Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Can someone pass the yams?

I'm heading up to Maine to visit the folks in a few days.
But first, a sketchdump:

You can't have a turkey without stuffing and rambling, so here goes...

A couple posts ago, Mike Rauch asked if I would weigh the pros and cons of inking traditionally versus digitally. This is a topic that's coming up more often these days, and I sense a growing number of cartoonists have a foot in both camps.

Maybe it's because I've been chained to the computer for so long, but it KILLS me how intuitive it is to ink by hand. Simply put the brush or nib to the paper and you know exactly what you're getting. If you make a mistake, you know exactly why it happened—nothing mysterious is going on behind the scenes. It's more nuanced and requires a level of concentration, but it's so natural to draw this way.

Flash, on the other hand, will always be a bit of a mystery. It took me a year or two to wrap my head around it, and it still frustrates me from time to time (how it reprocesses the line, in particular). But we all put up with it for the precision it offers, and the perfectionist's dream: UNDO. Not to mention the edit and transform tools.You can tweak and re-tweak a drawing until you're completely happy.

This is how I'm currently breaking it down.

I ink digitally when I sense the need for edits and corrections, which currently equals the majority of my client work. Flash is able to give me a clean professional line; I haven't achieved a similar level of slickness with the brush (yet). I don't have to scan and clean up my inks, so coloring is a snap. Flash is quick. Flash is sharp. It's what you'd expect from the digital realm. But even with the Cintiq, the computer has a long way to go in recreating the tactile connection between drawing utensil and paper. It will always be a mimic.

I reserve working traditionally for more personal work: namely, my comics. It's way easier to plot out the drawings on paper. I enjoy the craft of inking more than anything else. It's also valuable to have the physical piece to hold in my hands when I'm done. I think about my artwork trapped in zeros and ones and it really bugs me. Ideas come easier when I work them out on paper, which is why inking in a sketchbook is a bit of a no-brainer now that I have the brush pen. I rarely find myself doodling in Flash these days.

While I'm having a lot of fun inking on paper, I cannot deny the power, speed, and edit-ability of the digital realm. So I'm still very much a proponent of inking in Flash. But if you're a digital person, do yourself a favor: open up a sketchbook and put a pen, pencil, or brush to paper. For balance, if nothing else.

Happy Thanksgiving!


maura said...

i love these drawings, Bob. #1, #3 and #5 are my faves :)

i love my computer and my wacom. LOVE them, but i cannot seem to bring myself to ink digitally. not sure that i ever will. inking traditionally comes so naturally that it feels weird when i try to ink digitally. a friend of mine told me to put a piece of vellum on my wacom to mimic the feeling of drawing on paper, but i still can't seem to get it.

what i find myself doing most of the time is inking my pieces traditionally, and then going back into them digitally to clean them up. for me, nothing beats being able to see the imperfect (scratchy, raw) line.

Sherm said...

Fantastically wonderful drawings, they hardly deserve the word, "dump." But I get the term. So much fun to look at, and I really like your chat about the ambivalence of digital inking. Thanks for sharing the drawings!!!

elfelix said...

Damn Bob!
You are doing really cool things!

Unknown said...

Excellent breakdown. I think I'm afraid to ink in flash because I have a tendancy to noodle when I work digitally. I'll spend more time tweaking and retweaking, when I should be moving on to the next page.

Thanks for the dump and your thoughts. Nice way to start off the long weekend.

adam ziskie said...

fantastic batch of drawings. I am totally in love with #1. I also really enjoy your opinion on the digital vs. traditional. Digital serves its purpose but it just can't compete with the "real deal".

David DeGrand said...

Man your sketchbook pages are always a wonder to behold. Love the guy in the washtub! And the poor guy that's freaking out with all the sweat and such is the most disturbing thing I've seen all day!

Bob Flynn said...

Wow, thanks for the responses everyone. I find myself stepping away from the computer these days. As you mentioned, Maura, something about an imperfect line breathes humanity into it. And you hit it too, Jake: you get one shot on paper, then you're on to the next thing.

Jason Curtis said...

Your sketches make me want to bow and kiss your feet...just incredible stuff Bob.

I make my living as a professional photographer, and I've been fully digital for the last 6 years I guess. In the beginning I loved digital, but with each passing year I find myself longing for "the good old days". Maybe this is just human nature? Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

I truly do miss being more hands-on during the entire process though. Currently, I capture my files digitally, then my entire post production workflow is computer based, and I FTP my files to the lab in order to get printed. Back in the day, I would mix my own chemicals, process the negatives myself, wait for them to dry, print my work by hand etc. The whole experience was more tactile and personal.

Bringing this back to drawing, I'm truly loving the fact that I can keep everything extremely low tech in this high tech world...a pen and paper is all I need, which is truly liberating. I like the imperfections, the time hunched over the drawing board, the feeling of paper under my hand. What I like the most though, is the final product which I can hold in my hand. Having a tangible piece of art, to me, is a beautiful thing.

Len said...

Really like your drawing style- I'm so pleased also to find someone else who uses Flash to draw. Other cartoonists have expressed amazement that I use it. Flash, for me, is the only alternative to ink when it comes to line drawing.

Tali said...

agree! agree!
I also ink in flash quite a lot, and enjoy the flexibility it allows.
When I go back to traditional media, I always find myself reaching for the undo key.. (d'oh!)
But it's true that it doesn't really compare the feel of a real pen or brush in your hand which, suprisingly after a break, feel so natural to use.

Sometimes the imperfect lines and little mistakes you might make along the way add so much to the final image.

Mike Rauch said...

Just now saw this. Thanks for writing it. Best thoughts I've ever read on the subject I think.