UGH!

The comments sections of this site are being inundated with spam. I’m not sure what to do about it other than to disable the comments altogether, but that doesn’t appear to be working. Hopefully some tech-savvy soul will come to my rescue.

In any case, PLEASE don’t contact me via the comment fields, as I probably won’t see your comment while deleting the dozens of spam comments I receive daily. If you care to drop me a line, I welcome any correspondence via my email address.

In other news, I’m currently illustrating a really fun Batman story for DC. I’ll have more to say about that when it becomes available.

For more from me on a daily basis, please check out my Twitter feed!

wendy_color_web

Art vs. Commerce

Here’s an old essay I wrote about the sale of sketches and prints at conventions, and the subject of art vs. commerce in general.

I keep rediscovering old essays I had written and forgotten about. Someday I’ll have to comb through my Live Journal blog and gather all the worthwhile stuff here. I’ll be the curator of my very own Presidential Library!

THUNDARR!

The swell folks at Toth Fans invited me to draw a pin-up celebrating the work of the late Alex Toth. I chose Thundarr, Ookla, and Ariel: characters he designed for the THUNDARR cartoon show — a favorite of my youth!

Hamm_Thundarr

Kolinsky sable hair brushes: R.I.P.

BAD NEWS: it has become effectively illegal to import Kolinsky red sable hair brushes into the U.S.A. I’ll include links below with more details, but first let me explain the impact this could have on the comic book industry.

Basically, the Kolinsky brush is and always has been the best brush for inking comics. All the professional inkers I know of (as well as generally most professional cartoonists who ink their own work) use only Kolinksy brushes for their brushwork. It’s been the standard inking tool since at least the 1930s. (Some of you may know the brush better by the names of its most respected manufacturers: Winsor & Newton, and Raphael.) The hairs on the brush come from a type of weasel (“sable” is, in this case, a longstanding misnomer) that lives in Siberia, and they happen to be the best hairs on Earth from which to make ink brushes. Brushes made from Kolinsky red sable hair have just enough ‘spring’ in them to hold or resume a firm, thin line on the drawing surface, but just enough ‘give’ to widen with pressure. This results in lines that thicken and thin responsively when you press the brush harder or softer against the paper. Brushes made from other types of hair lack this duality: synthetic brushes tend to have too much spring and too little give, while brushes made from camel hair or other animals’ hair have too little spring and too much give. The Kolinsky hits a sweet spot that no other brush comes near to matching.

Let me stress this as strongly as I can: it’s not that the Kolinsky merely edges out other brushes. For the kind of nuanced drawing cartooning typically demands, Kolinsky brushes are THE ONLY brush. Not the “best” brush, not the “preferred” brush. THE ONLY BRUSH.

Granted, you may have a style that’s purposely rough-hewn, where the Kolinsky’s delicate responsiveness is unneeded. A rougher look has worked well for many artists — Sam Hiti and Edmond Baudoin are two fine examples. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, you may prefer the cleaner, less flexible line of a synthetic brush, or a pen. (I myself prefer the dead line of a pen, when I’m not inking others’ pencils.) Or you may be a hobbyist, content with cheaper brushes, or brush-pens, or even a Sharpie. But as far as common professional practice goes, those are the shallow ends of the bell-curve. The vast majority of professional cartoonists and inkers prefer the options afforded only by the Kolinsky. (This is also true of watercolorists, but my main concern here is comics.)

If Kolinsky brushes become unavailable in America, comic book inkers here will be unable to ink comics within the style range they’ve occupied for the past 80 years. And any students of comics who are attempting to learn the craft & techniques of their favorite ink artists will be out of luck. (You CANNOT get the juicy/precise lines of a Dave Stevens or Bernie Wrightson without a Kolinsky brush.) Either a flurry of underground brush-smuggling operations will emerge, or the face of American comics is about to change.

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Below are a couple of links explaining why the brushes can’t be imported. In a nutshell: Kolinsky sables (Mustela sibirica weasels), though not endangered, enjoy protected status in at least one country. This means products made from their hair can’t cross certain borders (such as America’s) without proper documentation. But proper documentation is hard to come by in the remote regions where Kolinskys are found… so until that glitch is resolved (it’s been about a year and counting), America will import no Kolinsky brushes.

Winsor & Newton

Arcane Paintworks

New Pages

I’ve added a couple of new pages here on the site: one to archive my X-Men fan art (mostly from 2012, when my wife and I were drawing daily X-Men pin-ups as a creative exercise), and another (“Tetched”) to archive several drawings I made of Rogue last winter. I’ll be uploading the balance of the Rogue drawings daily over the next week or two.

Also on the way is a new essay about the art and techniques of Alex Toth. I’ll announce it here and link it on my Essays page once it’s online.

Why are many comics fans hostile toward women?

Why, in this modern era, are many male comics fans hostile toward women? I’ve seen speculations that they’re poorly socialized and afraid of women, or are angry at past rejections, or looking to exploit their gender’s clout in this milieu, to make up for powerlessness elsewhere in their lives. All likely causes. But there’s another likely cause which I haven’t seen theorized, and don’t expect to see theorized within the comics community. And that’s because this would cast a skeptical eye at a corner of the industry which is near and dear to the hearts of many male (and female!) cartoonists and fans. I’m referring to porn.

Porn, whether in comics, films, magazines, or online, is notorious for celebrating the rape and humiliation of women. Certainly NOT ALL porn fits this description, but it’s uncontroversial to say that many porn users enjoy scenes of forced and/or humiliating sex as part of their porn diet. Now, imagine you’re one of many comics fans who enjoy fictional scenes of women being raped or degraded. Pretend the high point of your day is climaxing to the sight and sound of gorgeous, nude women being forced to endure all sorts of depravity. Then, imagine some woman on the internet saying things you dislike about another hobby with which you strongly identify. Will your response be balanced and cordial? Will you view her thoughts with respect, as those of a fellow human being? Or will your mind return to the evening’s groveling, nude supermodels, their faces covered in something wet?

The comics community hates, hates, HATES to say anything critical of porn. This is because comics and porn have long been closely yoked in the war to defend free speech. To condemn porn is seen as undermining the right of comics folk to draw and read what we please. “They came for my neighbor and I said nothing; then they came for me.” Further, many cartoonists create porn themselves, including many female cartoonists. For these, condemnations even of “rapey” porn may strike uncomfortably close to home. How does one cut off a hand without injuring the wrist?

A thorny problem, but it must be confronted. Men’s view of women as degradable sex objects will not change as long as it is reinforced by powerful, orgasm-inducing imagery. If we wish women to stand tall in this industry, we cannot afford to be permissive on that point.