Tools of the Trade: Structure

I love structure. I need structure. I crave structure. But, in freelance life, it’s hard to come by.

My wife will tell you (as it can often be annoying) I like to eat lunch at 12 on the button. The reason? When I was 14 and started working in my first job (which ended when I was 27) I was asked to pick a lunch time, 12 or 1. Since my school lunch was at 12:15, I picked 12. I’ve carried my lunch hour with me from 1984 to present.

Having left a day job and now, sat at home, working and picking away at the hours when I can manage, I’ve really floundered – some times it’s easier and othertimes less so.
About two weeks ago, in the pursuit of a some sort of time management trick, I stumbled across “Pomodoro” – which sound absurd (even vaguely cult-like), but really, a pomodoro (or tomato) was the name of a kitchen timer, that can be used to time working activity at a task – 25 minutes at one task, 5 minute break, and repeat – every four tasks you take a 30 minute break. And it’s pretty hard to convey the difference it’s made, I’ve gone (last month) from struggling for two months to break the back of 8 pages, to producing, in the past three days, six pages – two pages per day.

Obviously, that won’t always happen, but the limiting factor is how much time I can get to draw – the pomodoro technique is just a way of making sure that, when I should be concentrating on drawing, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

There’s a bunch of apps for phones (iphone and otherwise) which you can use, the one I have keeps a log of how much time you spend per day, and I’ve averaged about 300 minutes (or 5 hours) per day. Which is more than enough to kill a full page and a bit of another.
Incidentally, this isn’t a new technique for comic artists, Steve Dillon use to sit and draw with a kitchen timer, in the days before you could lose hours on the internet. Just so you know.


Books Roundup


I’ve been asked a few times for good books for helping people to draw comics, if I’m totally honest, while I’ve bought all of these books, the best book is a blank moleskin that you fill with art. Having said that, here’s some of my books (along with amazon links!) Some that EVERYONE recommends and some that I’ve rarely seen mentioned by anyone.

How to draw comics the Marvel Way

Bonkers, and light as a feather, but even so, still a shining example of why drawing comics (in the marvel fashion) is different from just drawing normal people sitting around.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud and its companion Making Comics

Drawing the Clothed Figure – Barbara Bradley – the BEST book for fabric drawing ever. This woman teaches artists at Disney,

Anatomy for the Artist

Muscle in Motion – Glen Fabry

And… well, there’s a whole lot more – this is just a tiny selection of the books I have – I also have, and you’ll find it via google, books by Andrew Loomis that really are beautiful – but long out of print.

Tools of the Trade: The Drawing Board

The field of battle! The drawing board.
For the past couple of years I’ve had an Ikea “drawing board” – essentially a large table with a built in “lightbox” (really a glass window on top of the table, that, when lit from below, can act as a lightboard).

But it was just too large, and, ironically, given the size there never seemed to be any space on it to draw – it would fill with clutter faster than it could be cleared. So I finally caved and bought back my OLD drawing table (that was held in storage). I used to use the table flat, but decided to angle it at around 35degrees to save my back and future damage (I’ve never had any back problems, but I did develop a terrible habit of sitting on my folded legs – which, when younger, wasn’t a problem, but now after 20 minutes my legs are dead).

Anyhue, angling the table presented a major problem – rollage! things would just roll over it. Some lateral thinking, a bit of blind luck and now, at last I have the closest thing to a perfect working environment as I’ve ever managed. So I present, my drawing board annotated.

1) Moleskin – four thumbnail pages per page – so eight pages are layed out – that’s the entirity of numbercruncher #6.
2) a small paint roller paint tray – basically it’s hooked onto the metal bit (which in turn is hooked onto the back of the table) and gives me a little box to keep ink and drawing tools in – not too many, but as many as I need.
3) The pens are, left to right, a .5 mechanical pencil (2H lead), a traditional nib dip pen (no idea what kind of dip pen it is, I bought a batch several years ago from my local graphics shop – they were labelled “sketching”) a brush, a sapphire series 51 0 brush (a rigging brush for painting rigging on pictures of boats). These are all held in place on top of a car dashboard non-stick surface, bought for a £1 in the local pound shop – basically it’s a sticky gel, that you can just plant things on – despite the extreme angle of the table (and you can see the angle from the attached sideview of the table)
4) an off cut of a £1 roll of “non-slip surface” – again from a local pound shop-this stuff is designed for cushions or mats or sundry other items, but I’ve found it’s a great addition to the drawing table – the offcut allows me to plant block of paper on top of it and it will not move, again, despite the angle.
5) Either a bit of scrap paper (which black inklines on it) OR A full roll of the “non-slip surface” running along the top of the table – it’s a BIG table and that upper area is unused, having that non-slip surface along the top means I can just plant tools up there out of the way when I don’t need them. (I accidentally labelled two things as ‘5’)
6) my ipad. For reference. Or music. Or tv while I work.
7) Angle poise lamp, from Ikea – I went for the flourescent tube model, I rarely use it as my drawing table is planted directly below the bulb in my studio.
8) Books – I have two shelves of books just above my head. I’m continually worried they’ll fall and crush me. I can place scripts, etc, in between books here – sticking out enough to remind me they exist.
9) A reference of pages sizes – I’m currently drawing a US sized book and a 2000AD sized strip, this keeps me right (since I don’t use pre-printed paper)
10) White bluetack (bit hard to see where 10 is – it’s just below the drawing pad) – a big wodge of it, which I move around as I rotate the art to keep it in place (though it’s less used now I have slightly more non-stick surface that I can put underneath the artpad)
11) circle/ellipse templates, etc – just sitting there, underused.
12) Rulers! Two of them. They’re big!
13) My script
14) some rubbers. I have a lot of rubbers.

There you go. Hope that’s of interest!