I was working on my “Drifting and Dreaming” comic strip today. So far I’ve posted 399 of them over the years and a new one goes up every Sunday. I make them in batches so I can get ahead on them. The process of making the strips consists of a few distinct parts.

The first part is the part I was doing today. I was making a series of cartoon art cards. Those are my art cards that have a cartoon drawing of a person looking out at the reader with a word balloon above his or her head saying one thing or another. They’re simple enough to do but as I draw ten of them at a time it takes a lot of time and energy.

The first step is to draw them in ink. I don’t pencil them first because I want them fast and spontaneous. I use a Japanese sign pen that is inexplicably called a “Computer Pen.” A sign pen is your basic cheap marker that can be found in any drug store. I often use a Pentel sign pen for other stuff and that’s the one you can get at any local place that has a stationary section. I found the Japanese ones online and have used them ever since. I refill them with India ink so I get an even better line out of them but you don’t have to do that. I also like the tips after they’re worn down so refilling them helps with that. I draw the word balloon on top and then the character below it. I like to keep the characters fun and varied. I draw all sorts of crazy hair and head gear for them because that helps with the variety. Though they all my have a similar style I try not to repeat myself too much.

The second step is to write and letter them. I do that right on the cards. First I get out my Haff crosshatching machine and us it to make the guidelines for the lettering. The machine is a ruler attached to an arm and every time I push a button the ruler moves down from one to five millimeters depending on how I have it set. It’s a really easy way to make parallel lines. I make the guidelines on all ten cards and then set them out in front of me. That’s when write them.

“How do you write them?” you may ask and I’m not sure I have an answer for you. I stand there and think of things for my characters to say. Strange thing, odd things, and maybe witty things. I left words flow across my minds until I hear something I like. Sometimes I’ll even turn on a podcast or some such to hear other people talking and a word will catch my ear and I’ll make a sentence around it. It’s a weird process but eventually I get the cards written.

After I come up with what I want one character to say I letter the sentence in pencil on the card. Sometimes the sentence doesn’t fit and I have to rewrite it, erase the previous lettering, and re-letter it in pencil. Professional comic book letterers, back in the days of hand lettering, would go straight to ink and never pencil anything in. But they had the full script in front of them and lots of experience. I’m still writing at this point and need the freedom to erase. I repeat this process until I have all ten of them done and then I take a break.

I’m not a fan of doing hand lettering. I like to hand letter these cartoon art cards but I don’t enjoy the process. I’ve never been particularly good at it but the best advice I was ever given about lettering was to take a break. I tend to hurry my lettering because I want to get it done. I have to remember to slow down. I take a break if I find myself hurrying or frustrated. I’ve used various pens for lettering over the years but have never really settled on one.

Recently I’ve been using a .5mm black Copic fine line marker and it’s okay. I don’t love it but it does the job. I use the black marker to letter over the pencil lettering. Not exactly, of course, because the pencils were put down quickly and are just for spacing. I’m neater with the ink letters. I letter all ten of them in ink and them take a break to give the ink a chance to thoroughly dry. That way I can erase over them and remove the pencil letters. Some markers never thoroughly dry. Little bits of ink will smear when the eraser goes over them. That’s really annoying. Especially since a lot of pens that I like because they have exceptionally dark ink are the ones that will smear. I guess you can’t have everything.

The final step is to color the cartoon art cards. For some reason I find this step the most boring and tedious. Probably because at this point I just want to be done. I color them with my markers and its a simple process but it takes some time. I like to color all the backgrounds first. I find that helps me be less bored with the process. I use two different colors for each background and keep it simple but vary the colors. Often a light color on top and dark color on bottom but not always.

After all ten backgrounds are done I color each character one by one. I like to use wild color schemes and color their skin in odd colors. Often they get two tone skin. One by one I get them finished. After I finish them I scan them in. That’s pretty easy. Set them on the scanner and hit a button.

The other part of the writing for “Drifting and Dreaming” is done separately from the previous part. I write the part on the bottom of the strip, the “Middle Story,” on the computer in the strip’s template. I write ten of them. After they’re written I match the “Middle Story” up with two cartoon art cards and a third regular art card. How I match them up is a bit of a whimsy. I go with whichever ones jump out at me as I read them. Some work well together and some don’t. I have no explanations for that though.

This whole process always takes more out of my than I think it will. It’s familiar and straight forward so I always think it show be easier than it is. It takes about a six hour day to get ten cartoon art cards done. That’s five strips worth. I got ten done today and now I’m tired. I think I’ll go sit for a while.

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

  • Motor Girl – 10
  • The Savage Dragon -228
  • Wayward – 25
  • Snotgirl – 8
  • Dept. H – 20
  • Copperhead – 16
  • Check them all out here:

    “Green Dress” Gouache on Paper

    I pulled out my pan gouache set this week. Gouache is a watercolor that has white in it so that it’s opaque. It usually comes in two forms: tubes and pans. The pans are dry little circles of paint that you have to wet in order to use. You’ve seen them. They make them for kids too. I know I used pans of watercolor back in grade school. I haven’t painted with them in a while and it was almost nostalgic to do so. Pan gouache is the first type of gouache that I learned to paint with way back in the early 1990s. It’s not a fancy set. It’s made by Pelican and it’s the set that can be found in most arts and craft stores. It’s the bigger of the two Pelican sets. It has twenty four colors as opposed to the smaller twelve color set. It’s about twenty five dollars on Dick Blick. Here is the set.

    I used to paint a lot with this set. They’re a nice bunch of paints and very convenient. After I learned to use them way back when I switched over to the tube gouache. There are a lot more colors in tube gouache but it’s a lot more expensive too. A tube of gouache can go for anywhere between four and twelve dollars. There are also cheap sets of tube gouache but the colors are limited in those. I used my tube gouache in conjunction with small plastic containers (cubbies). I’d squeeze the paint into the cubby so that I could use it and then seal it up for later. I’d also mix new colors from the tube colors and put them in a cubby to store. That saved me a lot of time and trouble mixing colors.

    I have a bunch of brushes in with my watercolor set. There is a spot for them in the box. They’ve been there for years and years. They’re good ones too. Windsor Newton Series 7 brushes. Numbers 0, 2, 3, and 5. I use Windsor Newton brushes for both my painting and my inking but I don’t mix the brushes. Paint brushes are for paint and ink brushes are for ink. Good watercolor brushes are made with sable hair and will last for a very long time unless you use them with ink. Since they’re the best brushes around I use them with ink but then the ink eats away at the sable hair. There is a clock ticking on the brushes after they’re dipped in ink but the clock is unreliable. I’ve had ink brushes last for months or years. The brushes stored with the pan gouache set are from the 1990s and still going strong.

    I think this is my second set of pan gouache but I don’t remember for sure. The pans are really worn down with holes in the middle of them where the paint was used. I know I’ve replaced some of the pans over the years. At some point I bought the cheaper twelve pan set and swapped out some old pans for new ones. I can’t even tell which ones I swapped out since they are all so used now. Except for the silver and gold. I don’t even know why those two colors are in the set. They’re like paint with glitter in it. I never use them because they don’t fit in. This is really a twenty two color set for me.

    Watercolor paint is flat and transparent. That’s why watercolors are often referred to as drawings rather than paintings. Paintings have a thickness and surface to them. Drawings don’t. If you were to see a lot of famous paintings, especially modern paintings (from the Impressionists on), the paint itself plays a big part. Parts are thick and parts are thin and that makes a difference. It’s part of the vocabulary of painting. With watercolor everything is thin. There is not a lot you can do with the surface of watercolor. To paint in watercolor an artist puts down one wash of paint or layers many washes of paint but in the end it’s generally all the same thickness. Watercolor uses more of the vocabulary of drawing than of painting.

    Gouache is slightly different than normal watercolor but there is still not a lot of surface to it. Tubes of gouache have plenty of opacity to them, at least certain colors, but the paint still can’t be built up like an oil or acrylic paint can be. If you build up a gouache too much the surface of the paint cracks. It’s not flexible. The pans of gouache have less opacity than gouache in tubes. Since you have to wet the paint the opacity also depends on how much water you add. Over the years I’ve used small bottles with dropper tops to hold my water. One ounce bottles that once held eye drops of some sort in them. That is I have a relatively large reservoir of water to drop into my pans. I put five to ten drops of water in each pan I’m using and then add a few more as I go. Sometimes I add too much and have to wait for some to evaporate (it doesn’t take long) and sometimes I need more water. It’s a constant balancing act but it’s not hard to do.

    I made three art cards with my pan gouaches. Two faces and a fantasy landscape. In the old days I usually worked at a five by seven inch size but I wasn’t that ambitious this time around. I think I did a good job with these three and you can see my basic technique for the pan set. I used the darkest blue as a line and then used the rest of the colors in pairs or threes. There aren’t enough colors to use in three values like I normally would so I keep things simple and don’t try to model the forms. Instead I use pattern and texture.

    Overall they’re nice little cards but I’m a little bored with them. Since I haven’t used gouache in a while they seem a little conservative to me. That and I’ve recently been photographing some of my old gouache paintings so I’ve seen a lot of good ones (and ignored the dull ones). I’ll have to paint some more and see if I can get something more exciting. We’ll see.

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

  • East of West – 35
  • Invincible – 142
  • Maestros – 2
  • Mage: The Hero Denied – 4
  • Retcon – 3
  • The Wicked + the Divine – 33
  • Check them all out here:

    I dug out a bunch of old paintings this week. I tend tuck things away in boxes and in cabinets and there they sit for years only to be taken out and looked at on occasion. This box has a lot of small gouache and watercolor paintings in it. The sizes are from around art card size, 2.5×3.5 inches, up to about what looks like 6×8 inches. They’re from before I jumped on the art card bandwagon though so none of them are exactly that size. The closest ones are 2.75×4 inches which is a little bit bigger. I have no idea why I decided on that size back in 2003 (as the date on the paintings says) but it seems a good size.

    I made these small painting specifically to be really nice objects that you can hold in your hand. Their tactile “Pick them up and look at them” nature is integral to why they exist. They’re all on nice watercolor paper that feels good when handled. There are some 4×4 inch ones that are on smooth 150lb watercolor paper and the 2.75×4 inch ones are on an even thicker 300lb rough watercolor paper. I could never decide if I liked a rough surface or smooth surface better so I worked on both of them.

    I’m going look at three of the 2.75×4 inch inch ones because I just put them in my Etsy store so why not give them a look?
    My Etsy Store.

    The first of them is called “Double.” It also has the number 13 on it so I must have numbered them at first and then went back and gave them names at some point. The name “Double” seems pretty literal for this one because the painting is of a person with a face on his shirt. Two faces therefor “Double.” I don’t usually name things so literally. I like the colors on this one. It’s a nice mix of earth tone oranges, reds, and yellows. Nothing is too bright. The blue in the eye on the shirt really stands out as it’s the only blue in the piece. The “Hold in your hand” part works well as I like to bring it closer to my eyes and look at the faces and the edges of the green background. Overall it has a simplicity that’s appealing to me.

    The second one is numbered with a five and is titled “Brian in Blue.” Once again a very literal name despite me having no idea why I used the name Brian. I’m guessing it was just for the alliteration. I remember using these blue colors for a bunch of paintings. I mixed up about ten different shades of blue gouache and painted a bunch of small paintings with them. This one seems to have a Cubist bent to it but upon close inspection the shapes don’t define the space like Cubism does. It reminds me more of a Mondrian type geometric abstraction. A couple of the shapes on the face vaguely follow the cheekbones but the shapes aren’t very three dimensional as Cubist shapes would be. It’s an odd thing to be sort of Cubist but not really.

    The third painting is numbered one and named “Sentinel.”Once again this name seems very literal to me as the woman is giving us the side-eye and watching us as a sentinel would. I must have been going through a very literal naming person back in 2003. This painting is notable for its bright and low contrast line.The other two have dark lines and though they aren’t black lines they create enough shape separation as if they were. This one has a red line with another purple line inside it. The red line acts line a dark line in the face but in the rest of the painting it vibrates with the purple line and makes it hard to focus on either. It’s as if the line starts to fade away. That her shirt is dark brown adds to the effect. The hints of blue do more to anchor the shapes than the outlines do. That doesn’t happen very often.

    Since I mentioned my blue paintings I’m going to pop over to one of the blue faces that I painted back in 2003. I have about eight of them in this box but we’ll look at the one named “Dream State.” It also has the number two on it. Though it’s on a 4×4 inch piece of paper the painting is only about 1.5×2 inches. I usually don’t leave that much blank paper around a painting but I think I did it to give the painting more of a presence as you hold it in your hand. This might have been the only time I’ve painted this small. I’m not even sure what motivated me to make these tiny faces. They are obviously not photo referenced as they are very simple and filled with asymmetry. Just glancing at this one neither the eyes, nose, or mouth is symmetrical. Why is that? I have no idea. It looks like I took great pains to make the hair and face smooth so I was going for some sort of realistic look but the features are awkward. I obviously meant them to be but looking at them now the awkwardness is hard to take. And all of them share this awkwardness. Weird.

    The last one I’ll look at is from 2005 and is called “Mummy Girl.” Another literal title. This one is tall and skinny at about 2×6 inches. Of all the paintings I’ve looked at so far this one has the brightest colors. Bright green, bright magenta, and a strong blue make this one more typical of my work. I’m not sure about the imagery though. It’s a little bland. It’s a basic elongated figure that looks like it was drawn on the spot in paint. It’s not terrible but I’ve done better. The horizontal lines that go across her body are the most interesting thing in the painting. I’m guessing that I put those on last to add some more visual interest. Overall I do like the color and shape of it.

    So there you go. That’s what happens when I dig through boxes. I get paintings from fourteen years ago to look at and maybe figure out what they’re all about.