My favorite drawing pen.
For nearly 20 years now I’ve been drawing using a PaperMate Flair pen. I find it kind of strange how I can get so attached, familiar, comfortable with an inanimate object. I suppose it has a lot to do with the fact that it’s so closely tied to my creative expression and passion to create?
At any given time you can find a bunch of these pens scattered through out my work area. Each one at various stages of use. Newer juicy ones to fill in bigger black areas, older ones barely bleeding ink that work well for drawing smaller details. I usually hold on to all of them until they give up the creative ghost and completely go bone dry.
I used a PaperMate Flair pen to do the majority of the creative heavy lifting on my most recent project, a poster design for Neenah Paper that I’ll be signing and giving away at the HOW Design Conference in Boston.
It’s illustrated using the same super doodle style I’ve worked in before. And this post will shed some light on how i went about creating the artwork.
As I’ve stated in previous posts, drawing is the fundamental foundation for nearly all that I do design wise. So needless to say drawing plays a large part in how I approach my creative solutions. Frankly, I don’t understand how it couldn’t? Drawing (Analog) equips and facilitates my digital projects. So even though I consider myself a digital designer, (Mac addict since Apple II days) I lean heavily on the creative discipline of drawing on virtually every project that passes through my studio.
I documented several stages in my creative process on this specific project to show how I go about creating what I like to call a “Super Doodle” illustration.
1. Composing Composition and Theme
My super doodle artwork tends to be a collage of nebulously strange elements working together to form a visual narrative that the viewer will have fun exploring, pondering, wondering, and attempting to discern it’s message using their own unique perspective.
As with most of my own personal projects I’m telling a story, but the audience gets to determine what that story is when it comes to a super doodle. I find this approach far more interactive than spelling everything out like a comic book, I want the mystery to draw people in. (Pun intended)
I usually draw out all the content at this stage with what ever I have handy be it a pencil or pen. I like to draw on separate pieces of paper and just cut them out and tape them all together until I have crude foundation that will serve as a guide for me to ink from. This stage of the process I usually do in a few days or over several weeks as I think about what I want to create.
2. PaperMate Flair Pen Inking – Analog
Using my composite mockup to guide me I begin drawing. This is the most time consuming part of this whole process. It’s a labor of love of course but I tend to break up the inking into chunks of time so I stay excited about it. Motivation has a lot of impact on drawing I’ve found. Burnt out, not very motivated and that will come through the drawing. So breaking it up into more manageable chunks of time helps me to keep the creative energy level up as I work.
When I ink I kind of do it in small strokes carefully forming my shapes rather than dragging the pen over the papers surface. This prevents the ink from bleeding and makes creating thick and thins easier I’ve found.
3. Continued Inking: Art Directing Yourself – Analog & Digital
When it was all said and done I spent around 9 hours inking this poster. Along the way of course I made a few mistakes. One morning I came in and looked at the progress and thought a few things I had drawn looked like crap, or just didn’t have the feel I wanted. One such area was the small skull popping out of the faucet. The ink was just bleeding too much to pull off the detailing I wanted at that size so I just drew a new skull larger knowing I’d just fix it in the digital end of things. And that’s why digital is so great, it’s very forgiving.
There were other small areas of detail I tweaked with in digital mode within Photoshop. Art direction isn’t just about drawing though, it’s also about knowing what to draw and what to leave out. Editing is important, paying attention to details such as negative spacing and how shapes interact all play a part in either improving a design or degrading it. So as you compare my composite image with the final you’ll see many areas that were changed and or simplified. The creative process is a progressive one, and should always be willing to change if by doing so improves the whole.
4. Digital Drawing & Coloring – Digital
When I work on a project like this in Photoshop I always work at 100%. This poster is 18 x 24 plus a .125 bleed and I created it at 350 ppi. Since it was being printed with two pantone spot colors a dark brown and dusty blue, I used CMYK mode and only built on the cyan channel (dusty blue) and black channel (dark brown) so I could separate the final art easier.
Within Photoshop I played around with textures, additional hand drawn elements, found archival images like old charts I found in a 1950′s science book, audio wave form from a favorite song etc. To colorize and detail out the whole design took me about two days and over a hundred layers.
I don’t talk about Photoshop a whole lot, but I love the app, it’s so adaptable to how ever you choose to work. Something Adobe Illustrator engineers could learn from. But I digress.
5. Final Artwork – Digital
Using analog methods in a digital age is a great way to get a unique contrast of style and aesthetic in a design. Analog drawing is always authentic, real, honest and organic in it’s final form. While digital via Photoshop allows you to enhance it with equally cool attributes make the whole visual experience come together nicely.
I’m happy with how this poster design came out. It was fun to create and I hope people enjoy it. It took a a few days to figure out a good title for it. My working title was “High Strangeness” but than I realized that some might think I was smoking Doobies while I created it, so I changed the title to “Really Weird” which seems appropriate.
Limited Edition Poster
- Really Weird Screen Printed Poster (18 x 24) • Order/View Here.
Art Print Download
- FREE Really Weird Art Print • Download PDF Here.
Keywords: Process, Rants, Commentary, Illustration, Drawing, PaperMate, Creativity, Doodles, Freebies