HOW TO DRAW COMICS:
INKING WITH A BRUSH pt 9
Continuing the real-life saga of one man’s struggle against his art materials!
Think of the brush tip as a flexible inverted cone. When held straight up and down and lowered onto the paper – without any other corresponding movement being made – the mark the tip makes will at first be a tiny dot. As soon as you add any pressure whatsoever, though, the flexible hairs begin to fold resulting in a blob whose shape, though often somewhat circular, is actually quite difficult to predict. This is why it’s usually best to hold your brush at an angle to the paper. Because after all, brush control is to a great degree about predictability.
Now, when you hold your brush at an angle, the cone of the brush tip is also angled. And lowering the angled brush onto the paper without any other movement results in a mark on the paper that is wedge shaped, at first short and fine, and then as you press harder, longer and thicker. The greater the angle your brush is from the vertical (meaning the closer the handle end of the brush gets to the paper), the longer the wedge will be (assuming you use the same amount of pressure).
Strictly speaking, this is only true as you lower the tip onto the paper without moving it across the paper. Once you add motion to the brush, however, the wedge shape is pushed or pulled into other shapes, depending on what direction you move the tip and how much pressure you apply.
To get an understanding of how this happens, let’s start with a simple exercise. First, using only your wrist and keeping your fingers motionless, draw a line of about two to three inches across the paper. You’ll notice that this line is a gentle curve forming a semi-circular arc with your wrist bone as the approximate center. This is your natural arc when drawing from the wrist, something I discussed previously.
Now, make a series of marks in a circle centered on your natural arc in the following way: Imagine that there is a circle on your paper about one inch in diameter, cut in half by your natural arc. On the outside of this circle, lay the tip of the brush gently onto the paper without moving the brush as you do so. Make ten to twenty such marks until you’ve gone all the way around your imaginary circle. The top image here is what it should look like.
What you end up with is a series of wedges, all pointing in the same direction – the direction your brush tip is pointing across the surface of the paper. You’ll notice that this direction is at an approximate right angle to your natural arc. With all but the very lightest pressure, this is the shape the brush naturally presents to the paper: a small wedge pointing at a right angle to your natural arc. This basic shape will affect how your strokes look as you move the brush in various directions across the paper.
Now, let’s try another exercise. Using your hand and wrist in combination to control the brush, do the same thing as before, only this time draw 10 or 20 short lines of maybe 1/8 inch each, as if they are radiating outward from the center of the circle. Try to make each line with the same motion, a quick flick of the fingers. You might want to repeat this exercise several times until you begin to see a pattern emerge. Your drawing should look something like the second image here.
What you’ll notice with your drawing is this:
Your natural arc acts as a dividing line between pushing and pulling the brush. Those marks on the opposite side of the line from where your hand is resting are pushed outward, away from your wrist. Those on the same side have been pulled inward, toward your wrist.
The marks at the topmost section of the circle — where you are pushing the brush — tend to start thick and end thin, as you might expect from the first exercise. The marks at the bottommost section of the circle — where you are pulling the brush — tend to start thin and end thick, again, as you might expect from the first exercise.
But it’s toward the sides of the circle that things get a little more interesting.
Next Wednesday: We’ll talk about this and more in: Inking With a Brush, part 10!
Wednesday, June 24th, 2009