Old Dog, Old Tricks

I know, I know..Photoshop is great and it totally makes an artist’s life easier. If used correctly, you can really tweak your art to a higher level and, at times it’s a very necessary tool. For example, when I do a watercolor piece, I often scan it as a pencil before painting it so that, when it’s finished, I can use the original to color it in Photoshop for print purposes. If I try to scan the actual watercolor, it often get’s too washed out and harsh under the strong light of the scanner.

One of the more common thing I use it for is simply cleaning up any stray pencil marks or ink mistakes on my cartoons. But, sometimes I’ll find a cartoon needs a lot of revision and for some reason, I feel I need to use old-school techniques for that. I whip out my process white and slap it on thick and heavy! It’s probably because I’ve seen a lot of original cartoons by masters like Jack Davis, Harvey Kurtzman and others thick with white. I love the look of original art in it’s non-pristine form. I’ll show you an example.

Here’s a cartoon I recently did  about pooping pigeons. It’s ironic that I went so thick with the white on this one. The original looks as if it’s been pooped on!

I’d initially had much more tree and some lawn and driveway in the drawing but found that it distracted from the pigeons in the lower branches and the car. It’s best if you can easily see all the elements of a gag at a glance, I think. Here’s a shot of the original. Poop and all.

Of course , this still needed to be cleaned up in Photoshop! Oh well.

Another semi-old school technique I use is an ink overlay. Instead of actually inking the pencil, I’ll lay a piece of vellum or tracing paper over the work and ink that. Sometimes I just want to preserve the pencil. Other times, I like to ink the pencil and let a little show through here and there.

Here’s  a cartoon I did for Mother’s Day. I wasn’t entirely happy with the pencil and had to go to ink

due to a tight deadline.  I’m still not totally thrilled with the characters and I hate that but I had to send it in! Al Jaffee would not approve of my concession.

Here’s the pencil underneath. I like it much better than the inked version. At least I’m doing the inking myself, I don’t know how those superhero guys can send their beautiful pencils away to be inked by someone else.

Anyway, those are just a couple of techniques that I use that are fairly archaic yet keep the process fun. Another good idea is to always have a pen with you. You never know where ideas may show up! Excelsior!

Rich Powell

I'm an artist/illustrator residing in a small, North Carolina town. I worked for a few years as a conceptual artist and art director in the computer game industry but set off on my own to freelance. I currently do humorous illustration and cartoons for publications such as MAD Magazine and Highlights for Children.

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3 Responses

  1. Alex Forsyth says:

    Lover branches………..really, this is another branch entirely? What about the pigeons that are just good friends……….?

Say something, damn it!

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