Monday, July 23, 2012

HELLO! HELLO! Welcome to bamboo country.

More or less, I have been pretty tried and true to the pen and ink with watercolor form in my life as an illustrator. I have experimented some, recently, with using pencil and watercolor and that's been fun and gone well, but I pretty much hold fast to drawing in pen and ink.

Some time ago, years back, my mom gave me these bamboo pens for an xmas gift. She gave me a bunch of random art supplies, many of which I'd never used. Including the bamboo. A relative creature of habit, I set them aside and didn't give it a whirl for a long, long time.

*I don't think I always need to say this, but I always do. Please click on any images here to get a closer, better view!*

bamboo pens

Then, still years back, I came upon the work of Serge Bloch.

I'm oft blown away by the Bloch. He draws in lots of different ways, with, I imagine, lots of different tools. One of his things is he has a wild, drippy, fluid line and it looked like he's using something unconventional. "Maybe this guy uses bamboo?" I guessed. (could be brush...) I also, at some point, noted that one of my fave pic book guys, David Ezra Stein, in one of my all time favorite pic books, Leaves, had employed the mighty bamboo.

An outtake from Leaves by David Ezra Stein drawn in, yep, bamboo. (I yanked this from Jules at her 7-Imp interview!)

So, at long last, I picked up the bamboo and started playing. It gave me some incredible results (not necessarily Bloch-esque, not necessarily Ezra Stein-esque) but incredible nonetheless. But also incredibly unpredictable. Drawing with, essentially, the pointy end of a stick dipped in ink, is not going to guarantee any consistency. So, I never quite got the nerve to use it for final art.

Close-up of the legendary bamboo. I am not bound to this brand, but it's one I use.


If you are loyal to this blog, you might remember that my game was wildly changed when I got this large format inkjet printer that will print waterproof ink on watercolor paper. (Read all about it here!) Which, to make a long story somewhat shorter,  means I can make my drawings on any old paper and then scan in, rework, and/or redraw/rescan/rework (if need be) and then print a final, possibly edited, drawing on watercolor paper ready to paint. This gave me a heck of a lot more freedom to experiment and draw freely without the consequence. Before, if I drew a drawing and the ink or pen totally screwed me, that would be one large sheet of expensive paper in the trash. Now, I can draw it, mess it up, mess it up, fix it, mess it up, etc. but then print when finally ready on the expensive paper. Ahhhhh. Breathe deep.

Having said all this, my upcoming picture book, hello! hello!, (available everywhere you buy books on October 23!) was the first book I had the guts to draw in bamboo. And, boy, was I/am I excited about it. It is such an expressive line. Very wet at times, and also very dry at times. When the ink's running dry on the tip of the pen, the line line has almost a a graphite texture to it. It's very loose. Very free. I dig it.

Now. Backing up a bit... I've always been one to try and play with ways to get the most expressive, characteristic line in my drawings. I've used different nibs and played with unconventional (possibly, um, unsophisticated) techniques when drawing. (e.g. Often times, I let the ink cake up on my nib so that when the ink flows, or doesn't, the line gets totally jacked and weird.) Here are a few different styles of nibs I've toyed with over the years, and some sample art from each nib.

Ink I'm currently using. Again, not so much loyal to the Speedball, but it's done right by me lately.

This piece is from my book, Trouble Gum, which was drawn with a calligraphy nib.

This piece is from Another Brother, which was drawn with a crow quill nib.

Here are some samples of art I created for my first pitch of hello! hello! to accompany the manuscript. The bamboo is in full effect!

 (That bottom drawing's done with a crow quill. I was toying with mixing styles within this book. More on that factoid at a later date...)

And here's a couple of sample finished pieces from hello! hello! drawing with bamboo.

And here are some other things I've done with the bamboo.

Since hello! hello!, I have continued to work with the bamboo. Like I said, it is wildly varied and expressive, but also wildly unpredictable and this can wreak havoc on the nerves. But all in all, I'd say it is quite worth it.

I might also add, I incorporated some graphite to my drawings in hello! hello! Sometimes, the ol' bamboo wasn't cutting it, so I nabbed a graphite stick to get, you know, some roughly drawn fur on a bison. Or something like that.

At any rate, as you can maybe tell, I'm plainly stoked with the results here. Maybe, I mean possibly, you are too. I mean, I get that the average picture book reader will give zero cents about what kind of pen I use, but this is, true enough, the kind of junk that keeps me awake at night.

Hey, any other bamboo users out there? Bamboo solidarity! I mean, bamboo-4-eva.

I might also reiterate... hello! hello! is available anywhere you buy books on October 23! And my personal preference always lies with the brick-and-mortar stores. Buy books!

hello! hello!


Stacy Curtis said...

I have a few of those bamboo pens myself.
You're getting a great line, man.
Very nice.

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks much, Stacy! That is very nice to hear coming from a fellow line obsessor!

Jennifer K. Mann said...

I bought a couple bamboo pens a few weeks ago...probably because of something you wrote here sometime, and I seem to have scads of unused black ink in various drawers and corners. Now I just have to put it all to use, and get that lively line. Love your result!

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks much, Jennifer! Definitely worth playing around with when you get time. Enjoy!

Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

I'm definitely going to get some bamboo! All lines look great, regardless of the instrument...your work give me BIG smiles! :)

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks much, Elizabeth!

Dan Moynihan said...

Wonderful drawings! So do you just draw on office paper or what?

I'm excited to learn about your printer. I was trying to do the same thing via Staples copy shop, but my watercolor paper jammed their printer!

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks, Dan! Just checked out your blog, loving your drawings too! I do draw on printer paper occasionally, but with the pen and ink stuff, I've been drawing on Strathmore drawing paper since it's heavier and takes a beating (and still relatively inexpensive). I just buy those big perforated pads and rip off whatever size piece of paper I might need for the drawing. So far, so good. Someone told me recently that this printer is being phased out, but, if so, I imagine Epson has a new model on the market. I'd just look for one that uses Durabrite inks (those are the waterproof ones) and prints in a wide format, and you should be golden (if they aren't still selling/making this particular model, that is).

Brian M. said...

Hi, Matt.

If you you're up for further experimentation, I've also used the straw from Capri Sun juice pouches as a stylus. It works kinda like the bamboo pen, and can produce a pretty great line.

Anyway, I love your work. Keep'em coming. :-)

Matthew Cordell said...

Whoa, that's crazy, Brian! If you happen to come back to these comments, you got any drawings online using this Carpi-nib? Thanks for stopping by!

Matthew Cordell said...

I mean Capri-nib, that is...

Greg Pizzoli said...

Nice post! Really dig seeing other's drawing process.

Matthew Cordell said...

Thanks for stopping by here, Greg!

Michel said...

Think I'll be trying those bamboo pen very soon.