Shop Talk: How I draw…

A lot of people have asked me if I would be willing to show my illustration process. I am not opposed to the idea, the only problem was figuring out a way that I could film the process and make it at least interesting.

Well with the help of some friends, who supplied the equipment and ideas,  a lot of patience from my sweetheart and some sweet rigging device constructed around my art table I found a way to do. Though there are still some things to perfect, I am pleased with the outcome. In 4 min I was able to capture most of my illustration technique.

One of the coolest things about art is there are literally hundreds of ways to get the end results. The key is to find what works for you.

So lets break it down.

1. the Blank page. It all starts here. In fact when I sat down to do this, I decided that I would start with an empty mind and an empty sheet.  As you notice, I work all over the page. I find that easier for me and I don’t get bored with it. I also sketch with red pencil. I just like the way it feels and it is not as dirty when I get to step 3.

2. Its all in the sketch. I like to draw loose and I sketch loose as well. I find that if I tighten up my work gets stiff.  I will though clean and tighten things up as I get to more of a finished piece, but until then I need continue to stay fluid. On a side note: I do use rulers at times, but to start I usually trust my judgement, and I wanted this to be pure freehand.

3. Inks… When I am happy with the pencils I tape a sheet of Tracing/vellum paper over the piece. I prefer Canson Tracing- nice weight and whiteness. I use microns to ink and painters tape to keep them together. I have no need for a light table- the tracing paper works perfectly.

Why tracing paper? Well no cleanup and when I scan I get a perfect clean line. You can’t beat it.

When I start as you might notice, I am all over the map. Also my hand hardly touches the paper. Micron dries rather quickly, but it will still smear right after you lay it down, if you are not paying attention. It takes a bit to get used to, yet once you do, you will never go back.

4. Trusting your hand– Midway through – after I get the main lines finished, I pull the paper off and continue to ink, without a pencil guide. I do this on all my pieces, unless it comes from another penciller which I will then stay true to their lines. Yet on my own, I love to let inspiration flow and texture for me needs to feel natural. This also allows me to work quickly. I do though keep the pencils on the side as a reference.

5. The scan- ok here is the reason why my inkwork looks clean on screen. I scan my images as a 300dpi bitmap and then convert to gray.  By scanning as a bitmap, this allows a true positive/negative ratio. When you start you will need to play with the settings on contrast.

So here it is- the main thing is to stay loose and don’t be afraid to let inspiration take over. Yet there are times when you need to be tight and so it is good to understand how to use a ruler, but for fun… it’s really all about you.

Also I am open to questions as well. There are many other little things that I do here and there that I dont talk about, but this is the basic feel to it. One day I will approach how I color.

Keep creating-




Damani H » 15 Jul 2014 » Reply

I'm really curious where you get your reference for the architecture and props that you populate your world with. I'm trying to find some possible resources for my own story. Epic story, sword and sorcery type stuff. Any pointers you could give me?

Neil B » 30 Jan 2012 » Reply

Also (just thinking venally here) when it comes time to print that colour omnibus/pay for the kids braces, you have 2x as much original art to auction off.

… those entrepreneurship classes have taken a toll on me, I fear…

    Neil B » 30 Jan 2012 » Reply

    Sadly, the editorial skills have likewise slipped. Kids' not kids.

    <le sigh>

      Trav the bean » 1 Feb 2012 » Reply

      no worries i deal with the same problems all the time

    Trav the bean » 1 Feb 2012 » Reply

    that is true- i will have to agree with that

sfbell09 » 25 Jan 2012 » Reply

Thanks so much for sharing this. I love seeing the process artists employ. It just fascinates me and inspires me to try new creative things.

    Trav the bean » 1 Feb 2012 » Reply

    you are so very welcome. I hope you do try some new things.

Tom Dell'Aringa » 25 Jan 2012 » Reply

Great to see, Travis. As always I love your inking and your compositions. I've heard other people talk about the tracing paper/vellum way, I'm going to do it for fun to try it out. And cool song too!

    trav » 25 Jan 2012 » Reply

    I love it- the piece i did for you was done this way. Just remember there is slight learning curve with this.


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