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Subtle Distinctions

gestalt! One of the challenges that keeps me drawing Pear Pear is the facial expressions. I intentionally don't thumbnail or sketch the cartoons out in pencil before inking. This is because if I do, the sketch often comes out better than the final product, which is the most frustrating thing in the world.

However, the result sometimes is that I'll draw Pear Pear or his friend the mug several times before giving up and going with something else. You can see this in #32. In the rejected versions to the left, I was trying for a kind of almost maniacal serenity: Pear Pear is so pleased to have evicted the apple from his bowl that he doesn't know what to do with himself. I just couldn't nail it. The one on top comes closest, but he's a little too abstracted. There's too much remembering-a-joke in the one on the right; too much isn't-my-little-nephew-growing-up-properly in the one on the left. In the final cartoon I threw my hands up and went for a relaxing-in-the-hot-tub kind of pleased.


Other times, some inexplicably complex emotional information just sort of comes out. I feel like this is the case with the water glass in #26, or the mug in #19. It's those moments where I feel like the characters are truly developing and rounding themselves out. They get a little more life of their own every time they own a moment I throw them into.

Re: Subtle Distinctions

CyberLord's picture

The gradations of graphite on paper are greater than the binary existence of ink on paper, that's why pencil sketches often contain more of the emotion we are looking for than the finished ink rendering.

Learning to capture the analog expression of graphite in the binary world of ink is the true hallmark of an artist. I would suggest you invest, or construct, a simple light table. Then you could create your image in pencil and transcribe it in ink later. It adds a step to your work, but this way you keep both versions which you can compare and analyse later.

Light box construction is fairly simple. You need a sturdy enclosure - Radio Shack or build one from wood, a sheet of flat glass - available from your local glazer, a sixty watt or higher bulb and socket (rated for 100 watts) - available from Ace Hardware or other stores, and some assorted tools such as saws or sturdy X-Acto knives to cut openings in the enclosure.

It works best if you remove the bottom of the enclosure, and cut an opening in the back for the cord to the socket. Then you cut an opening in the top of the enclosure SMALLER than the glass. You can tape the glass atop the enclosure (not so good) or you can use "Gorilla Glue" (very GOOD!). Whatever you do, don't use a "Super Glue". That seal on that stuff breaks whenever you apply torgue.

Once your lightbox is contructed you just drop it on your desk over the light source. Reach under the box and turn on your light source. Then plop your pencil drawing on the glass and your bare naked paper for your ink work on top of that. If you have difficulty seeing the pencil work then you need a higher wattage bulb. Go get one! :)

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort but where he stands at times of challenge and discovery. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.---------CyberLord

Re: Subtle Distinctions

Pear-pear's picture

Thanks for the idea! I've used the old "tape it to the window" approach for some of my editorial cartoons. The sun makes a good, cheap light table, but one's arm gets tired :) I may try pencil sketching some images and inking them in this way.

I find your thoughts on how the medium of graphite vs. ink interesting. It's true that (if I can be obnoxiously theoretical for a sec) more articulation along the continuum of light and dark offers the opportunity for more distinctions and thus more range of meaning. I think I already started "accidently" playing with this by making the Kiwi gray. He already has a different emotional vibe based on this simple distinction. I also occasionally have thrown some color in (#14, #30), but now I'm not sure if these were appropriate choices.

But part of what has made the process of drawing this comic interesting to me (if at times frustrating) is the question "how much emotional meaning *can* one convey in the binary of black and white? how can subtle distinctions of form, composition and line compensate for the lack of color/intensity information?"

Thanks for stopping by, for the advice, and for the food for thought!