I used to paint a lot with watercolours as a child and teenager, but then I started to draw comics seriously, and at least in the 90′s and 00′s I had no affordable way of printing full colour comics, so I worked exclusively in black and white for ages.
Only two years ago or so I started making forays into watercolour comics, with grey wash (The Slow and the Relentless), lots of little piggy sketches in colour, and my first colour comic (China White). Around that time, the Swedish comics publisher Ordbilder Media made a call for comic book pitches, including the option of an 80 page comic book in full colour. I pitched a watercolour piggy comic. The rest is history …
Here are my tools:
Cheap Hahnemühle watercolour board with a nice grain, Pelikan watercolours from 25 years ago, also 25 year old Raphael “Kazan squirrel hair” brush, size 1 or 2 (I’ve used it for watercolours and ink alike), tiny size “00″ brush for the smallest details and cleaning up splotches. Staedtler pigment liners (sizes 0.2, 0.3, 0.5), mechanical pencil HB 0.7, lots of coffee … and finally, a Staedtler mars plastic eraser doing the devil’s work.
Half of the watercolour case and the browns and greens are from a Pelikan watercolour set (like this one) that my friend Nicole and I split in 6th grade, when our class cleaned out the crafts closet in our classroom. I supplemented it back then with blues, reds and yellows.
My process with this comic was as follows: I sketched with pencil on the board. Then I inked it with Staedtler pigment liners (they become waterproof after they’ve dried).
Then I committed the horrific act of erasing the pencil from underneath the ink. It does kind of ruin the surface to use eraser. But not enough for me to care, I guess.
Finally, I coloured with the watercolours.
I often did certain parts of the colouring in batches of 4-6 pages, to save time and to make the colour consistent in the parts that should be consistently of the same colour in one scene, like their skins and hair and some of their clothes. This should not be overdone, though, since each page is an entity that must harmonize within itself.
For the yellow morning light I started with a light yellow wash on the whole panel.
Before you’ve acquired truly mad skills, it’s usually best to use a somewhat limited colour palette for each scene, with two base colours and one or two accent colours. Above: brown/teal//light green/greyish blue.
Below (in the flashback): pink/grey//gold
Green is a pain in the arse and difficult to make look bearable. This comic is set in the summer, in the countryside, so it has a lot of greens … For greens in nature I used blue-greens and yellow-brown-greens.
man-made swine-made structures, by contrast, I used more “straight-up” greens, to accentuate their artificiality.
(Light green, turquoise and brown are popular colours for village houses in Tatarstan and Bashkortostan!)
My favourite advice on watercolours from Hayao Miyazaki: Use transparent, not sticky, paint; paint another layer after the first has dried.
My favourite advice from Joann Sfar (in one of the Klezmer afterwords): Use “unnatural” colours.
My own advice to myself: Don’t overwork the colouring with too much detail, and let the paper (or base wash) show here and there. With watercolours the most beautiful thing is the natural surface of simple strokes and washes. And keep some tissue/toilet paper handy. You will need it.
Finally, here is a video of me colouring one page in this book. It’s sped-up (obviously) – in reality it took me 35 minutes.
Sockerärter (“Sweet Peas”) will be released by Ordbilder Media at Stockholm International Comics festival, May 7th-8th 2016! I will be there to sign it and talk about it.
Last night I did a live drawing session at the bar Zielona Góra in Friedrichshain. I hadn’t done anything like it in a long time and I was a bit nervous. V^(oo)^;V It was hard to draw on a tablet and in such low resolution …
Here are some of the highlights:
Not everybody got that this was the Ernst Thälmann park (maybe not so strange, since I temporarily forgot which way he’s supposed to be looking, argh V`(oo)´;V) …
This could have been even better animated.
Piggies from the rough side of town.
This was the best part of the session. I first drew this image. It was meant as a little story in itself: maybe the piggy man has been out drinking all night and is now trying to cure his hangover and his conscience with a coffee, while his wife has come to pick him up, knowing that he would be here, same as every time, and they are frozen in this moment where she is pausing for a second in the doorway, looking at him, looking at their life and how it has turned out to be.
But luckily some members of the audience intervened and demanded to change this devastatingly sad story. They came up to me and requested that it should be a happy love story: they should be strangers meeting for the first time, the piggy woman should come sit down next to the piggy man at the bar, she should have a glass of champagne, and they should talk and then kiss!
So I drew it as a “live comic”, erasing parts and drawing in new parts. It was especially fun to show their conversation with simple expressions like eyebrow wiggles and blushing. (Unfortunately I didn’t make screenshots of it!)
And then they walked home together. Awww.
(Although I guess even with the addition of the love story, the story could still end up in my vision of “the morning after/this is how our life has turned out” some time down the line, and it will be even more devastating because that diner is where the piggy woman and the piggy man first met. It will be a closed circle of eternal doom. Yeaahh.)
Photo by Lilli Loge - On Sunday, Lenara and Ilan brought me falafel, and even cake, even though they did not know it was my birthday! To the right are my friendly table neighbours Katja (reading one of my Eva zines) and Matthias.
My piggy postcards were a big hit as always. A French couple exclaimed “C’est magnifique!” at each piggy postcard and bought all seven. A group of Chinese girls were likewise amazed by them and two of them also took advantage of the piggy postcard value pack (1 for 50 cents, all 7 for only 3 €). Yeaahh …
I sketched a few piggies over the weekend, though my table was too small to colour them with watercolours.
I even sold a few Driftwood books, after I remembered that in Germany you need to put the things you want to get sold in the middle of the table, not in the corners like in Sweden.
Somebody asked me to “like” and “share” some post on facebook. He was kind of hot so I agreed. Sadly I never found that post. He bought a zine from me and took a photo of me, so he should be able to find me easily … If you are that kind of hot guy, please send me the link to that facebook post and I will be most pleased to do things to it. V^(oo)^V
I sold no more than three copies of my brand new awful poetry collection Hunger Will Drive the Piggy Home. Two to friends/colleagues, and one to a person who just bought all the zines that had covers she liked. I am now confident that this is the right outlet for my creativity.
P.S. Already next week, there is Stockholm International Comics Festival! Phew! V`(oo)´;V
Since I only ever get shit for drawing comics, I will from now on express myself exclusively in awfully bad poetry, illustrated with piggy pictures. It will be so pathetic that nobody will ever want to plagiarise it, abuse it in their blackmailing schemes or make fat profits off it while paying me nothing but small change for my hard work. V^(oo)^V
My first work in the genre is this little zine, which collects eight poems, most of which I wrote around the turn of the century. The illustrations, on the other hand, are almost all brand new – I made most of them this early afternoon.
For those who read my comics back in the day when I still drew them, there’s a drawing with Aeron and Willie as piggies (because that poem is really about them, but I didn’t want to break the piggy theme …).
You can get it from my table at COMICINVASIONBERLIN this weekend! See you at Urban Spree, Revaler Str., 12:00-20:00 April 18th and 19th.
Usually I do this on December 9th, but I totally forgot about that this year. Not that it would have made any difference if I’d have done it then vs. now, since I haven’t been drawing anything in the meantime …
I predict that my comics production this year was abysmally low. Let’s see exactly how abysmally low:
Number of pages and panels I have drawn since December 9th 2013:
- Insomnia: 1/2
- Dog Island page 19: 1/6
- The Slow and the Relentless (from page 30): 24/70
- Hourly Comics Day comic: 13/30
- Five Years Sometimes With You: 2/13
- China White: 2/20
- Hotness: 1/1
- Pärämäts: 2/7
- Desolate piggy in a melancholy landscape: 2/4
- Depression diary comic: 1/3
- P.S. I NEVER SAW HIM AGAIN: 1/4
- With comrade X and comrade S, as piggies: 1/4
- “Sweet Peas“ sample pages: 3/9
- Why I almost never buy any clothes, ever: 2/6 (stupid scribble comic, see below)
(All-time total as of today: 995/4706)
Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad as it felt, yet I drew much more in the first half of the year than in the last. But maybe that’s a common pattern in my production – autumn and winter tend to be depressing and elsewhere busy downtimes, while in spring and summer I’m much more productive.
I’m really frustrated about all the unfinished projects, and maybe someday I will get my act together and finish or continue them.
Also, I’ve almost hit 1000 in the total number of pages I’ve drawn! Maybe I should do something special for the 1000th page?!!
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Bonus comic that I never posted before, because it was too stupid – Why I almost never buy any clothes, ever:
… because it’s a constant battle between the “badass/plain” tendency and the “weird/quirky” tendency, and in the end I usually just don’t indulge either of them. :<
I forgot to add a piggy postcard to a recent zine order, so I quickly sketched this to send to Leipzig with the zines.
Soundtrack: The Killers – Shot at the Night V^(oo)^;V