Take a look at the video. Christine Larsen is new to me, which demonstrates my general myopia when it comes to seeing the full picture of working comic artists.
If you recall my previous consideration of drawing with a brush — a commentary I made off the top of my head, since I’ve never drawn with a brush and don’t know a thing about cleaning one (well, I know this much, read somewhere in passing: you never completely clean the brush, you leave a residue of ink in the bristles)(am I remembering correctly?) — Larsen shows why using a brush could be worth the maintenance, provided you draw as well as she does.
The video offers two surprises.
- Her brush holds an amazing load of ink. I never saw her refill it. Some might pass this off to editing, but I’m guessing she favors a Shamwow brush.
- She begins inking at the bottom of the page. It feels counter-intuitive. Ink needs to dry. Either her Shamwow bristles cause the ink to dry on contact, the result of a molecular tug of war between absorbent brush and absorbent paper; the ink dries at the usual rate but she’s extremely patient and happy to take frequent breaks as she works her way up the page, or the recording was run in reverse.
She has a new book coming out, a collection of short stories. You can see sample pages here.
This would be a great time to be inspired by someone’s work — to toss my pen and pick up a brush; learn how to tend the bristles and bend them to my will. But I won’t. I’ve never had an idea, to paraphrase a Seinfeld writer, that was brush-worthy. My jokes barely deserve their plain lines. My cartoons are like hasty rope bridges, built to last just as long as the reader requires to dash across from set-up to punchline. There are certainly single-panel cartoonists who draw with a brush. Their ideas are often grander than mine. The splash and vigor of the brush makes the canyon grand, the mansion great. My using a brush would be like painting a house, roof to basement, only to discover that it’s built of cardboard and destined to blow away or wilt in the rain.
Comics are often disposable; almost the perfect definition of ephemera before comic books became graphic novels. I tend to focus on the fleeting nature of anything I work on. A magazine cartoon. A greeting card. It eases the pressure to draw perfectly. If a line or effect doesn’t work as I’d imagined, time and publishing schedules will whisk it out of sight.
But if you draw like Larsen, that doesn’t mean art can’t be built to last.