In-DIY-Between The Lines Featuring Ben"Neb"Girven! Neb's here to walk you through his process of doing his awesome vesrion sketch cards!
Hello guys! I’m the Neb! I’m an Albuquerque, NM based aspiring comic book artist / indie-creator / all around shifty-eyed dreamer. I have been half of the creative duo that is Ego Comics Infotainment Group for the better part of 20 years now. Under Ego Comics we have published 4 anthologies called “Ego Comics Presents”, where we got a lot of other artists/writers/creators to contribute stories and pages to themed anthologies.
Ego Comics has been working on a book called ‘Stomping Ground’ for a very long time now, and we’ve published a handful of books,
“Field Guide to the Stomping Ground”,
"A Stomping Ground “Coloring Book”,
“Monster’s Be Wary”, which is a short story – and teaser for Stomping Ground.
More recently, I’ve been working with Typo’d Mary, and just published an intro story to our book “Terra-Farmers”, which I’m doing the art for and will be an on-going web comic. I’ve also had a few shirt designs picked up by TeeFury and ShirtPunch, and have just started getting into selling prints and sketchcards. I’ve been hitting the local con scene for the last two years, and just recently helped to put on a local Independent Creator Explosion – which was just a mini-con for local creators to get the word out about their books.
So, my good buddy Hunter here, asked me to talk a little about my “process” (or what passes for my “process”)… and basically show you how I take an image from idea to completion. I’m going to use a few examples of recent commissions that I’ve done, and a few sketchcards that I’ve done as well.
We’re going to start with a sketchcard I did of Gambit for a friend of mine. Once I get an idea for what I’m going to draw… I start with a rough sketch.
On Sketching / Breakdowns / Penciling:
Rough sketches are just basic outlines / skeletons for figuring out body placement, shapes, and how the picture is going to come together, and trying to lock down the ‘big brush strokes’. I try to think of who it is that I’m drawing and just try to do something fun or iconic with them. (With sketchcards though, there’s a need to also keep it simple… They don’t give me a lot of room to ‘spread out’) For sketchcards, I try to do these (whenever I can) during my lunch hour at my ‘day job’, – which doesn’t give me a lot of time either. So basically… my main constraints with these are time and space! How much can I fit on one card… in the limited amount of time that I have to do it.
For sketchcards, I generally work on either a 4x6” card or a more traditional 2 ½ x 3 ½” card. I prefer working larger, so I’ve developed a preference for the 4x6” cards, however I’ve also really enjoyed the challenge of working smaller, not to mention, the smaller the space, typically, the quicker I can get them done.
When it comes to the pose, I generally just ‘wing it’. Once I have a subject in mind… I just try to consider the space, and find something ‘interesting’ to do with them. Granted, a lot of time these sketchcards are just static little images, and don’t require much ‘thought’ beyond *Character X* standing in front of the camera. Larger pieces do tend to require a bit more thought behind the layout and placement of things (I’m not saying I do it RIGHT, but I do think about it.)
For this Gambit sketchcard – I just started with a basic idea, It’s Gambit, so I knew I wanted him to be holding some charged up playing cards. My ‘rough’ pencils are always just the basic shapes. My first sketch, I decided to have him with his staff resting on his shoulder, and that sorta informed the pose a bit. Left arm up holding the staff, right shoulder tipped down… and right hand holding out cards… etc. Rough in the basic shapes… work out any placement issues..
Here’s another example of some other pencils for other projects I’ve done. The left the rough pencils for a Longshot print I did recently, and on the right is the sketch for a Boba Fett commission.
On Penciling Tools..
I’ve grown partial to a matched pair of mechanical pencils (Betty & Veronica) that I picked up years ago.
I have one loaded with 6H lead (far left), and the other loaded with 4H lead. I tend to start every drawing I do with the 6H lead. It’s pretty tough stuff, so it doesn’t make very dark lines… just enough for me to put down the basic shapes… once I have the placement down, I move in with the 4H lead, which is a little softer, and delivers a darker line. This is generally where the image really starts to fill in… most of the details come in at this point. I’ve traditionally been a very tight penciller, and didn’t leave anything to the imagination between penciling and inking.
Over the last 2 years or so, as I’ve really gained a little more confidence in my inking abilities… I’ve allowed myself to start figuring out more and more with ink, instead of doing all that ‘problem solving’ in pencil. It’s really just a matter of confidence, I suppose. And trusting myself. I find myself more and more… just throwing some inks down where I think they should go, even if it’s not exactly where the pencil lines were, and generally, I can make it work. I hate to jinx myself, but I’m throwing almost nothing away anymore. (Most of the sketchcards I’ve done recently are “one and done’s”. First draft and only draft.) I’m not throwing paper away like I used to. And again, I think that just speaks to that ‘problem solving’. I’m MacGuyver with an Micron! Haha! I make less mistakes, and find ways to fix them when I do.
Here’s the inks for the Gambit Sketch
And here are the inks for the Boba Fett commission.
I’m a different inker than I used to be. As I said, I spent the better part of 2 years doing nothing but digital inks. I had all but given up on traditional inking… until I sorta forced myself to pick up a pen and do a quick sketch for a friend.
I was way more intimidated by it that I should have been… but something kinda ‘clicked’, and I realized that all that time I spent ‘away’ doing nothing but digital work, had actually made me a better ‘traditional’ inker. They are two very different disciplines… but I feel like they do complement each other to some degree. Digital inking (drawing) had made me a ‘braver’ artist (CTRL-Z will do that!) but it had also given me a confidence boost that translated to traditional inking.
On Inking Tools:
Here are most of my ‘main’ tools.
I have a collection of Faber Castell Pitt Pens, XS, S, M…(middle black pens) and I still use my old Pigma Micron’s 005, and 1 (right) mostly. I have a really nice Pentel Pocket Brush pen (far right), but I just don’t use brushes very well, and tend to mess things up when I do, so the most I usually use that for is filling in blacks (A horrible waste of a beautiful brush pen for sure!!). And one of my favorite pens is a Pigma Graphic 1 pen. I absolutely hated the pen when I first got it. It sat in my drawing bag for over a year before I ever even used it for anything… and then I think it was just doing the thick outer lines (like I tend to do). Cut to last year, and I started inking ‘traditionally’ again – after about 2 years of almost strictly digital inking, and I busted out my Pigma Graphic 1 pen, and it immediately became my most favorite treasured pen. (I’m very sad to say, that it has actually just recently given up the ghost… so I need to replace it. Unfortunately, I can’t find them locally at all, so I’m going to have to go online for a replacement – I’ll be stocking up when I do). And of course, I still use good, ol’ fashioned Sharpies to get the job done sometimes.
I had gotten a video by Adam Hughes called “Drawing Good Girls” a while back, and that whole video was basically a big sloppy love letter to Copic markers… So I was immediately interested in getting a set of those markers. I had heard nothing but good things about them prior to that… and so I decided to try and make an investment, and pick up a set. They’re pretty pricey (at about $8/marker in retail shops) so I settled for getting a set of 6 greys to start. (I found a coupon for 40% off at Hobby Lobby, and put that to good use – the set usually sells for $40, but I got it for $25).
I had only done maybe 4 or 5 sketchcards up to that point… so after I got those, I tried shading the next couple of cards I did in B&W. I actually really enjoyed working in grayscale… as it really just gave me some time to practice with the markers… and ultimately, just try to get a feel for toning, before I started adding color.
I found a really good deal on a 36 market set on Ebay – and jumped on it. Once I got those… I knew what had been missing in my life! The only down-side to the 36pack, is that there really is only like 2 reds. Not nearly enough. I did eventually order some more reds, and I filled in all of the warm grey and soft grey collection. The Copics are really easy to use, and they lay down pretty consistent color. I really haven’t had them long enough to talk about how long they last… but I do know that they are re-fillable, and you can replace the tips.
So, since I’ve gotten all of the warm greys and cool greys, I tend to build from the lightest up… and get those first couple of shades down. And then move on to the colored areas. I’m still pretty new with them, and still have TONS to learn… and ultimately, I’ve realized that I still need more markers, since I really want the colors to blend better together… I’m still somewhat limited in what I have, so I have to make the best of it.
Once the image is colored… and I’m pretty happy with it, I have a white gel pen, that I will sometimes go in and do some hightlights with if the image feels like it needs it.
Well, that’s about it for this time. It’s a quick run-down, and I’ll go into more detail about each of the steps next time, and I’d like to really hit on digital inking/coloring as well.