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Thursday, 7 June 2018

Daler-Rowney, Bristol Board and How To Correct Mistakes on the Page!

Yes, I am fully aware that in my post on the type of implements to use for drawing comics I never touched on drawing paper.

In the old days publishers used to supply Bristol Board for artists to work on. Publishers supplied the board so it was theirs -the artist was paid to "just" draw. And that tended to be more durable when stored and, uh, purloined by the new generation of self professed "hot shot editors".

Bristol Board is an uncoated and machine-finished paper board named after the city where it was originally produced…my city –Bristol.  The Board comes in two key finishes - vellum or smooth (or sometimes “plate”).  There is an engraver’s finish which is more for printing engraved stationery and not commonly used amongst the old artists for various reasons..

There are –I keep having to stop myself from writing “were”!-  several thicknesses of Bristol Board ranging from One-ply (basically along the lines of the thickness of printer paper) and Two-ply which is more like a card stock and both firm but foldable. Three-ply is rather more like a rigid board and this tended to be what you would see publishers use, or, rather, the artists use. There used to be “beginners confusion” because, some times, rather than being sold as Two or Three ply, the board would be sold by weight and “weight” refers to the weight of 500 sheets of a paper in question. The 100 lbs Bristol Board was a fairly popular and versatile version.

Now, typically, artists would use the firmer types of Bristol Board for finished work whereas the thinner type would be used for printing or publications. Let’s face it, if you had to post in your artwork then you wanted to make sure it was well packaged but also not drawn on paper stock that would tear and crease easily.  Even in the 1980s I met artists at Fleetway ands Marvel UK who always travelled in to deliver their art -you draw 20 pages you do not want to hear they are irreparably damaged or lost because even Registered mail had no guarantees.
But not everyone used Bristol board.  Some used Daler-Rowney drawing pads because the paper was generally tough and durable and nice to work on.  However, if you had to count pennies then it could be expensive.  I often wonder how the art implements I use today would work on Daler-Rowney pads (if I remember there were different grades) because what I used to draw back then is not what I use now. There you go –Daler-Rowney how about sponsoring a post looking at the pads you produce today?  (That will happen the day I win the National Lottery –and I never gamble!)

At the old Westminster Comic Marts back in the 1980s, as you entered the foyer, if you looked toward the stairs on the right, you might see a group of very odd people who were stroking and generally fondling paper as well as seemingly microscopically analysing anything drawn on said paper.  That would generally be Tom Elmes, John Erasmus, Paul Brown and myself.  If one of us was using a new type of paper everyone wanted to know whether it was Rough, Medium or Smooth textured. How did a pen work on it? What sort of pen –what was the nib like?  Of course, at one point Mr Brown started using expensive C10 paper which was very smooth and pens/brush “just glide over it” –can’t remember who made the comment “Smooth as your nuts after a close shave”….would I?!

However, we found that photocopier paper was a very good material –it was designed to be printed on after all and certain makes (at that time) were a bit rough but generally speaking copier paper was smooth as a baby’s bum  -can we still say “smooth as a baby’s bum”?  Let me check with Black Tower Legal……yup. We’re covered….unlike that smooth baby’s bum….how do I get into these things?

You got around 24 A4 or A3 pages on a Daler-Rowney pad and that was about two times more in cost that a ream of copier paper-500 sheets of paper.

When the eye sight in my left eye got worse I realised that it was impossible to balance things out on an A3 sheet of paper so I had to go from drawing direct onto A3 and draw panels on A4 that were then cut and pasted onto A3. This seemed a little depressing until I realised that it meant, even if you were not the world’s greatest artist (I am soooo modest) you could play around with layout and design. Paste panels onto an A3 sheet and occasionally you saw there was too much space left blank on the page.  What a waste!  Then your creative side thinks of something to add –when you draw straight to paper with no scripts or idea of how a story is supposed to run and end just that little addition can totally change the direction you are going in.

Anyway, during the Second World War, publishers had to print on whatever paper stock they could get hold of –silver paper, wrapping paper –anything.  Those were the days of no photoshop or scanners.  Ben R. Dilworth, in the 1980s, experimented with printing onto brown wrapping paper, water colour paper and other paper stocks. When it came to the legendary Previews Comic I published we both decided that to give the publication a different look we would use cans of car spray paint to add colour to the interior covers that showed through the clear acetate covers we painted a design on. And remember none of this was scanned but had to be fed through a photocopier and that included the acetate covers –something Dilworth pioneered with One Bright September Evening.

I was talking to Steve McManus in his office one day and he showed me some pencilled pages he had been sent and there was some problem as I recall and I asked what happened if the inked pages never turned up.  He pointed at the new “computer” thingy on his desk and told me you could do a lot to make those pencils publishable now.

And this is the point: in 2018 you can draw on a paper handkerchief if you want. So long as you can scan it and clean it up using Photoshop it is publishable.  I only use the computer for one thing when it comes to comic work and that is the lettering –my eyes and especially my hands made it clear a long time ago that I was never going to be a letterer and though I like real hand written text but as I can’t pay someone to do that then, like everything else, I have to do that myself.

The idea that you have to have the post expensive drawing implements –I note a lot of newer zine folk use fibre tip pens now- is a fallacy as I pointed out in the other post.  That you have to use the most expensive cartridge paper you can get is also false.  You draw, scan and send jpegs or whatever to the publisher or your printer. At no point is someone going to get back to you and say “What on earth did you draw this on –a paper handkerchief??”

There are certain very cheap imported drawing pads meant for kids that you can use but some of these are using recycled paper and though the greyish/off-white colour is no problem because you can adjust all of that during scanning, some sheets have brownish or darker flecks in them and unless you want to spend hours cleaning these up after scanning I would avoid that paper.

Then you have the question of how to correct mistakes on the page –or stains, ink drops whatever.  You can, if it is your work and not a commissioned piece, just go with it. “Go With It” involves incorporating that spill or ink spatter into your work. Turn it into a cushion on a chair, the blacked out back of a chair or any other object. Be inventive.

The other method is “cut and paste” which might be easier in some cases. Say you have drawn a character but you accidentally brush your hand across the face before the ink has dried –pen smear ain’t pretty.  I am not joking when I tell you that I have seen artists scrap an incredible page of artwork because of this. 

One small accident and hours of work is thrown out and the page starts from scratch again. If you are in any way professional about your work (even if you are not the greatest artist you still try to set yourself a standard) then you know that starting from scratch is no good. It eats up time and can stem a creative flow. If you are working to a schedule for say a publisher or even to get a book ready for launch at a specific event them you have no time to be a prima donna –you are committed. Do not be a poseur or dilettante.

Here is a personal example.  Back in the 1980s I had promised London editions pages by a specific date. It was about 03:00 hrs and I had almost finished and then realised that there was a blurry ink rub over a character in one panel. I had been working quickly and my had had rubbed over the not yet dry ink. I threw the page aside and started anew.  It wouldn’t work. I tried to copy the panels I had drawn but they were not working. I tried everything and was failing. By 05:00 hrs I decided all was lost unless…what would happen if I re-drew the character on a scrap of paper and glued it over the spoilt panel ?  I did just that. It seemed to work.  When it came to photocopying there were some “ghost lines” –the edge of the piece of paper I had stuck on being picked up by the copier.  Quick dab of Tippex over the ghost lines and photocopied and it looked okay.

Now, the publisher never used the pages but you expect that from publishers because they ain’t professionals –they only want the money. But when people saw the original page after the copy they were surprised.  I, like many other artists, had panicked over nothing.

Over the years I have used the “Go With It” and paste-on method a,uh, “few” times.
Others have used a Sand Eraser which, to be honest, having tried once, I would never recommend.  With Bristol Board or card artists use to use Exacto knives to remove errors or ink spots. Time-consuming and with the ability to easily correct during scanning I would not, again, recommend that method. Oh, if you use copier paper and use either method….watch your paper vanish!

Then you have Process White or White Out and inking over something is a common method used by artists and calligraphers and if you are unfamiliar with White Out then it’s just a thick concoction of white liquid used to mask mistakes.  Some recommend Process White Lead, or acrylic based White Out or even artists Gesso –used to smooth canvas and other surfaces by painters.

But there is a cheaper and just as effective a solution –a tube of White Gouache paint but by far the cheapest and most commonly used (except by art snobs) is the good old Tippex fluid.

The Tippex pen is good for correcting smaller areas while the little pot has a wedge shaped ‘brush’ for larger areas.  I mentioned this to other artists in the 1980s after meeting a rather well known fine artist who showed me how he corrected mistakes using Tippex.  Apparently, everyone knew about using Tippex “because it’s cheap and does the job”.
So there you go –what to draw on and how to correct mistakes you make.  Another free Hooper Comics Master Class!

1 comment:

  1. Love it. The one thing I hate now, is having to send for brushes by post, now that my local art supplier has retired. I really miss choosing my own. Another blow against my self-determination. Oh, they are quality brushes, no doubt about that, but, there is something instinctive going on when you see the perfect one for your own work. It may really sound fussy, but an artist's personal choice of materials is as idiosyncratic as their artwork. It's important that you get your eye in.