Drifting And Dreaming 395


I am not a fan of wasting paper. Especially not drawing paper. There are a lot of different kinds of drawing paper from cheap to really expensive. Cheap is usually just any old kind of paper. I know artists who will draw on whatever is at hand. Some draw on a plain old piece of printer paper (it used to be typing paper but who has a typewriter anymore?). It’s cheap and it’s handy.

The next thing up from printer paper is the paper found in pads sold under the name “Drawing paper.” That’s the paper you can find in any basic arts and crafts store, general store, and even a well stocked pharmacy. There is nothing special about it that I can see and I generally stay away from the stuff. I stay away from all cheap paper most of the time. I don’t like the stuff. I find it too smooth, too hard to erase on, and I struggle with drawing on it in general. It also doesn’t take ink well. Don’t use tools you struggle with if you can help it. It’s better to make things easy on yourself.

The most expensive paper that I’ve used is a 300lb watercolor paper. That’s some thick paper. Paper is measured by weight and the higher the number of pounds the thicker the paper. 300lb is about as thick as it gets for me. One 22×30 inch sheet of 300lb watercolor paper is going to run about $15. It’s well worth it if you’re going to make some large watercolors (or even small ones) but that’s not the kind of paper I work on as my everyday paper. Mind you I’d hate to waste a sheet of that expensive paper but I’m not sure I ever have. I don’t use it often and when I do it’s usually at the end of a very long process where I have most things worked out so the chances of the drawing going wrong are slim.

Things going wrong is one way that paper can be wasted. That happened to me recently with some sketch covers. I had an idea come to me and I quickly implemented that idea. Too quickly. The drawings came out terribly and I ended up with a couple of wasted sheets of paper. Usually I’m patient so that type of wasting of paper doesn’t happen too often. That and I start my drawing out small. Wasting a five by seven inch piece of paper isn’t too bad. In the story I just told the pieces of paper were eleven by fourteen inches. That hurts a little more.

The more common way for me to waste paper is in my preparation process. That’s where I messed things up today. I had finished nine small six by nine inch pencil drawings and was setting a few of them up to be covers in my faux comic book cover series. I scanned the drawings in and then blew them up and placed them into one of my cover templates. The cover templates are designed and made up to look like comic book covers. They’ve got the logo and trade dress of a comic book. In the trade dress is an issue number and a month just like on an old comic book cover. And I keep track of them too. If issue one has January on it than issue two will have February as its month.

The series I was working on today was “Dreams of Things.” I’ve done about fifty drawings in that series and it turns out I messed up last time I printed some out to be inked. That’s another thing I do. I prep some covers for inking and coloring in bunches and then let them sit there until I get to them. The last two I let sit there I messed up on. First of all, I accidentally made two different issue number 50s and printed them out. That was annoying but not too big a deal since I had duplicated numbers in this series before. I did those on purpose though so doing it not on purpose was a disappointment.

As I was setting up issue number 52 I checked to make sure I had the correct month on it. It turned out to be August and everything was okay. Then I did a few more unrelated things and came back to set up issue 53. I checked the month and got all confused. I’m not even sure what caused the initial confusion but eventually figured out that both of my number 50s that I set up weeks ago had the wrong month on them. Crap, that’s annoying. At least I hadn’t inked them yet.

The paper that I usually work on is a two-ply Bristol board. At 96lbs it’s a pretty thick piece of paper. You can buy it with a smooth or rough surface in many different sizes. The size I was working at for those covers was a fourteen by seventeen inch piece of paper cut down to eleven by seventeen inches. The Bristol I buy costs about $15 for twenty sheets. That’s not too bad. There is more expensive Bristol out there but I only use that on occasion. I prefer to use a watercolor paper if I’m upgrading my paper.

So now I had the choice to live with the wrong months on the cover or print out two new versions with the correct months on them and throw $1.50 down the drain. As much as it pained me I went with the two new versions. It’s not a ton of money but I hate to waste stuff.

So now I’ll aim to not waste the two pieces of paper. The key is to use the back of paper to make a working drawing. Something that isn’t going to be a finished piece. Sometimes in this situation I’ll cut the paper into smaller pieces to draw on but in this case I think I’ll keep them at eleven by seventeen inches. I can make a full size working drawing on the backs of them. Let’s hope they come out okay.


I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got seven new comics.

  • Dept. H – 19
  • Invincible – 141
  • Kill or be Killed – 13
  • Mage: The Hero Denied – 3
  • Savage Dragon – 227
  • Spy Seal – 3
  • Maestros – 1
  • Check them all out here:



    I’m rebuilding some logos this week. What the heck is that you may ask? It’s something that I do when I make an old comic book cover recreation or when I make a blank sketch cover (which is a comic book with a white cover that a person can draw on. They make them for that purpose). I know what you’re going to ask, “Can’t you just buy a blank sketch cover?” The answer to that is yes. If I wanted a blank sketch cover to draw on I could find some random ones at my local comic shop. But they are at least four dollars per comic and that makes it an expensive piece of drawing paper. Plus I’ve got tons of comics about the place that are cheap and unsalable. So I’ve recently decided to make my own sketch covers. Some I’ll draw on myself and a few I even put up for sale on eBay. If someone wants a sketch cover on an old school comic they can get one from me there.

    Anyone can make a blank sketch cover of their own if they want to put in the time. All it takes is a piece of drawing paper (I use two-ply Bristol) cut to the right size, some needle nose pliers to bend the staples straight, and a steady hand to put the staples back in their original holes with the drawing paper wrapped around the comic. Of course that will be a true blank cover. Most of the ones that the comic book companies make have the logo printed in place so it looks like a real comic book cover. I like to print the logos on my blanks but that means I have to remake them. I don’t have access to the companies’ logo files and some of the old comics I put blanks on are from before the age of digital so there might not even be digital versions of them. I build my own digital versions.

    One way to go about getting a logo that you can use for a sketch cover is to scan in a printed cover and then clean the scan up in Photoshop. But that’s more work then it looks like. Unless you have a good clean scan of the logo with no art overlapping it the digital clean up part can take a while. I’ve seen people scan in logos from blank covers and they work best with this method but not every comic has a blank version. I prefer to rebuild the logo from the ground up.

    Instead of pixel based Photoshop I like to rebuild the logos in vector based Illustrator. I scan in a comic book cover with the logo I want to rebuild on it, place that image onto a layer in Illustrator, and then remake the logo on another layer on top of the scan. The way a vector based program works is that you make a point, then make a second point, and a straight line is made between them. Drawing in Photoshop mimics drawing with a pencil or pen but Illustrator feels more like building something.

    Of course you can make more than straight lines in a vector program. Every dot that makes up the lines comes with two “handles.” Pull those handles one way or another and the straight line curves. So I make a dot at the corner of a letter, make a second dot at the next corner, and pull on the handles to get the correct curve of the line I’m trying to recreate. It’s easy but tedious. I call it rebuilding a logo because it has more in common with building a bookcase than drawing. Each individual logo can have it’s own challenges too.

    One of the logos I rebuilt recently is “The Official Handbook the the Marvel Universe.” That one was a four step process. First is the straight up type. That’s the “The Official Handbook of” part. I just have to find the right font and type the words out. On these old comics the plain, basic, type is almost always a Helvetica. I don’t even sweat it if I can’t find the exact version of the font. Close enough is good enough otherwise I can fall down the rabbit hole of searching endless variations of fonts for the perfect one. That can suck up more time than building the rest of the logo. Avoid that time-suck.

    Step two was to build the main outline of the logo. I built each individual letter on its own and in place. That’s easy enough to do. The program keeps the line the same weight all around so all I have to do is build the logo point by point and curve the lines where they need to be curved. None of this is hard but once again it’s tedious. There is no creativity to be found in doing this. It’s a task. The next two steps are even more of a task.

    Step three is making the black space background. It’s the black part that’s inside the letters. It’s made up of straight lines, curved corners, and little half circles cut out of the lines. It takes a while to rebuild all that. I had to pay attention to spacing and that’s not always easy. Having some good podcasts or some such helps because you won’t be using a lot of your brain doing this. Also part of this was making the white stars. They are just little ovals but it takes a while to make that many of them.

    The final part is the corner box. This one didn’t have corner box art, which can be a problem, and was just type so it was easy to recreate. The only thing that could have been a problem was the little “CC” Curtis Code world logo but I had that done already. That’s another tip if you want to recreate logos for blank covers. Keep all the various pieces you’ll use again in one folder so that you can find them. As a matter of fact the main thing to keep in mind when rebuilding a logo is organization. It’s as much an exercise in organization as in art.


    I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got five new comics.

  • The Divided States of Hysteria – 5
  • Eternal Empire – 5
  • Retcon – 2
  • Birthright – 27
  • The Wicked + the Divine – 32
  • Check them all out here:



    I’ve got an easel in my art studio here in the house. I’ve made many a painting and drawing on it over the years but recently I haven’t been doing many large works so I haven’t had to use it for that purpose though I still use it though to display and look at things on. When I’m finished with a drawing that I make on my drawing table I’ll step over the the easel and lean the drawing up against the large white drawing board that sits on my easel. That allows me to see the drawing, print, sketch cover, or whatever I’ve made in a different light. That light is both literal and figurative.

    Things build up on the easel these days. There is never just one drawing on the easel. First off, I always have one of my large 22×36 inch drawings in the background of the others. Since the drawing board is so large and a stark white I like to keep a large drawing on it at all times. Otherwise I catch a distracting glare off the board. I have a bunch of those large black and white ink drawings to choose from so I switch them out every now and again. It keeps me from being blinded by the white and reminds me the large drawings exist. That’s a good habit to get into. Remind yourself that your past work exists. I find it too easy to get caught up in what I’m doing now. The now is all fine and dandy on most days but sometimes I have no sense of accomplishment if I’m focused on the now. Seeing older stuff reminds me that I’ve done things.

    I’ve generally been working in three sizes these days. Eleven by seventeen inches, eight and a half by eleven inches, and comic book sketch cover size which is around six and a half by ten inches. The bottom bar on my easel (my homemade easel I might add) where the drawings sit is about an inch and a quarter wide. It fits two eleven by seventeen and three eight and a half by eleven inch drawings side by side. That means I can stack quite a few drawings together but only the front ones can be seen. I tend to keep my most recent drawings on the easel with the ones I most recently completed in the front. I also rotate the ones I get tired of to the back or find a place to put them away once they’ve hung around a while.

    I also take photos of my work on the easel. For stuff I am posting on eBay I take three photos. One from the front, one from the left, and one from the right. I even like to leave other pieces around the one I’m photographing. Since all the works are on paper I make a nice, clean, isolated scan of them anyway so I like the photos to have more personality. I like to show the works in an environment and in the context of some of my other stuff. I find that makes the photos more alive. It’s always good not to kill the work in a photograph (which is easy to do).

    Often I either have eleven by seventeen inch drawings or eight and a half by eleven inch drawing on the easel. I do things in bunches so my most recent drawings can sometimes be all the same size. At other times I put the bigger drawings on the left and the smaller ones on the right. Putting the bigger drawings behind the smaller drawing usually doesn’t serve a purpose because it just blocks the bigger drawings.

    The one purpose stacking small in front of big does serve is a photographic purpose. Stacking art makes for good photographs. I first learned that seeing photos of paintings stacked in Picasso’s studio. It was just so cool to see works of art stacked together even if everything wasn’t clear. It gave a sense of casualness to the art yet tinged with importance because I wanted to see what was in the stacks beyond the glimpses shown.

    There is also something called “Impressionist Stacking.” Since Impressionist paintings could be small the people putting Impressionist shows together would “Stack” them on the wall. They would hang them in grids. Maybe six across and three or four high. You could take in a whole bunch of paintings at a glance. This also helped them compete visually with the much larger academic paintings of the time. I’ve always been a fan of Impressionist Stacking.

    That leads me to my “Accidental still life.” That’s a term I use when I photograph a still life that I didn’t even arrange consciously. Sometimes a bunch of interesting stuff ends up organized in such a way that it looks artistic. Pens on my drawing table, brushes in my brush rack, random bottles of paint, and even nested cardboard boxes can turn into a still life. So I take a photo when that happens. Sometimes I go looking for ASLs and sometimes I stumble upon them. This one I stumbled on.

    It started out with me making a still life. Since I had a bunch of my drawings on the easel I wanted to stack them a little and take a photo as I’ve done before. Big ones in back and small ones in front. Two by three. It made for an decent photo. The big drawing I had in the way back worked well because it was one big head. One, two, three was the stack. Nice.

    Then a funny thing happened. I started to work on some five by seven inch drawings. I don’t usually stack them since they are so small but since I already had the other drawings lined up in size order I put one or two in front. I barely noticed the stack at this point but after a few days I had five of the five by seven inch drawings done. Then I had my stack, my accidental still life, complete. I put them all in the front of the easel. Five, three, two, one. A nice pyramid stack. And the front ones even had word balloons on them so they were talking to the viewer. It’s clever enough that I wish I planned it. But I’ll take a happy accident.