Friends With Boys - Page 111

Hm, Alistair feels like talking. Wonder where this is going to go. Lucy’s thing of calculating the ages on gravestones is something I like doing as well, especially on the super old gravestones you see in the graveyards around Halifax. It amazes me how long people lived, even back in the 17 and 1800s; there seem to be many stones with people who’d lived into their late 70s and 80s. However, that might be because they were important enough to merit a gravestone. As I mentioned in a previous post, there is one graveyard in downtown Halifax which has over 12,000 people buried in it, but only 1,200 markers. So maybe no marker if you die young?

There are also a lot of families buried in the old graveyards around here, and sometimes seeing their gravestones can be kind of heartbreaking. I remember one couple who lived into their eighties, but their large gravestones were surrounded by five tiny gravestones: all their children had died before their 20th birthday.

Thanks for all the great info about people who’d died at sea, btw! You guys are super knowledgeable. I thought there might be an absentee grave-marker tradition in place (living in a historical city by the sea for the last five years has impressed on me how much seafaring traditions mean to the place), and it’s nice to know more about it.

On a completely different note, I’ve been thinking about my giant blog post about my comic making process (glad you guys enjoyed that!), and I just wanted to add a few more thoughts about making art, although these are a little more abstract.

Basically, I wanted to stress that nothing is more important than finding the art tools and methods that work for you. The tools I use (and talked a lot about in that blog post) are tools I took a very long time to find. I like to show them to people because they might be the right tools for you to make art with as well, and my telling you about these tools might save you a few years of flailing about trying to find the right equiptment to draw with. Or they might be the completely wrong things for making your comics.

For example, the Pentel brush pen. I used to do all my comics with the Pentel. I drew Zombies Calling with it and The War at Ellsmere. Also, about half of Brain Camp. For comparison, here’s an early panel from Brain Camp, inked with a Pentel:
 And here’s a panel after I switched to inking with my current inking tool, a Winsor & Newton Series 7 watercolour brush (and bottle of ink):
 To me, one panel shows a lot more technical skill. My opinion is that my art got a lot better once I found a brush that allowed me to develop my drawing style in a realistic direction. I don’t know why that made my art better, but it did. Art is weird like that: sometimes something works when it shouldn’t, and doesn’t when it should. ART! It will drive you crazypants, amirite?

Anyway, the point is, I know people who use the Pentel, or even cheap-arse brush markers and make gorgeous artwork, because these are the tools that work for them. I remember once watching Darwyn Cooke draw the crap out of a Spirit sketch using a brush marker, a tool I frankly hate. I feel like I’m inking with mittens on when I use a brush marker, but that dude could make it do magical things. It just worked for him.

So I guess my rambling point is, find what works for you. Buy weird crap at your local art store, and give it a try. Something that is cheap and busted might work better than a $70 brush.

One of the worst experiences I ever had in art school was trying to learn to lifedraw. I HATED lifedrawing. I had to use a smudgy charcoal-like stick (I think it was called conte) and draw on giant sheets of paper. I dreaded lifedrawing. Nothing I drew looked right or felt right. When I graduated from animation college, I swore I’d never lifedraw again. I was terrible at it, and didn’t know how to do it right.

Well, unfortunately, that wasn’t an option, because in order to get better at drawing people, you have to lifedraw. I believe this firmly: you must draw lots of naked people, and learn your anatomy and what people really look like in order to draw great cartoon people. I really think this is one of the cardinal rules of making great looking comics. But what could I do? I hated lifedrawing. The answer came from changing how I did my lifedrawing.

I decided: no more giant sheets of newsprint, or standing at an easel. That made me feel uncomfortable. I would sit in a chair, and I would draw with the tools I enjoyed using, which was ink and pencil. So I did. I drew some naked people that way, and was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I didn’t make great drawings, but I liked what I was doing. Later, Dr.Sketchy’s Anti-Art School came to Halifax, and I started drawing there. The laid back atmosphere was a really nice enviroment to draw in, as were the costumes some of the models wore (some, I wish, wore a little less costume. I wanted to learn how to draw bodies as well as clothes). Lifedrawing went from something scary and frustrating, to something enjoyable. I’m not saying I got good at drawing people all of a sudden, but that didn’t matter so much. What mattered is that I was doing it.

So, final conclusions … go and draw, don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid to ignore the instruction of professionals and teachers. I offer my advice about making comics with an asterisk: it is what works for me, but it may not work for you. And that is just fine, really.

Btw, you can see some of my Dr.Sketchy’s drawings on my Facebook page (beware, contains scantily clad women, so maybe NSFW).


33 Responses

  1. Peter says:

    AAAAWWWWW SHEET, here we go. The meat and potatoes. Mmmhmm, can’t wait.

    Your story is so incredibly immersive, and I think part of it is because you have such a developed sense of pace, I am in awe.

  2. Ingrid says:

    We did a fair bit of the (more boring) life drawing you’re describing. And then in our third year this guy shows up and we can draw on A4 or A3 and use pen and ink or whatever else floats our boat. And we actually seriously studied anatomy for a bit with someone else too. A good year.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      That is cool! My big frustration with art school and art teachers is that so many emphasize drawing a certain way, and using certain tools, because that is the “best” way to do things … but that’s nonsense. Sometimes people need to do things differently. And that’s okay.

      • staticgirl says:

        Completely agree with that although i absolutely loved that way of life-drawing and wish there was a way I could go back and do it locally. But my art tutors looked down on everything and every artists I valued so I ended up not studying art at all and ending up in a boring office job.

        All of the readers of this comic should stick to their guns and believe in themselves more than I was able.

  3. AsimovSideburns says:

    Oh snap. We are about to get some serious


    all up in here.

    Okay I’m ready now. I’ve got my serious face on. Let’s do this thing.

  4. Jess says:

    wait, you watched darwyn cooke DRAW at some point?? holymuthaofgod you are the luckiest!!

  5. Emily says:

    I love life drawing, and I actually found conte quite nice, personally. When I draw from life, I find it nice to be able to smudge.
    Dr. Sketchy’s is something I’ve been really wanting to go to, and I might go this upcoming summer because I’ll finally be 19 and able to. That’s if they’re still going, since the Halifax website hasn’t been updated in quite some time.
    There’s something about getting together with other artists and just drawing that is really nice and relaxing.

  6. Ed Sizemore says:

    Andy Runton uses a brush pen too. I’m pretty sure it’s not the Pentel model commonly available. I believe he went up a couple steps in quality. It’s amazing the brush pens available in Japan and the price some of them command.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Oh man, yeah, I would love to go shopping in the brush pen section of a Japanese art store. If manga hasn’t lied to me, that is where the craziest stuff is. I’m really curious what my favourite manga artists use to ink, especially Hiromu Arakawa (I think Urasawa uses a dip quill … there was a video of him working on Youtube a while back that had him using it), because I looooove her inkwork. I can’t even begin to imagine how she inks.

  7. Warren says:

    ‘I believe this firmly: you must draw lots of naked people…’

    …and that’s where I end up getting distracted. 8\

    I’ve got a book, ‘Anatomy for the Artist’, by Jeno Barcsay. It’s full of charcoal sketches and studies. I’ve found it somewhat useful, though for life drawing what’s worked best for me is to peruse online images.

    Not porn, and not erotica, though the images can sometimes be intended to venture into the latter. What I’m actually looking for is what I’ve loved the most in photography and cinematography – high-key, contrasty, interesting interplays of shadow and light. When I find something like that I’ll save it and sketch from it.

    This is a very rural area I live in, so it’s not as though we’ve got a lot of access to actual models or such, and it’s not the kind of thing you want to just up and ask someone to do. So there’s a kind of convenience to online searches.

    Of course, one does have to occasionally contend with distractions then as well. Sigh.

    Typically what I draw is cartoony, rather than realistic – but I’ve found that having at least some knowledge of how anatomy works has improved the execution of my cartoons. That might seem surprising, but an awkward pose in a cartoon character is usually due to the artist not being able to express the shape with anatomical correctness in the first place – at least in my experience. Even the most goofy toon images have to reference reality on some level, if for no other reason then to make their absurdity more … absurd.

    So yeah, knowledge of anatomy and life drawing is important regardless of what style of drawing one does.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yeah, it’s unfortunate if you live in an area where lifedrawing isn’t available, as pictures aren’t quite as good. However, they’ll do in a pinch. I had some software at one point which was a picture of a model taken in a 3D rotation, so you saw the body from every angle. It was very helpful! Unfortunately I can’t remember what it was called…

  8. Tara says:

    Woo! I have used the pentel for about 4-5 years now, and I have always gone back to it after experimenting with other pens, but it’s hard to get really detailed with it. Perhaps a marriage between brush pen and brush is in order. Unless I’m drawing at a huge scale, which rarely happens, some of those small details get fudged with the brush pen.

    I used to go to life drawing sessions all the time in college, since I moved and now live in the woods it’s unfortunate that there is no place I can go–bummer. Hopefully with another move (hopefully our last) we will be able to go someplace that has some community art stuff.

  9. shuilung says:

    Like Lucy, I spent a lot of time in graveyards when I was a kid. I lived in Boston, so there were some really ancient markers. I never thought of it as being macabre, rather it gave me a feeling of connection to the past. I’d look at the stones and the dates and wonder what they were like and how they died. Saddest tombstone award goes to one in the Old Burying Ground in Charleston MA. It was about 5 feet long carved into individual sections for a mother and her four children who all died of smallpox in 1726. Black humor award goes to one on Bermuda. It marks the grave of an RN sailor who was killed in 1880 when a 10 inch rifled muzzle loading cannon fell on him. At the top of the marker is a carving of said gun and if you look carefully, there’s an ARM sticking out from under it . . .

  10. shuilung says:

    Oh and in terms of grave markers and the absence thereof: It’s possible that they were wooden markers that rotted away. Also the Quakers didn’t believe in grave markers. The Quaker burying ground on Nantucket is just a big open empty field. There are several thousand people interred therein but you’d never know that to look at it. My old boss had a girl working for him who was deathly afraid of cemetaries-he took her out into the middle of the field and THEN told her where she was. He said she nearly broke the land-speed record getting out of there and didn’t speak to him for three days.

  11. Angela says:

    Rather than lacking live drawing classes, I lack the time for them. So instead I draw from images on The Sartorialist blog. There are all sorts of fun people in different poses and it is especially good for clothes. It is just a fashion photo blog. And to sketch I use one of those water brushes filled with sumi ink. Very fun. I wouldn’t want to do a whole comic with that, but it is fun for quick stuff. I don’t think I’ve actually done live drawing since highschool at the community college. Dr. Sketchy’s does sound super fun though.

  12. Vanessa says:

    Ugggh, conte crayon, charcoal, all that…I HATED that in college and as soon as I had that BFA in hand I dumped all of it. I’m the same way as you, once I started using the tools that I love using, I loved life drawing and do it all the time now. But man, I hated those giant drawing boards, and lugging them around town. Never, ever, again. There is something to be said about being forced in art school to try out different mediums – who knows, maybe you’ll love one – but after the first figure drawing class, I think we should be allowed to use our medium of choice. After all, the class isn’t a charcoal class, it’s a figure class!

    And seriously, I am so excited for Alistair to tell us his dark and brooding past!

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yes, definitely. I do agree with the being forced to try new things, but after a year spent on conte and giant sheets of newsprint, I knew it wasn’t for me. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel confident enough to go against what the teachers wanted and do what was right for me.

      • Vanessa says:

        Seriously, it took us until senior year to be allowed to figure draw in other mediums. Screw conte crayons, I’ll take col erase any day!

  13. Noreen says:

    There’s clearly way more control with the second image over the first. :) Also much more consistency in your lines and it looks like you were much more comfortable with it. I do like the convenience of a Pentel (except for that part where I ran out of ink at Halcon o_<) but I do understand where you're coming from in the comfort with a brush. It depends on the technique! You have a much more controlled style where if you were doing something much looser, a Pentel could suffice.

    Either way yerawesomekthxbye.

    • Faith Erin Hicks says:

      Yeah, exactly. I feel like I NEED control in my inking, tho, otherwise my drawings just end up looking sloppy. For some reason I haven’t mastered the ‘loose but still solid’ inking style you manage. X)

  14. Wynne says:

    On the who doesn’t get gravestones thing, if you ever read archaeology journals or anything like that (scientific journals, so exciting, amirite?), they spend a lot of time trying to figure out who exactly got the goods and the grave markers and who didn’t, because it says so much about how a society is laid out.

    If you have a college library nearby, try picking up a book like Gender and Chinese Archaeology (AltaMira Press, 2004). I did a school project on Chinese tombs and the three articles I got from this book were the only three that weren’t as dull as dirt. Most Chinese archaeological sites are burials, so they use little besides the graves themselves to try and figure out why this boy had a larger burial than that man, or why this group of women had jade jewelry but no ceremonial vessels. The implications can become pretty complex.

    • Wynne says:

      Sorry for geeking out like that, but the book fits kind of well with what you’ve been musing on, and I’ve been looking for an excuse to share it for months. You don’t expect academic books to catch your interest very much, but for some reason that one had articles that were relatively easy to get through. :)

  15. Lisandro says:

    Yay! great page and great post on a great day. Happy Birthday to me!!

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Hello readers, new ones just discovering the comic and those who’ve been with it since the beginning. Friends With Boys is now complete online. You may read it in its entirety, all 200+ pages, for free, for the next eight days. Then the image files of the comic (except for a short preview) will be taken down. While the comic was being serialized online, I blogged a lot about my comic making process. I did write ups about how I make comics, what my opinions on what makes a good comic are, and pointed out various Easter eggs throughout Friends With Boys. That stuff will all remain up, so if you buy a hard copy of Friends With Boys, you can still read along with my thought process.

And now (today!), Friends With Boys is a published book! Yay! I hope that if you’ve read the web version and liked it, and want to support me as a creator, you’ll consider buying the book.

I’ve really enjoyed serializing Friends With Boys online. If you’re new to my work, I started out making comics online before moving into print. I posted the very first page of my very first online comic on my very first website back in August, 1999, and wow, was that page ugly. Here it is! Notice a weird similarity to the first page of Friends With Boys? Yeah, that was not deliberate, I promise. But look how much your drawing skills can improve if you draw thousands of pages of comics over a ten year period! Anyway, I’m really thrilled my wonderful publisher First Second Books has allowed me to return to my roots and put Friends With Boys online as a lead up to its publication. As a reader and purchaser of comics, I have bought quite a few hard copy versions of online comics, because I enjoy the reading experience of having the whole thing collected, and I want to support the author. I hope you will too. :)

Otherwise, there are a few upcoming events I hope to see some readers at:
Book signing! At my local comics shop Strange Adventures, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 3rd (Saturday), 2-4pm (EDITING TO ADD: The book launch has been moved to the following Saturday due to the books not shipping to Strange Adventures on time. The launch will now be March 10th from 2-4pm. Go here for info).
Comic convention! I’ll have a table at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, May 6th-7th. There are a few other conventions I am trying to attend, but everything else is up in the air at the moment. For updates, please follow my twitter or join my Facebook fan page.  I’m pretty good about updating those two spots.

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