Penciled artwork was required, but the pencil lines my peers were creating were so crisp and clean. Despite the fact that at this stage I was using a mechanical pencil, as opposed to the traditional “sharpen every five bloody minutes” variety, my line work still left a lot to be desired.
A4 and A3 printer paper
Mechanical pencil (a cheap black Pentel 0.5 which I’ve used for over a decade)
Staedtler pigment liners;0.3, 0.5 and 0.7
A thick chunky eraser
A smaller eraser that although small, was the bane of my life, lifting a lot of the finer pencil lines along with the main problem lines during it’s assault on my page.
And of course, last but not least, Photoshop to colour the illustrations
Granted around the year 2007 to 2009 I was mainly a painter of acrylics, and so my tools were brushes and canvases, but I never felt that I could get enough detail in my acrylics paintings, especially in terms of facial moods. I look back and I partially feel it was the composition of the forms within the actual paintings. That, and I probably needed to be working on bigger canvases.
I found I was able to convey moods better in illustration work. Long before I coloured my first artwork digitally (which is nearly a signature nowadays for me), my brother borrowed one of my inked artworks for his art class in the hopes of getting good grades.
characters! :D Art and Story by James Battersby
From there I worked on “Revelation: The Comic”, my own creation of homeless outcasts surviving in an anti-religious future and drew from the influence I had seen in my brother’s colouring of my artwork. It had never occurred to me then that colouring my artwork via computer was a possibility…it saved on ink for a start, and things could be edited easily. I had just turned twenty and my head was full of ideas. My work was admittedly a little rough around the edges, but a good effort. As for “Revelation: The Comic”…I would never dream of releasing that to the public nowadays.
body of shading and blacks, it would have been unsuitable for galleries
Yet…over the years when I saw the various galleries throughout the north coast sitting there vacant of my artwork, or I’d hear of exhibitions that I was invited to but declined, I realized that I had nothing to offer them. Sure, I had paintings from 2006-2009, and indeed I could have showcased them (thinking back now, I’m not sure what stopped me)….but my illustration work could never be accepted by the galleries. In fact, I knew there was no point. Galleries need two things in my view….originals and colour. I had originals, but they lacked the colour, the one thing my art was known for. They also lacked solid blacks, which is something essential I feel to a colourless work, because I had grown accustomed to using little blacks in my digital colouring. I felt that things just needed to change!
I would say over the past few years I’ve gradually kitted myself out with what I probably should have been using all along. They say a workman never blames his tools, but nowadays that saying doesn’t hold much weight anymore. I’ve learned that in a very competitive world nowadays, everyone demands a certain level of expertise from you. Tools can make you or break you.
First up was the elusive eraser. It had to be out there somewhere and i was determined to find it…
Rather than tell myself that that’s just how it is I decided to look into what was available. Then I discovered the brush pen. To be honest I had never heard of a pen with a brush for a nib. I honestly had got it into my head that as far as an ink pen went, I had three options…all of which I had already tried with varying degrees of success. You’ve got the ballpoint, most commonly know as a biro, but they can also come in what’s called a “Gel pen” form. Then you’ve got the dip pen, which I used to use with Indian ink. They use steel tipped nibs. I always found the nibs would bend far too easily, though admittedly as a young artist years ago, I may have been buying the low quality kind. Then you had the risk of the ink falling out of the open top nib itself onto an illustration you'd spent hours creating. Finally you had the pigment liner, as seen in the sample images to the left, a type of pen I had been using up until now. The pigment liner was never flexible enough for sweeping, curving lines and so on.
I’m always happy to answer questions about art materials from anyone who is interested.