design. I’m thinking design, not just lines. I’m trying to create a working whole. Although some work is done here in considering the final lines, it’s mostly in the key areas such as the main figures and faces. But, I’m certainly not “worrying in” all the thicks and thins and so on. That will come in the ink stage, and will fall into place naturally as long as the prior stage is well thought-out. I’m leaving just enough vagueness, to keep the ink stage alive, and not fall into the bad habit of tracing in the ink, instead of drawing in the ink. But all the main solutions are there–there’s nothing more nerve-wracking than inking a cover while still not quite sure if the whole thing is working.
In the inks, I still think design, but get more into the dramatics, trying to ‘plus’ everything I’ve set up and make it look as good as possible. Here it’s all about balance and adjustment, working on the line weights, balance of patterns, making sure that the viewer’s eye is led where I want it to go. Many small changes are made–but importantly, I’ve learned not to make large risky changes at this stage. It’s rare that such a late thought works out well for me. Usually, it’s a sign of desperation and lack of sufficient design thought at the earlier stages (concept, first roughs/scribbles, pencils). Another clue that the design hasn’t been thought out well enough, or penciled well enough before plunging into the inks: too much fussing around and re-inking and correcting. When the piece bogs down like that, I usually have to admit, sadly, that something is lacking in a prior stage–and backtracking, I have to hunt it down and fix it if possible.5 comments