Jonny's favorite thing to do was to lean against fences.
Sketch Friday #52 – Jonny Mono

I hit my peak with finished pencil drawings when I was an art major in college. Pencil was my preferred medium, and just before I kind of dropped out of doing art (a wilderness that lasted about six or seven years, it’s hard to pinpoint when it started) I started trying out watercolors to enhance my drawings. That aside, as a capital-A artist, my medium was pencil (or, if I wanted to be pretentious, “graphite”).

After dropping out of pursuing art seriously instead to become an English major and get my Bachelor’s degree, when I came back to my artistic talents I did what most comic artists were doing at the time and went completely digital. This shift happened for a few reasons:

  1. Digital drawing was new and cool. Using a Wacom tablet (an Intuos3 at the time I started my first comic) felt like a literal brush with the future and it made the compiling of pages from disparate sketches and ideas come together fairly quickly.
  2. I wanted my first comic to look like 2D animation. At the time, the best way to get those crisp clean lines––and to do cool effects and experimentation––was to do it all in the computer.

After about a year, I switched back to physical art because it turns out that I hate sitting in front of a computer for hours and hours in a row. Plus, the tactile pull of pencil and pen across the grit of paper is inspiring (to me) in a way, making it feel like I’m actually making something line by line instead of a constant dance of swiping a hand across the Wacom, hitting CTRL+Z, and back again.

The last time I actually put my pencil skills on public display was an 1860s flashback in my previous comic, Eben07. Written by Eben Burgoon & D. Bethel. Art & letters by D. Bethel.

Committing ink to paper sealed your choices as an artist (though things could easily be changed once the art was scanned into the computer) and the planning it took to get there made me feel pretty confident by the time I got out my pens to lock it down.

As I was still trying to emulate that animated look, my medium of choice quickly became pen and ink rather than pencils. Unless working on a new character or drawing a particularly tricky composition, my pencil drawing became loose and unrefined because I became comfortable enough to improvise with ink.

I did draw a few “finished” pencil drawings with my first comic, but have shied away from pencil drawings almost completely with Long John.

I wanted Long John to look like a comic and that continued the focus on pen and ink.

While this drawing of Jonny Mono isn’t what I would call a “finished” pencil drawing, it’s the first time I’ve flexed those muscles in a long time. However, this is almost twenty years after pencil was my chosen medium and, like everything, tastes and goals change with time.

While this drawing isn’t particularly loose (like my pencils can be), it isn’t overly rendered either. It balances the vivaciousness of a sketch with the verisimilitude that deep shading and rendering can bring (combined with a little bit of digital enhancement––the brown overlay, the white highlights, and the halftone shrub in the background), and I’m intrigued by what I ended up with. I may come back to this aesthetic approach again––and the exciting thing is that I hope that’s sooner rather than later.