Friday, January 05, 2007

Dave Sim's blogandmail #115 (January 4th, 2007)

Hey, Retailers (if any of you have started or are still reading the Blog & Mail) Could you do me a favour and check and see if you have

Cerebus (STAR00070)

& High Society (STAR00071)

in stock? They're usually the first to sell out

over the Christmas Holidays.


Okay this is still taking some getting used to. I read each day's Blog & Mail on the day of posting from my stored files and today I was talking about the next commission being started on December 28. Well, I hope to start in December 28, but where you are it's a week later and you still haven't seen anything. Where I am, I don't find out what the commission is until tomorrow. The problem is I'm trying to do two weeks of Blog and Mail's to get myself some lead time and that pushes everything forward so that I now have two weeks' worth of mail to answer here before I get to the commission and by the time I answer the two weeks' worth I'll have another week's worth to answer. So while I'm trying to figure that out, some glutton-for-minutiae-punishment reminded me that I haven't said anything about the Gillott-290 pen nibs I was finally able to get from John Neal Books in North Carolina (thanks to Sgt. Flowers' initiative in tracking down the ordering information on the Internet).

Well, it's everything Neal Adams promised it would be (on pages 52 and 53 of Following Cerebus 9—order from and most especially in the sense of how time-consuming it is (he had mentioned that he doesn't use it much anymore because of how fast he has turn out his storyboards at Continuity). It's actually not that much different from the Hunt 102 if the Hunt 102 is fresh in terms of fineness of line. Chester Brown disagrees with me on that—I gave him a couple of them the last time I was in Toronto and he says he thinks it's a finer line—he might very well be right but, particularly the last couple of years of Cerebus where Gerhard and I had gotten into an unspoken fine line competition (he would go finer on his lines and then I would respond by going finer on my lines and he would go finer on his lines, etc.) if you get the 102 right up on tippy-toe and press very lightly so you aren't taking any of the tension out of it, you can go pretty fine. The biggest difference that I've noticed with the 290 is the precision that it requires to get ink out of it and onto the page. As I think I mentioned in the Guide to Self-Publishing, the point is composed of two steel flanges and the ink rests, largely through surface tension, between the two flanges and can only be transferred to the artboard by the surface tension created by the connection of both flanges to the board and by gravity inducing the ink to move down the nib onto the page. If both flanges aren't connected to the page then you're just scratching the surface with one flange and no black line is appearing. And if you don't get a black line on your first two or three passes over the page then evaporation starts to take place and the ink becomes too congealed to transfer. So you have to stop and dip it in water and take a tissue and wipe the remaining ink off and then try again. You can also just dip the pen nib again and double up the ink if the evaporation isn't too far advanced and try again that way. But on a percentage basis, the time it is going to take you to re-dip the pen nib once or even twice trying to get a line, you're going to be better off just washing it off and trying again. That's really the major time-consuming element where Neal described the Gillott-290 pen nib as the instrument of the devil. You're going along really good (I did about half of the two pages I got done in the last week with the Gillott-290) and then suddenly you can't get ink out of it.

C'mon, c'mon.

And the more impatient you get, the less likely it is to work because you're resenting the pen nib being in the way rather than recognizing that you've just gotten lazy and you're not getting the flanges into the right position so that they're both touching the paper at the right angle. Because the 290 is more "rubbery" the precision is more exacting. You can get one flange touching the page and the other is microscopically like a dog raising its hind leg to take a leak. When your attention level is back up at the level it needs to be then you'll get a line out of it again for exactly as long as your attention level is up there. But as soon as it starts working, your attention level drops again. The big plus that I found is that if I work with the 290 for an hour or so, my attention level gets up high enough that I can switch to the 102 and be able to make the same lines with a lot less concentration, until my concentration starts lapsing again because the 102 is a more forgiving instrument. Then it's time to switch back to the 290 and force myself back up to the optimum level of focus. In terms of quality I would have to say that the 290 is a failsafe kind of instrument. Because it won't let you make a line until you have it in the optimum position, you will get more consistent results. With the 102 it will make a line thicker than what you want if your attention starts to flag before it cuts out on you completely. Of course the pages that I'm working on right now are all "fine line to the max"…

[to give you a rough idea of "HOW fine line to the max," I wasn't satisfied with my ability to see exactly where the lines were going down on the page and went out and bought a 3X magnifying glass so that I could see exactly where they were going. The combination of a Gillott-290 on tippy-toe with a magnifying glass to assist in line placement verges on the pathologically obsessive. I'm supposed to be retired, so what—besides shuffling around the mall pulling little hairs out of my ears—doesn't verge on the pathologically compulsive, nu?]

…so I've really only been able to explore the fine side of the Gillott-290 so far. Since Chester's been immersed in his script-writing for his next graphic novel and hasn't been drawing at all he hasn't been able to use it on anything. Sean W of the Dr. Strangeroach commission had told me on the phone that his wife, Bonnie, had gotten a Jaka sketch from me years ago that she had framed and hung somewhere in the sunlight so that it faded, so I told him I would do her another quick one as part of his Dr. Strangeroach package. So, it's a free sketch, I've got the pen nib that Stan Drake used to ink Heart of Juliet Jones for 30 years or so, so what the heck, eh? So I pencilled a quick Jaka head on watercolour paper (minute and a half?) splashed some remnant yellow watercolour from the Dr. Strangeroach palette on her hair and then some flesh tone (two minutes?) and then just dipped the Gillott-290 and treated the damn thing like a brush just as Alex Kotzky had told the 19-year old Neal Adams to do (three minutes).


I'm seriously thinking of doing watercoloured Jaka heads assembly-line style at the next Torontocon at $75 a pop. I wonder if I could do twenty of them in a day? I don't know if Bonnie has hers in a frame yet or if she has any way of posting it here, but she's more than welcome to if you want to have a look.

So that's where I am in my love affair with my new pen nib. If I can get enough lead time on the Blog and Mail and get back to my secret project maybe you'll even see full-sized results before the end of 2007. Or before the end of 2008. Or before the end of…

Tomorrow: Seriously answering the mail





If you wish to contact Dave Sim, you can mail a letter (he does NOT receive emails) to:

Aardvark Vanaheim, Inc
P.O. Box 1674
Station C
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada N2G 4R2

Looking for a place to purchase Cerebus phonebooks? You can do so online through Win-Mill Productions -- producers of Following Cerebus. Convenient payment with PayPal:

Win-Mill Productions

Or, you can check out Mars Import:

Mars Import

Or ask your local retailer to order them for you through Diamond Comics distributors.

Here are the Diamond Star System codes:

Cerebus #1-25 $30.00 STAR00070

High Society #26-50 $30.00 STAR00071

Church and State I #52-80 $35.00 STAR00271

Church and State II #81-111 $35.00 STAR00321

Jaka's Story #114-136 $30.00 STAR00359

Melmoth #139-150 $20.00 STAR00431

Flight #151-162 $20.00 STAR00543

Women #163-174 $20.00 STAR00849

Reads #175-186 $20.00 STAR01063

Minds #187-200 $20.00 STAR01916

Guys #201-219 $25.00 STAR06972

Rick's Story #220-231 $20.00 STAR08468

Going Home I #232-250 $30.00 STAR10981

Form and Void #251-265 $30.00 STAR13500

Latter Days #266 - 288 $35.00 AUG031920

The Last Day #289 - 300 $25.00 APR042189