Still thinking about making my life meaningful
somehow rekindled my interest in illustration. Particularly making beautiful ink lines with a brush.
It’s what I love about Sumi-é. And it is what I admire in comics. I have tried before to make beautiful lines but I never found the tool that suited my hand. Well, except for sumi-é brushes but they must be used on rice paper. (I feel).
Laying sick in bed the last past weeks I read a lot of blogs. For example Sweasel.com:
Entertaining and funny. I liked it so much that I started reading it from the start, all the way back when we were young and the world made sense. There’s so much fun to read in the comments! Lovely past time for the brain fogged. The owner is an illustrator by trade and lets you freely steal and paste the art all over the web. I paste it all over this page, all art today by sweasel.com!
Somewhere in 2007 in the comments they talked about illustrating. And linked to this site called hand-print.com where a guy talks a lot about all the different brushes there are. Finally! An explanation! A map!
That lead me to a search about “Kolinsky” which is some kind of weasel in Russia whose hairs have magic properties.
The hairs of the tail of the male are used to make brushes. Each hair tapers to the end, making for brushes that hold a lot of ink while having a fine point and bouncing back in form every time you release pressure from the paper. They are expensive brushes! 20 to 30$ for a brush!
Which is why lots of other brushes are also called “kolinsky” but may not contain any magic weasel. Magic stoat, magic squirrel but no magic weasel. Even if a “kolinsky” brush really is made of Kolinsky weasel it may not have been made properly. Any stray hair can ruin the brush. Buying any brush without checking its quality is a big gamble.
Learning about “Kolinksy” and wanting to learn how to find a good brush lead to the blog www.comic-tools.com. Which is a GOLD MINE for the “love-ink-don’t-know-where-to-start”- people among us. If only this blog provides me with more words to pour into the google and the youtube! Searching for “Ink”, “inking”, “expressive line”, “brush”, ‘”thumbnailing”, “Windsor and Newton series 7 #2”, “dr. Martins Blackstar High Carb”, “calligraphy line”, “cola pen”, “Bristol Board” helps me to hone in on that niche in art that particularly holds my interest. That makes my heart sing (which is a good compass for finding out what makes my life meaningful. But more about that later)
There’s a whole scene of people who have a love for expressive black lines and made it their profession! They are the people that “ink a comic”. They know about the love your hands and eyes feel when a line comes out just right. Or better than you’d expected. The joy of good tools. Et cetera.
Reading the comic-tool blog made things come together for me. Here’s talk of ink! Here’s talk of brushes that bounce back and are able to make a thin line thick and then thin again! Just like I love with my quality sumi-é brushes (which I would never use with commercial ink, only the hand made Japanese ink.) There’s even talk about my experience that seems very common: trying to make beautiful ink lines with an inferior brush -especially an expensive one!- will turn you away from brushes. Stray hairs ruin the crispness, bad brush posture will spread the hairs and make an ugly line.
I’ve found some friends, momma!
Suddenly I saw a line from my past running into my present. I have always loved comics, especially the monochrome ones, with clear contrast and expressive lines. Interesting page build ups. Visual inventions. I bored my fellow students at the academy with them. Without drawing myself!
Before and after the academy I’ve done sumi-é brushwork, experiencing the joy of a good brush and good ink and developing technique. Learning to hold my brush vertical. Which is how comic ink people hold their brush too!
Ahhh… now I have a chance to make those pencil drawings from a few weeks back into something more. But first: the hunt for a good brush.
My local artist supply shop was unfriendly today, they clearly thought I was nuts. And a nuisance. Even though I admitted to be a beginner and having beginners questions. Because I had just learned that to find a good brush you’d best dip it in water, let it soak up all it can. Then tap it once (on your wrist, for example) and then look at the fur. It should have snapped into a perfect shape. No stray hairs. A sharp point. Perfect shape.
“Well, we don’t have water here.” the woman said, shrugging.
“So how do people asses the quality of a brush?” I asked.
“By buying them!”
I’m not buying a 20 to 30$ brush without trying it out when expert users tell me maybe 5 in every 10 expensive brushes are usable! But I didn’t tell her. Instead I asked about the difference between drawing ink, calligraphy ink and east Indian ink. Which was also a stupid question, apparantly…
Well, I won’t be going back there any time soon. (Luckily the lady at the chocolate shop was much nicer.)
Back home I went online and ordered a couple of brushes from Rosemary & Co in the UK. The people over at comic-tools.com are no longer enthousiastic about the quality of those brushes but I might get lucky and with their cheap prices I don’t mind to gamble. I ordered some Kolinsky’s and also a couple of nylon brushes. I would like to investigate how well the nylon brushes have been innovated the last couple of years. Perhaps by now they are able to make a brush that’s flexible, retains its form and doesn’t have stray hairs.
The trip to the shop was exhausting so no more playing today nor tomorrow. Perhaps later in the week.
In the mean time:
Here again is the link for sweasel.com