Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday, part one

In the world of retail sales, the day after Thanksgiving is commonly referred to as "Black Friday." It's the day on which many retailers get into the positive, or "black ink," side of the accounting ledger, due to the post-Turkey Day shopping boom.

Here at SSTOL, we're dubbing today (and one week from today, also) "Black Friday" for a different reason. For the next two Comic Art Fridays, we're going to focus on the importance of black ink in the world of comic art.

Specifically, we're showcasing four recently commissioned works by one of our favorite inking specialists, artist par excellence Bob Almond. Bob was also gracious enough to consent to an e-mail interview about these projects, excerpts from which we'll include as we go along.

So, in the words of the Black-Eyed Peas (keeping the "black" theme going), "Let's get it started."

DC Comics artist Matthew Clark — he's drawn such acclaimed series as Batman and the Outsiders, Wonder Woman, and The Adventures of Superman — drew this lush, graceful pinup of Ms. Marvel on a commission earlier this year.

Here's the same drawing, after embellishment in ink by Bob Almond.

Comic Art Friday asked Bob:
What challenges do you face in inking an artist with a fine line like Matthew Clark's? Are there artists whose line is less or more difficult for you to interpret, and if so, why?
Mr. Almond replied:
Some pencilers are very careful to include all line weights in their drawing; some others, not so much. Matthew fits into the former category. It was very clear that he was implying that many of the lines would be super-thin; in fact, I could barely make out some of those lines (they didn't show up in my photocopy of the pencils). But I love the extreme range and delicate approach to the work.

Some artists fit in the latter category, so you don't always know what they're looking for. It means that, as the inker, I need to structure the line weights as I see fit.

I enjoy both approaches. The first is a challenge to try to simulate the graphite lines in ink, to capture what the artist intends, while the second group allows me freedom to try different things.
The other single-character pinup in this quartet of commissions was this Wonder Woman sketch by Brazilian artist Al Rio. As mentioned previously on Comic Art Friday, this was Al's preliminary drawing for his contribution to Wonder Woman Day 2007, a benefit for women's shelters and domestic violence awareness.

Bob Almond finished Rio's sketch in ink, resulting in the pinup you see below.

Bob and I have done nearly two dozen commission projects together. At various times, we've had occasion to discuss the raw materials involved — in particular, the widely varying grades of art paper used by different pencilers. I asked Bob:
Talk a little about the challenge of inking on different types of art board — a moving target that an inker constantly faces.
Here's Mr. Almond's take:
I rarely have a problem with lesser-quality boards since I don't use quills much at all, and bleeding is a factor mostly with pen usage.

Sometimes, the pencils won't erase well off the finished work (but the ink, sadly, will). And if I need to use a frisket sheet to cover up areas while I spatter ink over other selected areas, sometimes when I lift the 'low-tack' sheet, it will lift some of the artwork with it.

All you can do is be prepared, and roll with the punches.
We'll feature two more projects from the Almond inkwell, along with more commentary from Bob, next week.

That's your Comic Art "Black Friday." If you're headed to your nearby mall or Mart (either Wal- or K-) today, be careful out there. Those bargain hunters can be bull-goose loco.

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