Final Frontispiece (a warm-up)
Before I begin inking my image for the frontis to The Wyrm King, I am going to do a quick warm-up to get reacquainted with my pens. I strive for a lively, loose pen line to maintain an energy in my ink drawings. Before I begin any final inkwork, I do a small, simple exercise to get in my grove.
Usually, these warm-ups are non-commissioned pieces for the project – that way there’s no pressure on me if they don’t come out well. Oftentimes, I copy a master in order to pick up a thing or two which may help me with the image at hand. For the mermaids in my piece, I’ve been studying Arthur Rackham’s amazing illustrations from Siegfried & The Twilight of the Gods (1911) and The Rhinegold & The Valkyrie (1912) which have been conveniently bundled together by Dover Publications in Rackham’s Color Illustrations for Wagner’s “Ring”.
I found a nice image of Sieglinde drugging someone’s drink (p. 20). Her profile was classic Rackham, and a perfect image to study. Here you see my quick pencil reproduction. This is likely much larger than the size Rackham would have worked at.
I am putting in underlying anatomy that I know I won’t ink. It still helps me to understand the form so that I can chose what is important to ink, and what to leave for the eye and brain to fill in.
I use FW inks for everything. For the Spiderwick books I use black India. In the past, though, I have used burnt umber – which is likely what Rackham used, especially if he planned on coloring the image after. A deep brown would settle into the washes, possibly even emulsifying a bit, and would look less like a cartoony outline.
This study, and most of the illustrations I do in ink, are rendered with a Hunts 102 “crow quill” nib. It can draw a beautiful, delicate line but also has a lot of pluck – which I like. I save the older, worn nibs so that they may be used for thicker linework.
I keep a scrap of board nearby to scribble out and get the ink flowing. I also use a damp paper towel to keep the nibs clean. I usually scrape off the dried ink with a blade before I begin.
Here’s the pencil drawing inked. I used Rackham’s image as my guide for what to ink, and what to leave untouched. Especially when drawing women, the more lines you give them, the older they appear.
I erase the pencil lines and scan the image as a bitmap (at least 600 dpi). From here, I would do clean up and all fixes in Photoshop. In the past, I would have used gobs of China white paint to white out areas for re-inking, or simply patched in a new piece of Bristol (which Charles Gibson often did). Thankfully, those days are behind me.
Next up: Time to ink the final!
PS: It looks like the Rackham book by Dover is out-of-print. However a quick search for his name on the Dover site brought up several other books chock full of great Arthur Rackham art (and at an affordable price).
PPS: while you’re there, check out this awesome inkmaster of the past: The Drawings of Heinrich Kley