Sunday, February 1, 2015

ALTER EGO: THE SCARECROW - Sketch to Ink Process

Since I was already taking pictures during this drawing in order to double-check my work, I figured I could do a process post! I know I like seeing how other artists work, so I figured maybe somebody would like to see how I work, even though I'm still an amateur in school.

So for an after-school art course, we were told to draw the portrait of a character who has an alter ego, then include some kind of symbology to show what that alter ego is (like Peter Parker with a spider web behind him). Of course, I immediately started thinking about villains. Part of me was like, "no, don't do it, they'll all expect it from you!" The other part of me was like, "and I care... why?" Soooooo I decided to do my favorite DC Comics villain, Dr. Jonathan Crane, AKA the Scarecrow:

When I first started, I had no idea what I wanted to do. There's really no set-in-stone design for what Dr. Crane or the Scarecrow look like. It sorta depends on who's drawing him. So I decided to mix together a whole bunch of different incarnations. I wanted the end result to look like a cross between Cillian Murphy's Dr. Crane from the Nolan movies, and the more "Ichabod" Crane look from the comics. For the Scarecrow part, I chose the most universal aspects of his costume, like the straw hat, and the noose around the neck. The straw fluff seems to come and go in his designs, but since they included it in The Dark Knight Rises, I figured what the hey. My all-time favorite Scarecrow design is the one from the Batman: Arkham Asylum game, but I couldn't figure out how to make it work. Having him hold a syringe was a compromise, since the syringe fingers would've eclipsed the "symbolic" aspect of the drawing. Once I had reference photos pulled up of several dudes wearing glasses and all the different Scarecrow images I needed, I drew a really, really, really crude sketch in my sketchbook:

Yeah, I know it's awful, but I had no idea where I was going with this, and I wasn't sure how to make the straw hat and the ruff look like shadows, and not a part of his clothing. To keep things moving, I rolled my kneaded eraser across the paper until there just a very faint impression of the sketch. Then I tried to redraw something coherent over it:

Still pretty rough, but at least he has an actual human face and something sort of like a proper hand (I used my own hand in a mirror for reference). The shadows were tricky. I'm only just now learning how to use extreme light sources, so there was a lot of trial and error.

Satisfied that I could kinda make this work, I pulled out a piece of 9x12 Bristol paper and a light box. I used to think drawing in a sketchbook and then transferring it to better paper was a huge waste of time, but I've come to realize that's totally not true. See, you don't give a crap what happens on the sketch paper, so you can work really fast and mess up and it doesn't matter. If you go straight to the "nice" paper, however, you end up going really slow because your'e trying not to screw up. Plus, a lot of those screw-up lines won't erase no matter how lightly you draw them. So having a "shit copy" you can transfer onto Bristol paper is honestly a lot faster. It doesn't have to be perfect, either. I did a pretty crude transfer:

Those silly sun rays on the left side of the page mark the direction of my light source. At that point, I didn't know I was going to add a secondary light source from the syringe. That's why you should always plan ahead, sigh.

Okay, onto the ink! We weren't actually told to ink the assignment, but I love ink, so I just went for it. I use Windsor & Newton black India ink and an embarrassingly crappy Windsor & Newton size 3 brush that is completely falling apart and should've been thrown out months ago but I love it and it's my baby. So, when I ink, I never focus on one area at a time. Instead, I started with a Micron pen and dotted in a couple small spots (like around his teeth), and anything that required a straight-edge (like the edges of his glasses and the syringe). Then I use the large, black areas (like the hat) as my "playground" zone. I practice in there a little and use the space to get excess ink off my brush. Also, because I like to use dry-brush, I save those large areas for when I need to get my brush dried out. Inking in random spots makes the whole process look pretty funny:

I get the basic inking out of the way first. The black parts are black, and I did a basic dry-brush around the brim of the hat and the silly Ryuk fluff. Now the drawing looks like this:

Now comes the part where I have 14 mental breakdowns, 3 conniption fits, an an OCD spazz attack. The drawing is just not good enough! So much rage! So now I have to figure out what the hell is dragging this piece down. I knew it was a huge risk, but I decided to black out the background. He's a villain, after all, so the piece should be dark. Since the sketch phase, I'd been struggling to find a way to make hat look like a shadow and not a pile of melted fudge on his head. Adding the black background makes the hat look more like an outline, which is less silly. I just had to pray to every deity in existence that I wasn't completely ruining the drawing. I kept the borders feathered in keeping with the "straw" theme of the piece. I also decided to add more dry-brush. I've been trying to lessen the dry-brush lately because everyone tells me it's not "graphic" enough for comic art, but... I like the way it looks... It's just my thing... And I think it adds more depth. Plus it allowed me to add texture to the rope around his neck. I also blacked out parts of his coat. Then, in an attempt to make him look "crazier," I added more expression lines on his face.

Okay, getting close... Just gotta add a few last touches. This is the part of the piece where I use this beautiful invention called Pro-White. It's a white gouache you can use to "reverse" any mistakes you've made. Contrary to popular belief, ink isn't necessarily permanent. If you're really careful, you can "undo" the ink with Pro-White. It'll leave a bit of a texture or blue-ish tint on the page, but not enough to matter. In this case, I used it to undo a some of the shadows on the coat, because they looked messy and ridiculous. Unfortunately, Dr. Crane still didn't look crazy enough! I was getting super frustrated. So here's where I use Pro-White for effect, like a paint (this is a technique I discovered because I screw up that much). I let the Pro-White dry out on my brush, then used it to make a smudge-y glow effect around the syringe. Since the syringe is glowing and he's all excited about it, I realized his eyebrows should be raised, not shadowed. He's not brooding about the syringe, he's all excited like, "OMG this is gonna be sweet!". So I used the Pro-White to add highlights back into his eyebrows. This raises them up a little and makes him look more unhinged. I also blacked out some of the excess shoulder ruff and redid the shadows on his coat. The shadows aren't "correct," exactly, but they look more aesthetically pleasing the way they draw the eye around the page. 

Then I glared at the drawing for several minutes while muttering, "I hate how this looks!" Then I put the drawing aside and went to sleep, hopeful that when I woke up, I'd find the drawing acceptable. And I did. So, voila, here's the finished product:

This drawing made me realize I really, really, really need to ink the Scarecrow from Arkham Asylum. Like, I need to. I know everybody loves the Joker - and don't get me wrong, so do I - but the Scarecrow is my favorite. The Joker is scary because you don't know what horrors he can imagine, but the Scarecrow is scary because you don't know what horrors you can imagine. That first "boss fight" against the Arkham Asylum Scarecrow almost made me shit my pants. 

So, yeah, gotta draw him. Very much required.