I drew this––my first drawing of 2019––as a bit of an experiment to prepare myself before getting into the drawing of Chapter 4 (still untitled) to establish tone and to stretch my muscles a bit.

In the middle of drawing Chapter 3 (“Making Smoke”), I started to gain a lot of confidence as I expanded my artistic toolset, bringing in more brushes (thanks to watching Josh Tobey ink those two pages from “Making Smoke”, which encouraged me to experiment more), and working with ink on the page.

When I was working on my previous comic, I drew with clean, sharp lines. It was in an effort to create panels that looked like animation stills. With Long John, I wanted the comic to look like a comic––to be able to see the pull of the pen across the page. When I started, I wasn’t particularly comfortable with brushes, so I mainly used them to fill in large spaces with ink and didn’t consider nor try any of the stylistic possibilities brushes held.

Where I talk about changing styles (at minute 3:08) between my previous comic, Eben07, and how I want Long John to look. Courtesy of Empire’s Comics Vault.

As I developed more comfort with my artistic ability, the desire to see what brushes could bring to the comic also developed. While I haven’t done anything wild, seeing a brush’s unpredictable inconsistencies on the page have become happy accidents rather than elements that needed fixing––again, a holdover from working in my previous, animated style for six years.

With regard to the image at the top of this post, there are points where the brush ran out of ink and the smaller strokes of individual bristles show through. Instead of going back to fix those by going over those clearly visible brush strokes with a loaded brush to make everything smooth, I left them as they were because they caused a striking tonal effect and was simply cool to look at. No one looks at those and sees them as mistakes except for me in my self-conscious gut reaction.

However, where Long John is going in Chapter 4 will find him unpredictable, further wrestling with who he was and who he needs––or wants––to be. So, with a new coat (spoiler for Chapter 4), I found myself inspired to try more expressionistic brushwork (though it’s not as wild as it could be) in this image meant to test out new ideas for the upcoming chapter. The result, actually––and I guess this is another spoiler––could likely become the cover for Chapter 4, so don’t be surprised if you see this image again down the road.