a bunch of supplies used for pencilling

Chapter 5: Pencilling

This week was a lot of fun! Using Abel & Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures, of course, I went over the basics of penciling! Some of it was obvious, some of it was new! I’ll give you all a brief overview of the hardware I used and what I learned while drawing and penciling panels this week!

a bunch of supplies used for pencilling

These are all the supplies I got together for pencilling!

I had most of this stuff lying around. The HB pencil set, the kneaded eraser, the tracing paper, the sharpener, the standard erasers, and the blue colored pencil. Plus the mechanical pencil and pen eraser I’ve been using this whole time. I had to go out and get Bristol paper for official inking, and I got that little ruler because I knew it would be useful, and I found an eraser pencil, which I think is the coolest thing ever, but I totally forgot I had because I feel back in love with kneaded erasers.

I also didn’t use the tracing paper this time, but Abel & Madden gave a great overview of how to use it properly–I had never known. I’ll have to experiment with it more. It’s basically the hard copy form of selecting something and moving it around, inverting it, whatever. I’m so used to doing everything digitally that I feel like I’m working backwards. Another working backwards thing is the blue pencil to underlay lines while pencilling before deciding on final lines for inking–it’s a lot like the layers I use online–I always used soft pastels or so to contrast, and when I finally found the lines I wanted, I just traced over them in black (on a new layer). I didn’t use the blue pencil I have because it does not erase. At all. And I looked for erasable colored pencils, and no dice. :( So if any of you know where I can get erasable colored pencils (and not the Crayola kind… I’m looking for Col-Erase or something like that), let me know!

I had always had a sort of skepticism towards physical art–namely because of my dependence on ctrl+z and layers. But after experimenting a bit with the traditional forms, it’s not so scary. You’re forced to really thing and consider what you’re drawing, and to be very careful. You can still be spontaneous, but if you’re sloppy, it’s a harder mistake to fix.


So the assignment was to pick a panel from my Jack & Jill comic last week and redraw that panel at least three different ways in sketchy thumbnail form. Then I had to pick three of those panels and pencil them on bristol paper. I picked the “Jack fell down” panel.

Here's the original thumbnail of Jack falling down.

Here are my five re-imaginations of the same panel:

I just want to note–I have absolutely no idea why this time around, Jack and Jill are adolescents and not children, as with my original comic. I kept trying to remind myself to draw them small, like kids, but it wasn’t happening. So, I’m sorry, Jack and Jill appear to have grown up a bit.

You can see that I noted with stars the panels I wanted to redraw and pencil. So first I drew the boxes on the bristol paper:

Proof I can draw rectangles with right angles!

And then I started sketching. I started with an HB pencil, but if you’ll see on the picture below, Jack is very bold in the top left. That’s because I had switched to 2B, which is a softer lead but also bolder color.

I really should have been using a HB to start and a 2B to finish... not entirely sure why I switched in the middle; I probably wasn't paying attention.

The first layer of sketching ended up looking like this:

Ready for final lines.

Here’s the process of going over everything, so you can really see the difference between HB and 2B:

I'm drawing an X on the inside of Jack's crown to show that when I ink it, I want that area to be solid black.

Aaand, now I’m done penciling:

"Jack Fell Down" from multiple perspectives!

Now here comes the analytical part. Which panel would be best for the Jack & Jill comic I drew? In terms of keeping the paneling consistent with the comic, one of the two “landscape” style panels would probably be better, just so it wouldn’t mess up the formatting of the whole page. I like the top picture because it works well with the previous panel–we can see that Jack is depressed and shuffling his feet as he heads back home, and it makes sense that he wouldn’t be paying attention and he’d trip over the tree root. The bottom panel is also good, though, because it works well with the panel that comes after, where jack is on the ground, and the crown is next to him and broken. By zooming into Jack and really seeing his expressing on the fall, we really intimately connect with his motion. I tried to draw a zoomed in picture of Jack’s foot as he trips, but I found out I’m really terrible at drawing feet by themselves without context, and I abandoned that. So depending on context and how clear the action is with the panels preceding and following this panel, I think I’d go with my original choice, the top right panel. (As a note, though, once of the thumbnails I didn’t develop and pencil was the same as the top right, but from the opposite perspective, showing both Jack and Jill’s backs, and the castle in the background. I really liked this panel, but I didn’t choose to expand on it because 1) drawing Jack falling from behind would have been a nightmare, 2) both Jack and Jill looked way too old.)


The second part of the chapter focused on figure drawing and a simple overview of figurettes. Figurettes are basically stick figures with some meat to them. There’s blobs for the chest and hips, and there’s some substance to arms and legs and feet and hands. I have a basic understanding of figurettes that I picked up from sifting through art and manga books, as well as from when I attended a summer art camp for a week once middle school, so it wasn’t totally foreign to me. I do know that eventually I should take formal figures classes or some sort of real art class, because while I’ve been making do for now, if I really want my art to grow and develop and flourish, I really need to get some formal training just to expose me to new techniques and foster development.

At one point in the brief discussion on figurettes, Abel & Madden mention that the figure should always be balanced in the center–unless you want them to topple over. This reminds me a lot of my training in aikido, and the focus on posture and maintaing center of balance, so I thought that was cool.

My assignment was to draw a one-panel scene that suggests something is happening while having three planes–foreground, midground, and background–and at least two figures interacting. After a bit of brainstorming, I decided to go with a couple fighting over dinner. I drew three panels of the occasion from different perspectives.

Of course I'm a masochist and pick the most complicated panel to pencil.

I was ambitious and wanted to try the POV thing with depth in a panel, where you pick a spot somewhere off the panel to be the focal point, and all of the straight lines come from that area. Abel & Madden didn’t exactly explain how it works, they just showed a panel that used that technique, and since I have always struggled with depth in 2-D drawings, I figured I’d try my hand at it. This is my first try, so it’s not so great. I must have spent and hour or so on the first run through just to get everything right.

You can tell I moved some stuff around-- I couldn't figure out how to draw circles at an angle so I put a picture frame behind them instead.

And the final product–for now.

Now the lines are much clearer! Used the 2B on top of the HB (Like I'm supposed to).

I ran out of time to do the Extra Credit this week. And I apologize for being late this time around (even if it was only by a few hours).

Be sure to check out the Sketchbook to see the pretty scans of all the penciled panels from this week!

a pink Cross Tech-3 engraved with "Leslie"

Chapter 2: Every Picture Tells a Story

This week’s chapter–though brief–stumped me. It focused on the art of one-line one-panel comics called “gag”s. I’m not a very concise person, and when I am, I take it to the minimalist level. There’s no happy medium for me, so I hoped that forcing myself through this chapter, I might make some sort of breakthrough. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.

thumbnails of homework from last week with bad captions underneath

I tried captioning my homework from last week, but clearly I'm not good at it.

Clicking on the above picture will take you to the Drawing Words & Writing Pictures sister website that I’ve been using as a “Ronin,” where it offers some good feedback on effective captioning.

The homework involved creating my own gag comic, which turned out to be superbly difficult since brief humor is also one of my greatest weak points. So here are some examples of doodles I did while trying to figure out what to draw:

sketch of Leslie sitting on bed thinking of what to draw on a blank page

This is a really raw sketch. (I do like how my leg goes out of the border...)

a really crappy sketch of a comic within a comic

A terrible rendition in the style of Magritte.

At this point, after staring at my terrible doodles, I drew a tiny thumbnail sketch based off Abel & Madden’s advice: “If you are having trouble coming up with ideas, do what the pros do: Explore the classic gag scenarios! A desert island, a psychiatrists couch, a CEO’s office, a drunk at a bar, etc.”

a sketch of a desert island with a single palm tree and the caption: Mount Everest: Post-Global Climate Change

Finally, and idea that wasn't half bad.

So I drew it full-scale in pencil:

the peak of Mount Everest with a single palm tree in a sea of water and an intense sun in the background. The caption: "Mount Everest: Post- Global Climate Change."

I tried to get the peak of Mt. Everest close to how it really looks.

And then I tried inking it:

the peak of Mount Everest with a single palm tree in a sea of water and an intense sun in the background. The caption: "Mount Everest: Post- Global Climate Change."

I'm not sure how I like inking with ballpoint pen. I'm so used to doing all of my inking digitally.

I may have to experiment with types of inking. I know we haven’t gotten tot he inking chapter yet, so I thought it was interesting that Abel & Madden would introduce it in this manner. They give a great overview on different types of pens (suggesting “pigmented” ink instead of “permanent” ink, since the latter has a tendency to fade over time) which I find fascinating. I really don’t have much experience with the physical art of comic-making (since most everything I have experience with is digital) so this was very useful. I’m looking forward to going over inking in depth.

The hardware I used this time around was a Cross Tech 3–a mechanical pencil, black ballpoint pen, and red ballpoint pen all at once. I received an engraved one for my birthday, and I’m loving it. :]

a pink Cross Tech-3 engraved with "Leslie"

It's kind of hard to see, but that's my name engraved on it!

Content-wise, it doesn’t seem like there was a lot of drawing this week, but getting words to go along with pictures in a clever, ironic, or humorous way is much harder than it looks.

I also set up the Sketchbook! If you want to see any pictures in closer detail, that’s where you should go. :)

book, pencil, and blank paper

Chapter 1: Building Blocks

Working through this book is going to be more time consuming than I thought–and that’s a good thing. I’m keeping the craft and criticism books close at hand just in case I want/need to look into a specific topic further, but for now, Jessica Abel & Matt Madden’s Drawing Words & Writing Pictures has plenty of material to foster personal growth and creativity. Since this Independent Study was created to replace a cancelled Workshop class, I’m really going to focus more on creating art for the next few weeks instead of worrying about theory, criticism, and the specifics of craft. As my Director for this Independent Study said, this is the creation of my brick of clay, from which I can pull and sculpt my thesis. At least, that’s my tentative goal. We’ll see where this goes.

After reading through the first chapter, “Building Blocks,” I noted that I’m a bit at a disadvantage because I’m what Abel & Madden call a Ronin, after the solitary masterless Japanese samurai. Since I do not have any colleagues to work with and compare drawings, styles, effectiveness, etc., I’ll be referring to the book’s companion website, www.dw-wp.com, and working through a chapter-by-chapter student guide as needed.

I won’t bore you with content stuff–I highly advise you to get Abel & Madden’s book yourself–unless I need to wax philosophical about something interesting I learned. This time around, the only thing I really learned was the word “emanata,” which are additions to the drawing to convey movement or emotion that you would not normally see in real life. For example, the sweat-drop that shows up in a lot of manga for embarrassment, and exclamation point next to someone’s face for surprise, a squiggly tornado above someone’s head to show that they are upset, or lines to show speed. You’ll see what I mean once you scroll down. I noticed I use emanata a lot, I just never knew what they were called.

Another thing I noticed (not so much learned) is that even being out of practice for drawing, what I produced in the span of a few hours really wasn’t half bad. I forgot to note how long each drawing took (I’ll try to remember for next week’s stuff), but I tried to keep things quick and sketchy. You can clearly tell which ones I spent more time on and which ones less; basically I worked on each prompt until I felt like I succeeded in portraying the described effect. Also–next time, I need to use a pencil that erases easier, because I make mistakes often, and as you’ll see, they don’t erase well.

Drawing Time!
These are the tools I used:

book, pencil, and blank paper

Abel & Madden's textbook, some blank printing paper, a pencil. (Not pictured but highly suggested: an eraser.)

(And look, you get to see my girly bedspread!)

Action within a drawing
I was given a list of five moving objects, and told to sketch them in five separate drawings, each one as a single image, none of them in sequence, and no panel borders. If you click on my picture, it will send you to the feedback given by Abel & Madden on their website. Here’s what I came up with:

A pencil sketch of a person-figure running

1. a person running

a pencil sketch of a car speeding

2. a car speeding

a sketch of a baseball falling

3. a ball falling

a sketch of a drunken person staggering, bottle in hand

4. a person staggering

a pencil sketch of a newspaper blowing in the wind with some leaves

5. a newspaper page blowing in the wind

Action within a panel
I was told to draw three boxes (about 4 inches high, 6 inches wide each) and draw each of three given scenarios in each box. Ignore the fact that I apparently can’t draw straight lines at right angles. This is what I drew:

a pencil sketch of the scenario described in the caption

Scenario 1: A ball crashes through a window into a kitchen and rips through the newspaper of a person sitting in the room. The person reacts to the window breaking. Optional: A dog catches the ball in midair after it comes through the newspaper.

a pencil sketch of the scenario described in the caption

Scenario 2: Person 1 trips person 2. Person 1 is laughing, person 2 is trying to catch him or herself and is knocking over a lamp.

a pencil sketch of the scenario described in the caption

Scenario 3: Two guys are fighting. Guy 1 throws a rock at guy 2. Guy 2 is hit by the rock, which makes him accidentally shoot his gun into the air. The bullet hits and breaks a chain holding up a heavy lamp over guy 1's head.

Personal Response & Feedback
Before moving onto homework, I referred to the examples of student work on the student guide (click on each of my images to see the examples Abel & Madden provide on their website), that way I could note things that were working for my art, and things that weren’t working and I should probably try to work on better. Clearly you can tell that Sketch 1 was me just warming up, hence the lack of detail; by the last sketch, Scenario 3, I think I was burnt out from the first two scenarios, which is why it’s pretty crappy. (I did all of these in one sitting. I’m not sure if that was a wise idea or not.)

I was worried about showing background stuff in the first couple of sketches, but I guess from the other examples of student work, context is a good thing. A lot of the student work posted is more detailed and higher quality, so I guess I need to up the ante a little. I’m not used to drawing in a non-digital format (apparently Volume 2 of Abel & Madden’s book is going to address that!), but that’s no excuse.

Specific feedback: My running guy is kind of boring. Putting him off the ground was great, but you can tell I had issues with the placement of one of his legs. He has good sweat emanata, and some speed lines, but other than that, he’s kind of plain. Like with the running person, I did a good job with having motion follow the direction of one’s eyes (left to right) for speed in the car. There is distortion of the car and wheels to imply speed, and there are speed lines, and it’s even off the ground, but having a blurred background (or blurring the car and keeping the background static) would have made it better. For the falling ball, I didn’t use afterimages like the newspaper, and I could have made the bottom darker to show heaviness and put more speed lines on a disappearing top, possibly elongating the shape, to give the illusion of speed. The staggering person is probably my favorite doodle so far; I gave him motivation to stagger (the bottle in his hand), but even with the squiggly emanata, he’s balanced. I should have put his body more off-center, and maybe had his hands out to save him from falling. The newspaper’s shape and afterimages are good, and so is the inclusion of leaves and swiggly wind lines, but I think I could have put a little more effort into my newspaper itself, it’s a bit lazy.

For the ball in the kitchen one, the path of the ball is a little arched so that it doesn’t imply bullet-like speed, but I guess I could have, and perhaps should have, made the path a little lighter so we don’t worry for the dog’s safety. I could have used sound effects, but for the most part I kind of find them immature (this is personal preference, mind you) and I have been trying to keep their use to a minimum, lately. (I also was under some silly impression that words weren’t allowed.) All of the parts of the scenario are present; I consciously made the choice to have the action of the panel read backwards. Notice the dog first, then that the ball ripped through the newspaper, the guy’s reaction, and then the broken window. I figured this would lead to the next panel, which would show the kids outside and their game of baseball. (if the narrative was kid-centered, then I’d mirror the panel–kids come first, then follow the arc of the ball to the guy’s kitchen.) The dog is a little cut off, and so is one of the guy’s feet, but in this case, I think it’s okay. (I might move the panel a centimeter down to adjust for the missing info.)

The tripping one is my favorite out of all of the “Drawing Time” drawings. I had a lot of trouble getting the girl’s arms right, but I think I succeeded in getting the action to flow across the panel, first starting with the laughing guy, then we clearly see his foot sticking out from behind a wall, then we see the girl’s foot, follow her body up to see her surprised face, and follow her arms down to see her knock over the lamp and try to catch herself. Again, I used emanata (but not too much) and some speed lines to convey her falling (note her pigtails and skirt flipping up with motion). I tried to make sure the motion made sense; I’m not sure I have depth perception down, but I think I’m going in the right direction.

I kind of cheated for the guys fighting by turning the panel from landscape to portrait. This probably distracted a lot, because nothing is going on up there except the lamp hanging out (and the lamp does not look nearly heavy enough). Unlike the examples, it’s very clear, lacks, context, but at least the order of motion is not confused. Emanata are present, of course, but I think the throwing guy’s hand gets obscured behind his head, so that was probably a poor choice on my behalf. Unfortunately you look at the guy with the gun first, see he’s being hit, and then something spewing… a “bang” would have been a good idea to show it’s a firearm and not a squirt gun. Having so much happen at once is hard to juggle, but the only way to get good at it is to practice. :)

I had to draw a 5″ x 7″ border and create a pencil drawing that contained:

  • two characters
  • one or more props (objects)
  • an action and its result
  • the reaction of one or both characters shown in in facial expressions or bodily gestures
  • do not include any text

Here is what I drew:

a pencil sketch of an embarrassed boy handing a box of chocolates to a young woman

I think I'll title it, "For You."

Drawing time: approx. 45 min.

Personal Response & Feedback
I used a mechanical pencil this time around so that I didn’t have to keep sharpening and so that I knew I could erase and get nice, clean lines. At first, I didn’t really know what to draw, especially because this assignment was so open-ended. Since Valentine’s Day is around the corner, I thought I’d go with that theme. My goal was to show more subtle action driven mostly by emotion. I drew the boy first (actually, I drew the box of chocolates first), and then I was going to draw a little girl, but I thought it would be more cute if the girl was older. I’m really awkward with body positions, so figuring out how to get her to lean down without it looking rigid or uncomfortable took forever. There was a lot of erasing of arms and legs. I had his and her faces down almost exactly right the first time around. (I always draw faces everywhere; it’s true what they say about practice.) At first I had the boy looking at her, but since I needed more emotional reaction, I had him look away. My thought process is: characters (boy and girl), prop (heart-shaped box of chocolates), action (he gives her the box) result (she leans down) reaction (he is embarrassed, she smiles).

After looking at the examples posted on the web, I feel better about my choice of a subtle emotion (I’m referencing the proposal one). My frame totally lacks any background to give context (a classroom could clarify she is a teacher, for instance), and maybe her response should not be so subtle (should she also be embarrassed? maybe she is ecstatic!) for this assignment. Overall, I’m happy with the clarity of the frame and how easily it reads.

Extra Credit!
I couldn’t do it this time around because it requires a group of people. :(

All in all, I believe this week was incredibly productive. I’m looking forward to Chapter 2. :)