Going Analog: Part 3

Or, On Mistakes


One of the things you’d think would be painfully obvious when making analog art, but isn’t necessarily so, is how to handle mistakes.

Digital media doesn’t encourage economy in any way. We’re free to use as much “ink” or “paint” as we want, free to use an endless number of layers to achieve whatever effect we’d like, free to make our canvases as unthinkably enormous as our computers can handle. Overwrought and overproduced is usually met with awe and adulation more often than not in the realm of digital art, and hyper-realism (which doesn’t ever look anything like reality) is the norm.

So the one thing that really hits like a ton of lead when you’re recreating a digital workflow in the analog world is that you need to get the hang of economy. Economy of material or you’ll soon find yourself in possession of a bunch of tools you don’t need – or can’t afford. Economy of process or you’ll waste a lot of time doing things the hard way. Economy of movement or you’ll smear something that’s not quite dry or knock something over on your table. And most importantly, economy of line or you’ll make mistakes.

It’s a perfect example of the zen experience of doing; it’s mindfulness to the extreme. Move carefully, purposefully, thoughtfully. Every line you make needs to make sense and be placed where it was meant to be. If something winds up where it doesn’t belong, integrate it or fix it with more care and economy. There’s no ctrl + z with pen and ink. Erasing too much changes the texture of the paper, and more than a coat or two of white paint over inking mistakes it usually enough to merit having to redraw the panel. You can’t fuck up into infinity like you can with a digital drawing program.

If you want to rush it and get the thing done as fast as possible, you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes, and you’ll want to doctor them away in Photoshop because fixing them the analog way also takes time and deliberation.

Some would call it a tedious waste of time, but I call it breathing room in an already hectic world.

It also reminds me of a favorite Zen koan that I found on a minimalist blog once:

A monk told Joshu: “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”
Joshu asked: “Have you eaten your rice porridge?”
The monk replied: “I have eaten.”
Joshu said: “Then you had better wash your bowl.”

Don’t pencil until the thumbnails are done. Don’t ink until the pencils are done. Don’t scan until the inks are done. If I rush, then things aren’t truly “done” before I move onto the next stage, and if I try to build on something incomplete, then the groundwork for messing up is already laid for me. Mistakes are almost guaranteed. And it can all be avoided with a little more care and mindfulness.

How To Shop for White Inks

Shopping for actual white ink/paint can be tricky, depending on the application. For going over fudged inks, you’d want something waterproof so that you can draw over it once its dry. I bought the wrong stuff for my needs: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White, which looks gorgeous, by the way, but isn’t waterfast. Here’s a guide I found on white calligraphy inks (to use with dip pens). But so far, the only white cover-up paint I’ve found that is both waterfast and usable with a brush is Deleter brand. I could probably use white gouache, and I might give it a go – it’s certainly easier to find in art stores than Deleter white.