Inking isn't totally free of creativity or difficulty, there's plenty of that involved, but it is made enormously more fun for me thanks to the tool I use - the humble dip-pen. I find it such a pleasure to use. I feel as though there is a tradition and history I'm part of. Using a dip-pen is a craft - the very act of getting the ink yourself, of charging the nib directly from the inkwell, and then drawing - from brain to arm to hand to nib to ink to paper, resulting in a physical image, transferred kinetically straight from the source (me).
The first dip-pen I used, on the opening three pages of The Rainbow Orchid, was an Osmiroid Rolatip. Using it now it seems so basic and easy to use, but back then I struggled with its unpredictability, and soon moved to using Rapidographs (often doubling the line to inject some variation). After a few years I found the Rapidograph unsatisfying and I decided to give dip-pens another try. I bought a Hunt 107, struggled a bit, and then it seemed to click.
Towards the end of The Rainbow Orchid I started to find the 107 a little unsubtle for some of the stuff I wanted to do, and a couple of pages into The Secret of the Samurai I turned to the Hunt 102, a finer nib and a little more flexible. I had no problem with this nib, but got curious about the Tachikawas that seemed to be so readily available (when the Hunts weren't).
So next I tried the Maru and the G-nib. The G-nib is a very good manga pen, but not quite right for ligne claire. The Maru was pretty close to the 102, perhaps able to go a little finer - a tiny bit less flexible, but with a tad more character, I think. I seem to be favouring the Maru at the moment, though I'd like to try a few British nibs at some point, perhaps a Gillott or a Leonardt.
Whenever I mention dip-pens on my website, or at comics workshops (I'm nearly always asked what tools I use) I always get interest in them. I'm often asked what kind is best, how to use them and where you can get them. Sometimes people come back to me, frustrated that they've not been able to get to grips with it. It's not like a marker or a drawing pen - you can't just pop the lid off and go. It can take a little while to get used to, but if it's the right tool for you (and it may not be) then it will click, and you'll love it.
Because of this interest, a couple of days ago I decided to make a video about dip-pens. I ramble on about them for about 10 minutes (probably a bit too long, sorry) and then demonstrate three nibs in action. Just seeing the dip-pen work can erase a lot of the mystery. So, if you're interested, here's the video ...
They were for some kind of monster book for the Crystal Palace Book Festival, though I never managed to get a copy so can't offer any more details. I only submitted the top one, but I think now I prefer the bottom one - especially as it seems to catch spiders!
As you can see, the scene is very complicated and it took a long time to do. I was a little worried when I came to ink it that it would be just an amorphous mass of chaotic detail, but also fairly confident that colour would sort it all out in the end. The main character has a slightly lighter tone than his fellow ashigaru, and the sky is at its brightest right behind him in order to direct the focus, even if it is subtle!
In other news, if you've recently ordered books from my online shop - a huge thank you! I have had quite a number of orders, which is lovely, but it does mean there will be a bit of a backlog to send off, so please be patient while I get through them all as best as I can.
A couple of other things of note ... Steve Holland's Bear Alley has recently published a great little article by Jeremy Briggs on the short-lived but influential Near Myths magazine. I'm really lucky to own some of Tony O'Donnell's Thiirania originals, as well as all five issues of the publication itself. Go and have a read.
And you may remember, some time back, that I plugged a super Playmobil comic by Nick Foulger called The Green Man. Nick wrote to tell me that it is now available to read for free as an online video/slide show. It's also available in French, German and Spanish, so do go and give it a look - I think it's really impressive.
Let me also point you to the website of an artist who I met at the Bristol Comic show, but who's work I've been aware of for a little longer than that. Sara Dunkerton is producing some absolutely wonderful stuff, and I've just seen a sneaky-peek of something she's working on with marvellous writer Matt Gibbs and it's really knocked my socks off. Do also go and check out Improper Books, where Matt is an editor. Some good stuff coming your way!
Finally - don't forget I'm at Waterstones in Deansgate, Manchester, this Sunday, where I'll be running a comic character creation workshop from 1-3pm. If you can't make that, and are nearer London, then i'd highly recommend you get yourself along to the Pop-up Festival Comics Big Top of Awesome on Saturday which, as it says on the tin, looks distinctly awesome!
Anyway, I didn't want to go to bed without feeling as though I'd accomplished something, so did another Kurosawa drawing. This time it's Lord Washizu from the astounding Throne of Blood (1957).
Edit: Of course I have drawn Judge Death before!