blog, comics

Traditional Drawing

Last week for my blog, I took a look at both traditional and digital drawings. This proved to be a little too big for one entry, so I decided that I would split it up and talk about each method separately so I could get a more complete catalog of thoughts about each process. This week I begin with the first half: traditional drawing, or as you might know it, physical drawing. That is, drawing on paper. I refer to it as traditional because it’s the original way drawing was done. However, some people may use the term “real drawing,” like they do with e-books vs. print books. But I assure you, as does my wrist, that both traditional and digital drawing is “real drawing.” Sorry for that little soap box moment, let’s move on.

As I said above, it’s traditional because it was the original way comics were made. For most of the life of comics, they were drawn by hand. Think about all of the groundbreaking stories that were made in the last century: Maus, Watchmen, and the Dark Knight Returns were all done by hand. As were all your favorite comic strips, like Pogo or Popeye (OK, those are my favorite comic strips). That means that any mistakes made in ink were permanent. Those artists never had Ctrl+Z! How terrifying. It’s like walking a high wire without a safety net. Of course, those guys were professionals, though, so they knew what they were doing way more than me. I’m getting off topic again. As you might know, I’m a rambler. So, let me dive into some of the pros and cons, ins and outs, of drawing physically.

As I said last week, I think the greatest asset of drawing with pen (or marker, brush, pencil, you get it) and paper is that it feels completely natural. And that’s because it is natural. I mean, everyone has drawn something at one point or another. Even if you’re not good at it, you can instinctively pick up a pad of paper and sketch something out. We’re wired that way, it seems. Thus, when drawing on paper I (usually) feel a connection with the paper, and the drawing tool serves as an extension for my hand. I think this is because you can feel the paper under the tip of your pen, and you are guided by the surface. Plus your eye and hand are working in the same location, where as with some digital drawing, you draw on the tablet while looking at the screen.


A physical drawing of digital drawing?

But moreover, as I mentioned, everyone knows how to draw on paper. We’ve done it since we were kids. There was no programs to learn, nothing to install or update. Drawing on paper is usually a more simple practice. Now, I don’t mean it’s easier, because drawing comics is hard. And you have to know what you’re doing. I just mean that you don’t have to jump through as many hoops. You don’t have to know how to navigate paper, or the shortcut keys on paper. And you don’t have to restart it if something isn’t working. There is nothing between you and your drawing, you are totally connected. That is not to harp on digitally drawing too much, but there are days where Photoshop is acting up and I just want to throw the paper out the window. All you have to do with paper is sit down, feel inspired, and go. Plus, not everyone can afford or maintain these digital drawing programs, or the tablet. The initial cost of getting started digitally is much more than just finding some pen and a paper lying around.

This is not to say that traditional drawing is without its difficulties. While being accessible and intuitive, there are some things that get in the way. First of all, if you’re making comics, you have to have the supplies. While you can draw in pencil and call it a day, most will want to go beyond that and at least ink their work. Here is where it gets a little tricky, albeit still fun. You have to learn what tools to use, because I’m pretty sure everyone is different. You must find what pens and/or brushes work for you. Some people get great results with X brand pen brush, but I might be terrible with it. This is fun because it’s a lot of practice drawing and exploring the tools you can use in this medium. But on the other hand, it can be a bit pricey. Even after you find a tool or brand you like, you’ll have to buy more once they run out of juice. Not to mention the paper you draw on. If you’re making comics on Bristol board, that stuff is a bit on the expensive side. So, unfortunately, you’ll always have to refill your supplies, which is the eternal paradox for the starving artist. Need supplies to make art, but you’ve got no money. It’s a vicious cycle.


The other big detractor of working on paper is, as I mentioned somewhere up there, the permanence. While it’s good to be able to place a line and move on, instead of drawing and undoing the same line 50 times as you might digitally, this can still prove to be a problem. If you screw up putting a line down in ink, ooh buddy, good luck. Of course, I’m sure this happened all the time back in the day, and they would just use white out or other corrective liquids to fix the mistake. But you know, I’m terrible with whiteout. Just terrible. The good news is, usually when you work physically, your body is more precise because it knows the stakes!

In closing I’ll say this: I think that, when working physically, my line work is more controlled. However, I think that might be because I’ve been drawing on paper my whole life. I’ve only drawn on the computer for a little under two years. That’s a bit of a difference. Drawing on paper is more natural, but you also have to worry about money and space (where do you put all the artwork/supplies). But you know,  if people like Eisner, Kirby, and Barks worked entirely by hand, that’s a system I just can’t argue with.

Don’t worry, though, you digital devotees, next week I’ll dive into the world of computer

drawing. Of course, I’m still not saying which is better, because both are good. I’m only musing on pros and cons. I don’t really believe one is superior, but it’s comparing the two and how they work to create comics that fascinates me. So next week, we go digital!

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