Four Talking Boxes 2209


This week I made some ink and marker drawings in a slightly different style than usual. I used my colored ink and bright colored markers. I was looking for a super hero pop art style. I think I came close.

The first thing I had to ask myself was what did I want to draw in this style? I wanted something simple so I went with a face and then I decided to do it at comic book size so I went with a Batman face. I don’t draw a lot of popular characters but when I do Batman is up there on my list because he has such a distinctive mask and face. I’m not even a huge Batman fan but he has a lot of interesting shapes in his mask. It’s almost like an abstract painting.

The first thing I knew I wanted to do was to change Batman’s colors. I didn’t want his usual blue. I decided on my brightest green marker instead. I also decided on my blue ink. I have two shades of blue ink. One is lighter than the other but it’s also more transparent. I went with the darker and more dense one. It’s a very pigmented medium blue so it did the job well.

My first attempt had to be abandoned. It can be tricky working with markers because they can smear if thing are done in the wrong order. I normally use a black India ink and that works well with the markers. If I were to take a marker and color over the black ink it generally won’t smear. Sometimes there is a little extra black pigment on the surface of the paper and that pigment will smear into the marker ink. That doesn’t happen often enough to be a problem but it turns out with the blue ink it is a problem.

I made my Batman drawing, printed it out in blue line, inked it with my blue ink, and then set about coloring it with markers. That’s when the trouble happened. The blue ink had a lot of extra pigment in it that sat on the surface of the paper. The marker started to smear that pigment every now and then but I thought it was fluke. Then it kept happening. I eventually had all of Batman’s face and mask colored but there was too much smearing for my taste. It wasn’t disastrous but it wasn’t good either. I decided to start again and do things backwards.

I grabbed another piece of paper and printed out the drawing in blue line but this time I used the markers first and then the ink over top of them. This wasn’t an easy way to work. I like to have my line in place before the color because that helps me visualize things better. But I had no choice this time so I put the color down over weak blue pencil lines. I got used to it in the end though. Especially since I was using only flat color. It would have been trickier if I was using modeled color.

I had no idea what I wanted for the background when I started the drawing. I drew nothing for the background so I figured it had to be some sort of color design but nothing jumped out at me at first. I happened to have my Haff parallel line machine out so I decided to go with lines for the background. I needed up setting the machine to two millimeters and using the chisel end of the marker to make straight lines. I drew a line across the edge of the Haff ruler, hit its lever to move the ruler down 2MM and repeat this five times. So five clicks of the Haff, five lines in a row drawn, and then five more clicks of the Haff with no lines drawn. So 10MM of color and then 10MM of white paper.

I started the background with the dark color first. Then I came in with a lighter shade marker of the same color. That way I didn’t need the Haff machine for the lighter color since the dark color would hem it in. Light doesn’t bleed into dark. Once again it’s all about the order things are done in.

After that I inked the drawing with the blue ink as usual. It all went smoothly and liked the results. I decided to try a second one with red ink. I had a little bit of a tougher time with the color choices on this one. I think the bright green on the first Batman head worked really well and I didn’t have another marker that I was as confident in. I ended up going with an orange marker and it did the job but I like the green Batman better.

I also had a problem with the contrast between the orange and the red ink line. They were too close in value. I ended up using an outline around the outside ink line. I choose the lighter shade of blue ink that I have and went to work. It took a while. It come out okay but the lighter blu ink was a little too transparent for the task. I had to go over the same line multiple times in order to get it opaque. Or at least a bit more opaque. The second one is okay but I like the first one better.

After the two drawings were completed I got tired of Batman. I wanted to work with one of my own images so I found a face that I drew a few years ago and use that. I used the same method of drawing with the colored markers first and then the blue ink and things went smoothly. The drawing looks fine but there is a funny thing about it. It doesn’t look “Off” enough.

Y’see, I know what Batman is supposed to look like and after I drew him in bright green that made him look “Off.” Looking at the drawing makes my brain a little confused because something familiar looks odd. Meanwhile despite the original drawing of the face I made having crazy colors, like green and magenta, it doesn’t look “Off.” It looks like another of my crazy faces. Weird. Crazy is so normal for my drawing that it doesn’t look crazy enough. A strange conclusion.


I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics.

  • The Magic Order – 1
  • Mage: The Hero Denied – 9
  • Monstress – 17
  • Copperhead – 19
  • Check them all out here:



    Here I sit and wait for the train. I commuted into NYC once a week for a few months so I figured I’d record those moments that get lost in time. Often we commemorate big events but not the little ones. I like keeping track of the little things. At least on occasion. I’m similar to everyone else and usually forget the small stuff so sometimes I like to write it down .

    First of all the schedule I worked on was terrible. I worked on Wednesday’s from 2PM until 6:20 PM. That doesn’t make for a quick commute via public transportation. The peak trains have ended and the middle of the day trains run fewer and far between. I had a choice between two trains. The first one gets me into Penn Station at about a quarter to two. Being that it’s a twenty minute walk to where I need to go that’s not a very good choice. The problem is that the next earlier train is an hour and a half earlier than that one. But it’s the one I have to take. 

    The worst thing about public transportation is the waiting. Any commute involves commute time plus waiting for a bus or train. With the train arriving at Nanuet station at 10:52 AM that means I have to be there ten minutes before that. It’s a twenty minute drive from my house to the station so I end up leaving the house at a quarter after ten. I also have to take into account the five minutes it takes to park and walk over to the train.

    Luckily for me there was a nice glass enclosed waiting area at the train station. Since it was winter when I commuted I was able to sit in there and draw. I drew in my ink book or drew some of my 5×7 inch cartoon art cards. I had a 6×8 inch stiff cardboard envelope that I stuck some Bristol board in and the envelope doubles as a drawing board too. I even left my house five or ten minutes early, just in case of traffic, plus I know I’ll get a little extra drawing time in.

    When the train comes I get on and kick back with my headphones on. I’ve collected old Howard Stern shows as mp3s over the years and I usually play some of that as I relax and ride. I put them on my old generation one iPod Touch and start listening in the car on the way to the station. Lately I’ve been listening to the Eric the Actor Omnibus. Somebody out there in internet land made individual mp3 files of every one of ETA’s appearances and posted them for us fans.

    As I ride the train more waiting is up ahead. There is no direct train route from Nanuet to NYC so we have to get off at Secaucus Junction and get on a train to Penn Station from there. Being that I don’t want to get to school too early I have a choice between stations to wait at. Penn Station is a bad place to wait. It’s a terrible space not built for humans. Secaucus Junction is sunny, spacious, and vibrant. So that’s where I usually wait. I find a seat on a bench in the main waiting area and pull out my drawing stuff to work on. It’s been the faces lately. I stay there for about half an hour before getting on a train into the city.
    There was a day this February where the temperature actually hit 80F. That sure was unusual during this especially cold winter and spring so I took advantage of it by not drawing and heading in to take street photos. I walked around for an hour and a half snapping photos. I have to say that was a tiring day. All that walking and then standing and teaching wore me out more than usual.

    Besides that one day I usually got into the city at about a quarter to one. That means I arrive at the school about an hour early. That leaves me time to check into the office and chat a little before heading up to my classroom. I almost always get to the class earlier than my students so I set things up and then do some more drawing. I have about half an hour to work in my ink book. Then I teach.

    After class things move quickly at first. We get out at 6:20 and I hustle over to Penn. it really doesn’t matter what time I get there as there are a whole bunch of trains that stop at Secaucus Junction. It’s the time of the train from Secaucus to Nanuet that matters. There is a 7PM but it’s a local. I’ve only caught this one once and it didn’t save me much time. There is a 7:30 express train and that’s the one I’m usually on. Despite it leaving half an hour later it only arrives at Nanuet five to ten minutes after the 7PM. 

    So what do I do for that half an hour at the station? I read. I’m way too burnt out by then for drawing so I read. I read comic books on my iPad. I prefer my comic books on paper but as I’m commuting digital comics sure are handy. I often reread the paper comics I bought the week before in their digital version. I’m in the habit of always reading my comics twice before filing them away so this is a good opportunity for that second read. I’ll also check out some new and old stuff. Once the train comes I also read most of the way to Nanuet. No headphones on the way home.

    As a change of pace today, the last day of my semester, I’m writing on my iPad rather than drawing or listening to music. It’s not easy I’m finding out. Typing with one finger on a moving train is hard on the concentration. The guy on the phone behind me didn’t help. Here comes Secaucus so I’ll catch you later.


    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics.

  • The Walking Dead – 180
  • Strangers in Paradise XXV – 4
  • Paper Girls – 21
  • Eternal Empire – 9
  • Check them all out here:



    So what did I do today? I inked a piece. I wasn’t expecting to but I had no art plans and wanted to get something done. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of art cards, 5×7 cartoon art cards, ink book drawings, and positive affirmation cards. Small stuff. I’ve been wanting to work on bigger stuff but I haven’t had the motivation lately. I still don’t quite have that motivation just yet but I went over to my box of unfinished work to try and find something to ink. It was surprisingly empty.

    I usually draw up a few things and have five or six drawings near the ink stage in a box but I think I had inked all of them over the last couple of months. Except I inked them so slowly that I don’t notice the box got empty. That and I still have a bunch of drawings in there to be colored so it wasn’t empty-empty. There was only one drawing left in the box too be inked and it was a doozy.

    Sometimes I like to draw, or especially ink, with a marker/technical pen/ink pen and a French curve (or straight edge). It’s a mechanical process compared to inking with a brush. I line up the French curve with the line I want to ink and draw the ink pen across the curve. If I want a thicker line I drop the curve down a fraction of an inch and draw a second line. If I’m in the mood to work that way it can be very meditative. My mind gets to rest and my eyes and hands do the work. If I’m not in the mood that type of drawing gets really tedious.

    I must have really been in the mood to use the curves when I was drawing this one (named “The 39 Dollar Charge”) because it had a lot of complicated lines and shapes in it that were all drawn with a French curve and a pencil. I just checked the date on the original drawing and it’s dated September 4, 2014. I inked it on May 9, 2018. That’s almost four years this one has sat around unworked on. That’s a long time. I must have really never been in the mood for such a complex French curve drawing. I still wasn’t today.

    Normally when I ink a drawing I’m searching for the perfect line. If I’m using a brush I use a steady hand and drag the brush across the page going from thin to thick. I want it to be smooth and pretty. When I’m using the French curve and ink pen there is no thick to thin but a perfect even weight line. I didn’t want to use either of these techniques on this picture. Too much searching for the perfect line can get boring and tedious.

    What made me pick up the drawing today and finally work on it? I decided to try and use my rough-line side-of-the-brush technique. That’s a technique in which I don’t try to make a thick to thin or even line but draw the side of the brush across the page to create an uneven line. Sometimes I don’t concentrate enough and make the line too even so I have to go back and rough it up. The opposite of how I normally work.

    The funny part is that I somehow think this method of working is easier. It’s not. It’s different but it’s not exactly easier. It may not take the same type of concentration as my normal method but it does take mindfulness. I looked at the drawing and thought I could finish it over three or four hours in the morning. I was wrong. It took me all day. There are a lot of lines in this piece.

    I started with the figure on the left on top. It took me a remarkably long time to finish that one figure. There are a lot of lines in it and I was still figuring out what I was doing with it. Line weight isn’t always easy to figure out with this technique. The texture of the line also takes some doing and is directly related to the line weight.

    The figure was made up of shapes that were all drawn with a French curve so they were all flat. It was a very geometric two dimensional space. There wasn’t a lot of distinction between the background and the foreground. I had to figure out how I wanted to create that distinction and how I wanted to make the characters look.

    The key to pulling this drawing together was the little ticks of texture around the edges of the figure’s forms. It’s nothing I haven’t done before, usually with neater little tick marks, but it added just enough form to the figure to make it real for me. Most of the shapes were extremely flat in a way that didn’t work. That could have been another reason this drawing sat around unfinished for so long.

    That’s what got the drawing going but what pulled it together in the end are the textures in the background. The diagonal lines of the fence at the bottom were indicated in the pencil drawing but I added the lines in the mountains at the bottom, the lines in the mountains at the top, and the wavy lines in the sky at the top. The clouds in the middle of the page were also there but I tripped the amount of lines to beef up the cloud texture.

    Besides those line and texture decisions most of my time was spent on this drawing just doing it. Dipping the brush in ink and making lines. There are a lot of lines. I somehow completely underestimated how many lines there were. I would ink one area, say a shoulder, and it seemed to barely make a dent in the overall drawing. Even after inking the two figures the background seemed overwhelming. It really took determination to finish this one.

    Since I just finished this drawing a short while ago I’m still having trouble judging it. I think it came out fine but I still don’t know what it means to me. I look at it and mostly what I can see is the work I put into it. That’s how things usually go with finished pieces and me. I’ll give it some time and see what it looks like in a couple of weeks.