Friday, March 16, 2007


I had a visit last week from an old friend who now lives in Virginia. Paul Green is a fellow artist, now turned author.

Like me, Paul was brought up on the 'Silver age' of DC Comics. But unlike me, he did go on to draw Superman!

One of the things that we were discussing, apart from the sad deaths of so many of the 'Silver age' artists, was how inking has changed over the years, and how modern inking has become so clean and crisp, it's almost machine like! It's hard to imagine modern graphic novels getting better!

Inking at D C Thomsons
I started my training as a cartoonist back in 1976. Inking in first with a dip pen, but soon progressing to a brush. You don't get the same problems with a brush, like:
spattering,(when the nib catches on the surface of the paper),
beading, (putting too much ink down, which can take ages to dry!).
clogging, (when paper fibres get torn up by the metal nib).

Both 'spattering' and 'clogging' were problems associated with inking onto watercolor paper. Now that digital coloring is here it's no longer a problem, as you can ink onto a smooth surface that can be scanned.
Inking with a brush can take a little longer to master, but it is safer. (I've still got two permanent tattoo's from stabbing myself with a dip pen!)

D C Thomsons was an excellent training ground, for the cartoonist or illustrator, and the biggest studio of it's type in Europe at that time.
It was while training at Thomsons that I was introduced to, what was then called, the 'Continental style' of cartooning. This style of inking appeared in the continental comics such as 'Spirou'.
The undisputed king of 'Continental style' inking, in my opinion, has to be Albert Underzo! So much movement in his line work.
I loved 'Asterix' when I was a child, and even in 2007, few artists come close to his amazing line work!

I've recently been impressed with the inking of Paolo Eleuteri-Serpieri. His work on 'The Great Bible Discovery' series #19, is excellent. At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that his pictures are overworked, but on closer inspection, every line seems to have a purpose! Serpieri has to be the master of cross-hatching!
No one does it better!

Digital Inking
Digital line work is great when you need a perfect brush line, or when you need to color the line work. (See sample here).
You are pretty much in complete control of a digital line.
Is 'digital inking' cheating? It depends on how you look at it. If you've spent 30 years honing your skills with a brush or a dip pen, you might think so. Or, you could argue that it just makes life easier for everyone. Digital coloring certainly has. Who knows, in years to come, maybe all inking will be digital!
I can't help thinking though. I'm kind of glad that Albert Underzo never had a graphics tablet!


Horseman said...

That is a great picture. It has a lot of detail, yet is so clean looking. I enjoy looking at pencil work, or ink work, that has not been colored. Sometimes, these look better than the colored versions of the art.

Bible artist said...

Thanks Greg, Yes I agree that some artwork does look better in black & white, especially if there's a good balance of solid blacks. That makes it easier on the eye.
I'm a big fan of line work too.

I recently read 'The Art of Comic Book Inking' by Gary Martin. I can recommend it. I didn't realize until I read this book that the 'super clean' line work that you see in todays graphic novels is produced by artists who use many different types of brushes and pens to obtain the crisp lines.
For the last 30 years I've always used a #4 brush for line work. Maybe I should experiment a bit more! :o)

Paul Green said...

Yes I think much of today's computer coloured art is overworked. It overpowers the line work and takes on a showy lifeless quality in the wrong hands. (Not your work Graham! LOL)It requires discipline. I know if the artists had to pay for the individual coloured inks as I did in the 1970s and 1980s they'd think twice about applying every colour under the sun to their work.

Bible artist said...

On the subject of being disciplined, in the old days, because your line-work and color were on the same watercolor paper, you could not afford to make a single error.
Also, If you were colouring the page with inks or dyes you couldn't even use process white to clean up your line-work! Today it's so easy to clean up your scanned or digital line-work that it can make you lazy when you ink.
How many of todays inkers would get every line right first time? As Paul says, It requires discipline.

The Bearded Belgian said...

Being fan of European comics (or continental, as you call them) I think Uderzo isn't the pinnacle.

If I am allowed for a bit national pride, I would recommend you the Belgian artist Franquin (Spirou/Marsipulami/...). His drawings have way more life then Uderzo's. And he really was a craftsman, and has produced lots of works.

The other two masters of the Belgian comic are most famous for their inking-style, although it isn't quite as lively. They are Hergé (TinTin) and Edgar P. Jacobs (Blake and Mortimer).

One of my other favourites is one in the more realistic style. Rosinski made great work of Thorgal and other works. (

Anyway, I come from a country filled with great comic artists, so a bit pride is allowed, no? ;)

Paul Green said...

Thanks for telling us about your favourite Belgian comic artists Nikolaj. I'm familiar with Herge of course and have seen Franquin's work before. But Edgar P. Jacobs and Rosinski are new to me. I particularly like Jacobs' style. A cross between Alex Raymond and Herge! I'll try to locate some 'Blake and Mortimer' albums.

The Bearded Belgian said...

Do you also know Hugo Pratt? (now that's a style I like!)
He was Italian, but worked for a Belgian agency. (And Rosinski was Polish)

Paul Green said...

Yes I'm aware of his work on "Corto Maltese" Nikolaj but wouldn't place him among my favourite comic artists. It looks highly stylized and influenced slighly by Milton Caniff (facial features).
It is a pity that European comic artists aren't as well known as American comic artists worldwide. Their subject matter and style is more diverse.
There are quite a few European artists I admire including the late Arturo Del Castillo and Esteban Maroto, although their style looks a little dated today.

Paul Green said...

I might add that the UK comic artist is fast becoming a rare breed as there are very few comics being published in the UK today. They are forced to find employment in other countries. I find this a sad state of affairs. The UK comics industry more or less collapsed in the 1990s.

The Bearded Belgian said...

Ow, that's to bad indeed!

Bible artist said...

Yes, I remember that comic sales started to decline in the late 70's!
It was about the time that children's Saturday morning TV started! I blame Noel Edmonds!

For readers outside of the U.K. who are wondering who Noel Edmonds is, don't bother!