Saturday, October 27, 2012

What Do You Use To...?

One of the main questions I get asked (one of the main questions, I'm sure, that any creative person of any sort is asked) is: what do you use to do your work? And I'm always more than happy to share that information, partially because it's a pleasure to delve into that sort of thing and share it with someone else who's excited about pens, pencils, paper, and the other outmoded things that comprise my daily business. But another big reason I like sharing is because those sorts of answers were awfully hard to come by when I was starting off. The internet was just getting its legs, but finding something as esoteric as what nib so-and-so used to get this line in issue number one fifty seven of Astonishing Nobody's-Heard-of-It was still a chore, if not solidly impossible. So it's nice to be able to get that information out there. I wish people did it more often. And I'm really glad to see sites and features popping up where creative people share this kind of knowledge.

So in that spirit, here's a lot of what I use to make comics. I'm sure I'll accidentally leave some things out, and there's a possibility that some of these links may not lead to the intended destination, so feel free to ask questions in the comments or send me an e-mail. I'll do my best to respond. And I should note (though I hope it goes without saying), that these are just the tools I use currently. I experiment with new pens, brushes, papers, inks, nibs, etc. all the time. I'm always finding new things to help speed things up, refine the process, get a line I couldn't have gotten before. So feel free to use these as a starter or supplement, but always get out there and get weird with things. I mean, what's more fun than grabbing some new kinds of crayons and scrawling all over the place? Maybe heroin. I've never tried heroin.


For paper, I use a few kinds and sizes, though the main type is Strathmore 500 series, vellum finish (which has a bit of a tooth to it). I've been doing a lot of originals larger these days, so I order 20 x 30" sheets and cut them into two 15 x 20" sheets. For quite a while, I was using the 14 x 17" pads, which is more economical if your originals will fit on that size sheet. I still use those, but many of my originals now are around 18 x 24". Probably I'm just trying to get ahead of my quickly approaching old age/poor eye sight.


I mainly draw in non-photo blue pencil. This initially came out of a utilitarian desire to not erase, but I've fallen in love with the aesthetic of it. Verithin is the only brand of non-photo wooden pencil I've found that's light enough for my tastes.

Once the drawing is fairly refined, I switch to mechanical pencils for fine detail. This step was a major shift in my process and came on stubbornly. I used to be obsessed (though perhaps I wasn't all that conscious of the obsession) with doing the whole drawing with the same tool. But the Verithin, while a great pencil, is very waxy in its consistency and very difficult to keep at sharp point. So doing details in mechanical pencil saves a LOT of time. For the fine detail I use an Alvin Draftmatic 0.3, typically with 2H lead in it, and I use an Alvin Draftmatic 0.5 with the Uni-ball Soft Blue Lead. That soft blue lead is amazing. It fades relatively quickly if you leave a piece of art exposed to bright sun light for a few days (which I tend to do, as I tend to pencil in batches, then in ink in batches), but it's the only mechanical pencil lead I've found that can come close to the Verithin's lightness.

One of my favorite pencils in the world, the one I coveted above all others when I worked in an art supply store in college, is the Rotring 800 Drafting Pencil. Holy shit. This thing is built like industrial equipment from the 1950s. Is it expensive? God yes. It's insane. But when you pick it up, you understand why it's pricey. BECAUSE THEY MELTED DOWN A TANK TO BUILD IT. But despite my undying love for the 800, it's a bit rich for my blood. So I use its less expensive cousin, the 600. They melted down a less expensive tank to build that model, but it's still really great.

One more pencil note: If I’m penciling something that I’m not going to ink and I want the penciled lines to act more like a bold ink line, I use the Palomino Blackwing. I avoided this pencil for quite a while because it had an annoying amount of hipster hype about it. Something about technology or fashion people recommending a pencil rubs me the wrong way. But give this one to the hipsters: it's a damn nice pencil. All of the Comedy Bang! Bang! animation frames were first penciled in non-photo blue, then traced with the Blackwing (and inked by stalwart artists Jim Rugg and Eric Reynolds).


For lettering, I first rule out lines using an Ames lettering guide (typically set to around 4). When I teach classes in comics, this is the one piece of equipment that leaves students scratching their heads. But poke around on youtube and I'm sure you can find a demo that makes its use clear. Once you've tried it a few times, it's second nature.

After ruling the lines, I then pre-letter (just to figure out how the lines will fall in the balloon) using the non-photo blue pencil. Then I ink the lettering using a Copic 0.7. (Lately I've been working on a comic in my sketchbook (Fehlender Geist, which has made some appearances on The Daily Forlorn) with a Copic 0.5.) I love these pens. They're a bit on the pricey side, but they flow incredibly well, they're made of durable metal that feels great, and they're refillable. And the nibs are replaceable. I like not throwing out entire pens.

Incidentally, that site I just linked to, Jet Pens, is where I get most of my pens these days. It's been a life saver, game changer, and whatever other over-used expression you'd like to pop in. While you're at the site, I also highly recommend the Kuretake brush pen, which I use for signing/brush sketches when I’m out of the studio.

I just switched in the last year to lettering using the Copic. I used to use the Rotring Art pen. I used the "Lettering M" for regular letters, the "Lettering B" for bold. I used those pens with the piston-fill convertor, so I could use my preferred ink (detailed below).


I typically use a Winsor&Newton Series 7 brush. I use a number 1 for fine detail and a number 2 for larger lines (like on a cover or something along that level of largeness).

For ink, I use Dr. Ph. Martin's Tech Ink, Black. This stuff is phenomenal but a little hard to find. I always go with the 1 oz. bottles, since the larger bottle starts settling and changing on you before you have time to use the whole thing, and tends to be more of a pain in the ass than it's worth, savings-wise. Then again, my line art is pretty spare, so if you have tons of filled in areas on your art, maybe call and see if they sell it by the Big Gulp. I just don't use much ink.


For correcting inking, I use Daler-Rowney Pro White. You have to stir it occasionally and add water from time to time depedning on your climate/humidity, but I love this stuff. I brush it on with a number 0 brush.

For corrections in my sketchbook, I use the Pentel Presto, though I can't say it's the best. It may unfortunately BE the best out there, but I really hope not. If anyone has a thinner correction pen recommendation, I'm all ears. I just picked up the Uni Whitia, but I can't really recommend it over the Presto. So that area of the work flow a bit more of a work in progress than others...


Oh, erasers. I erase with a Staedtler Mars Plastic for general areas and a Tuff Stuff for smaller detail. I occasionally use the Sakura electric eraser, but only on very particular tiny areas of drawings. Using I just reach for the Tuff Stuff. Because, hey, it's tuff stuff.

My desk is an old Mayline drafting table. It's very heavy and has an electric lift (there's a button you push on the side to make it go up and down. I acquired this through Craigslist around four years ago and it's been one of the best purchases I've ever made. And one of the best features is the lift: I mainly work standing up (after reading the ten millionth article about how bad for you sitting down all day is), but when I'm too tired to do that, I can just roll up my chair (a Steelcase Leap that I got through eBay) and sit down. Easy.

Oh, and the box of nibs and lunchbox in the top picture are my dad's. He let me have those. He's a nice guy.


Hopefully some of that was helpful. Again, this is just the equipment I use. And it's just what I'm using currently. Plenty of these were added to the rotation in the last year or two, and I'm sure other things will be retired and make room for new additions in the near future. But these all, at the very least, have my recommendation for making some marks on paper that resemble bearded cats or sad forty-somethings. Take that for what you will.

Happy drawing.

Whither Posts?

This blog has been completely silent for the last couple months. My apologies for that. But rest assured it has not been without good reason. My wife and I had our first child, Leo, in August, and we've been, as any new parents are, pretty absorbed in his every smile, poop, and coo. Between dirty diapers, sanity preservation, and the multitude of projects (that I unfortunately can't talk about at present), the blog has had to take the backseat, or, more accurately, the trunk. The car seat goes in the backseat.

Anyway, this is really just a post to say: expect posts soon. In fact, expect one immediately following this. It's one I've been meaning to write for some time.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Two of The Best, At The Same Time

When I was in Los Angeles toward the end of last year, I was fortunate enough to see Jon Dore perform at Comedy Bang! Bang! at UCB Theatre. He was easily one of the smartest, most inventive stand-ups I've seen. Period. According to CBB's host, Scott Aukerman, Jon had a show in Canada, but I haven't been able to dig up much about it. For shame, Canada. I want to see anything this guy comes up with. Right now.

Rory Scovel is another comedian who I stumbled across only recently, but I wish I'd heard earlier. He's doing really phenomenal work... the beginning of his album "Dilation" is one of the best transformations from sarcasm to anger to sadness I've ever heard. Genius insanity in the span of one minute. (I'll admit I'm a little more drawn to the experimental weirdness of Dore's comedy, but Scovel's timing and performance is staggeringly good.)

So already being fast fans of these two I was overjoyed to find this (almost two years past) clip from Conan, where everyone involved took it up one more notch of ingeniousness. To explain anything about the video is a waste: Just watch it. And make sure to applaud at the end.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Russian Riot

Russians and non-Russians alike have (understandably) varying views on the practices of Russian Punk Collective Pussy Riot. But I don't think it's too arguable that a.) those masks look really great and b.) they are bad-asses who, if they have younger siblings, have younger siblings who think they are SUPER bad-asses.

"Century of The Child"

Oh, how I wish I could get to New York before this show is taken down. Thankfully, there's at least the catalog for the rest of us, but I'm jealous of anyone who gets to see all of this in person. (Thanks to the ever vigilant Emily for alerting me to this.)

Farewell, Sally

Sally Ride. 1951-2012.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Farewell, Donald

Donald J. Sobol. 1924-2012.

Sampson Monster

There are seven stages to looking at this Johnny Sampson poster. But almost all of them are being jealous you didn't draw it and buying it because it's so gorgeous. Or anyway, those were my stages.

Books and Bread

The problem with most book review/recommendation sites is that they don't tell you how to bake delicious treats. Fortunately the site Good Day Sunshine has solved this problem. And I was very glad to see Life with Mr. Dangerous paired with Zucchini Bread, a family favorite my mother made when my sisters and I were young.

The Staff Brigadier General Who Wasn't

If you haven't heard of the bizarre case of this couple, Albrecht Muth and Viola Drath, and the murder that resulted from their... do I call it love? dysfunction?... then I don't think I can possibly summarize it. I can only thank my wife a million times over for pointing me to this, one of the best and strangest profiles of a man I have ever read. Thank you.

Brand New Bag For Jackie No-Name

I've expressed my admiration of Tim Lane's work on this blog before, so of course I was happy to see him launch his amazing new web site.

Take a look around, wonder at the detail, play the Belligerent Piano.

Stanley Kubrick Interview

A must listen for any film buffs, Open Culture has an excellent interview with Stanley Kubrick, conducted in November of 1966 while Kubrick was working on 2001: A Space Odyssey. A link to an mp3 of the interview, as well as Kubrick's annotations on the New Yorker's piece is here.

Björk and Moomins

Together at last. (This has been out for a while, but I'd only just come across it unfortunately.) Gorgeous and weird as one would expect.

Blog Binge

I've been absent from posting to the blog for the month of July. My apologies. I promise it's been for good reasons. But to make up for lost time, today I'll be posting a heap of things, events, videos, etc. that I've been meaning to note over the past month or so. Now then, here come the posts...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Comedy Bang! Bang!: A Multitude of Teeth and Explosions

And here's some more production art for the Comedy Bang! Bang! title sequence. One of the most time-consuming aspects of this project wasn't the drawing itself, but designing all the little characters that, in the end, are on the screen for a fraction of a second.

It was the most time-consuming, but easily the most fun. (It's a pleasant rarity when things work out that way, isn't it?) My personal favorite is probably the Bird-fish-man-face-butt Creature. Poor guy. He seems like he'd always be late on his taxes and constantly wiping mustard from his plumage.

No actual or fictional animals were harmed during the production of this animation. And only one reference photo was ever used. This is it (seriously), for the dog in the side car bit:

After our hero rides into the face of madness, the screen explodes. These were some of my early art notes on how to make things explode (a seemingly simple animation whose difficulty I now appreciate on a far deeper level).

To finish things up with something done for the show outside of the title sequence, here's an ultimately unused, finely-coiffured chihuahua.

Have fun watching the premiere tonight on IFC. (Or iTunes, etc. thereafter...)

The Calls Are Coming From Inside The Baby

The ultimate teaser trailer for Comedy Bang! Bang!, premiering tonight. More posts on the art for the show headed your way shortly...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Comedy Bang! Bang! Titles: Behind The Scenes

On June 8th at 10/9 central, IFC will premiere Comedy Bang! Bang! a psuedo-talk show comedy romp hosted by Scott Aukerman.

Being a big fan of the CBB podcast, I was honored to do the title sequence, set art, logos, and other little bits and pieces for the television show. And I thought that today and tomorrow, in honor of the premiere, I'd post some of the production artwork produced along the way.

The title sequence started as inauspiciously as possible, scrawled out on a tiny piece of paper taped to my drafting table. Yes, this is all thirty seconds of the original title sequence (thought a few changes were made along the way). No, I have no idea how this could be even remotely understandable to anyone other than me.

Once the rough idea was conceived and fleshed out then came a lot of penciling. As in: a lot. One of the great luxuries of comics is leaving out all the moments in between... in animation, you're not so lucky. So even for this short piece, there was several weeks at the board.

There's absolutely no way I would have gotten through the whole process if not for the inking skill of Jim Rugg (master of all things ink-related) and Eric Reynolds (of Fantagraphics fame, who's no slouch with a brush himself). And of course there was the endless effort of the three-headed animation workhorse Bindledog (Jeff Zwirek, Adam Zwirek, and Jay Gish) who put the whole mess together in Flash and did approximately ten million tests to fine tune it all. Those three are to be commended for not cooking me on a spit for the insane hours I made them work.

Below you can watch an episode in its entirety, including the finished, colored title sequence. And I'll post some production art and character designs from the show tomorrow.

La vie avec Mister Dangerous

Over on, Pénélope Bagieu (who has her own site well worth perusing) reviews the French edition of Life with Mr. Dangerous (published by Actes Sud).

Bookstores and Digital, In Bed At Last

Via Forbes, a story about how Harvard Book Store is making digital book sales and sales in their physical store work hand in hand. It's pretty ingenious stuff and something I certainly hope other stores will look into more in the future.

Monday, June 4, 2012

"Oh, hello. I'm Bill Murray"

If anyone in Hollywood is considering making a mini-series of Bill Murray giving slightly disjointed house tours, please feel free.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Anniversary Sale

On Wednesday, May 9th, The Daily Forlorn will be celebrating it's first anniversary. And to really celebrate, I'm handing you money.

Wait, no... that can't be right. Let me check my notes...

Ah, here it is... all items on the Forlorn Funnies store will be 25% off. That was it.

The discount will only be from 12am May 9th through 12 am May 10th (CST), so if you wanted to purchase a daily drawing, original art, postcard set, or book, do it between those hours and use promo code 25DAILY01

Friday, May 4, 2012

John Cleese: How To Be Creative

(via Boing Boing) The great John Cleese being great, talking about how to foster creativity in your life. Plus some screw-in-the-lightbulb jokes.

Thurber Days, Part Three: Giant Sloths and Creepy Babies

And here we are: the third and final installment of random pictures I took during my residency in Columbus.

As a student at The Ohio State University, one of the places I spent an inordinate amount of time was the Orton Geological Museum. There was almost never anyone inside, so I could spend long spans of time just staring at one of my favorite things on earth: the skeleton of the Giant Sloth.

It was good to be back and visit my old friend and see that some of the display cases are still in the same state they were twelve years ago. The museum itself is a sort of strange meta-exhibit. Simultaneously distant and familiar. And perfect.

Of course what documentation of a trip anywhere would be complete without a creepy baby head? I was disturbed by this in the office of Columbus Museum of Art's own Jeff Sims. It was a bit blurry every time I shot it, as if its creepiness wouldn't allow a clear picture.

Creepy baby head says: thanks for looking at these pictures. See you next time.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Things He Saw

In case you missed it (as I did for the first few installments): Master drawer of everything and everyone, Jason Polan, is tackling a recurring piece for The New York Times, straightforwardly titled Things I Saw. If you haven't seen what he saw, get to seeing it. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thurber Days, Part Two: A Walk To The Garden

And here's part two of my pictures from my stay in Columbus. As I warned before, I don't tend to take pictures that provide much of a documentation of the area in which I'm staying. (Ample evidence of that is that I stayed in a two bedroom apartment in Thurber House for three weeks and took no pictures of the apartment itself.) I'll easily spend a half hour photographing a slab of concrete and ignore the thing I "should have" photographed. I can't really explain it... put simply, I have no idea what I'm doing. So enjoy these photos!


The pictures above and below are of sculptures outside Columbus Museum of Art. The Museum is about a block from Thurber House, so I walked by these all the time when going to get lunch or dinner. (Recommendation: sweet potato fries at Tip Top. Excellent.)

From the museum, I crossed the street and shot around a million pictures of my new favorite building: the Motorists building. Good God, do I love this building. It's so perfectly boring! Anything could be happening in there and probably doesn't! I could shoot pictures of it all day.

This great parking garage and the polar bear (maybe it's a polar bear? anyway, that's what I decided it must be) were right across from one another. What's the story that connects them? That's how far too many books get started in my head.

From there I reached my destination for this particular walk... one of my favorite places in Columbus: Topiary Park. Topiary Park isn't necessarily the most gorgeous park or garden, but the bizarreness of its centerpiece – a recreation of Seurat's "Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte" in shrub form – appeals to me in so many ways that I've always loved coming here and just contemplating it. The thought process, the approval, the maintenance of it... it's all pretty fascinating.

On this visit to the park, there were some excellent ducks that were disagreeing with one another and putting on quite the air and water show. And the only thing better than ducks going nuts in a topiary park is two little blonde twins losing their minds with glee at witnessing ducks going nuts in a topiary garden. You can just barely see the little fowl enthusiasts in one of these shots.