Wednesday, May 10, 2006

INTERVIEW: Ty Templeton Explains Inking!

[Interview for the Drawing Board Workshops: 15th September 2003]

Those wise men among you who read the Toon Zone front page (and those uber wise men who read my announcements) will be thrilled yet unsurprised by the arrival of Ty Templeton's inking tutorial. The rest of you will be both surprised and thrilled - at least... you better be!

For those not aqquainted with Ty Templeton, his work both as a writer and artist has made him a firm fan favourite in the comic world. Probably best known for his long term relationship with DC Comics, Ty is a familiar face to Batman and Superman fans. His career has enabled him to work on numerous projects with many of the best names in comic illustration, giving him a special insight into the industry. Last year celebrated the launch of his latest original graphic novel, "Bigg Time" written and illustrated by himself.

JAMES: First off, could you dispel the myth which Chasing Amy made infamous - that inkers are simply tracers? When you ink a piece of work what are is the inkers aims as an artist?

TY TEMPLETON:I'll dispell it and confirm it, cause there's both kinds in this business.

There's a great number of pencillers out there who came up in the nineties, who pencil SO tightly, that there's little room for interpretation when you ink them. Those pencillers often insist on inkers who mirror the pencil line as closely as possible. In my mind, you don't really need to add an ink line to some of those guys, you should just darken the pencils in Photoshop or something. They actually "draw" the ink lines in pencil, including thick and thining of outlines, etc.

Now, that's not a BAD thing at all...there's something to be said for a penciller trying to manage the overall drawing as much as possible, especially if he doesn't know the inker he's working with, or if he's a hotshot with a large fanbase that all want to see him unadorned by an inker's hand. Some darn fine comics are done this way....

But....That's hardly the only way to ink comics. Sometimes the inker is doing the actualy "drawing" and the pencils he's inking over are more like a "rough " or a sketch. He has little control over the storytelling, which is the domain of the penciller, but ink-boy can tweak the anatomy or the shape of an eyebrow to make the characters look a little more "on-model", or he can smooth out a strangely drawn chin, etc. which are the little details that turn good artwork into great art (and conversely, good art into crap, if it's done by inker who's not up to the job.)

There's also a lot of play in the kind of linework an inker can do. I tend to like a combination of smooth, considered lines, and organic, lively ones with my brush, and rigid mechanical lines with my pen, depending on the texture I'm trying to convey. Leather, leaves, granite, hair, all get a different type of brush and pen strokes, regardless of what sort of pencil is being used on the paper. The inker finds the range of his tools can do more than a pencil can.

Look at anything inked by Kevin Nowlan, and it's better than the same penciller inked by someone else.

Kevin Nowlan's inking (right panel) of John Bucsema's pencils (left). Notice the difference between the pencil and inks. Click the image to visit Nowlan's website to see more of his art work.

The same is true of any penciller being inked by the late Wally Wood or John Severin. Of course, all the pencil work gets a little lost with those guys, and no matter who pencils it, it looks like a Nowlan, or a Severin, or a Wood comic. (Fine with folks like me who LOVE these artists.)

The distinct style of Mignola alters rather dramatically when Nowlan's inks are applied. To demonstate Ty's point on the power of inking, below is an example of Mignola's own inking to compare the difference Nowlan's inking.

JAMES: Do you enjoying inking - either your own work or other peoples? Does working on others pencils mean you get to work with the penciller in anyway? Are their any pencillers you particularly like to work with.

TY TEMPLETON: Yes, yes, yes and yes. Believe it or not, inking is my hands down favorite part of the making of comics. Well....tied with layout. But I enjoy inking much more than pencilling or writing 'em. Mostly because it's a relaxing phase. The big decisions are made, and it's time to show off your craft. I've inked literally hundreds of comics at this point, so it's something I'm not nervous about doing well anymore. I've passed the audition. I've not done much inking over other artists for a while, other than two recent issues of the Animated Books (BATMAN: GOTHAM ADVENTURES and JUSTICE LEAGUE ADVENTURES). There, I inked James Fry on Batman, and had a wonderful time, and Min S. Ku on JLA, which I've yet to actually start.

Batman, Creeper, Fry and Templeton unite on Batman Gotham Adventures #58

In the past, I inked John Byrne, Curt Swan, Dan Jurgens, Mike Parobek, Jim Mooney, Kurt Schaffenburger, Kevin Macguire, and many more. You may have noticed those guys were mostly Superman artists in the Eighties, which was where I worked when was a full time inker. (Kevin did dozens of Superboy covers which I inked, if you wondered what his name was doing on that list.)

Curt Swan and John Byrne were the favorites, easy choice. Parobek and Jurgens tie for second. Or is that fourth?

JAMES: What tools do you use? Do approach inking work using different tools for different techniques, or do you have a singular approach? Is there a set type of approach most comic artists use in terms of technical equipment? What should a prospective inker buy to start off?

TY TEMPLETON: I make a point of using different tools for different kinds of lines, yes. I use a combinations of Windsor & Newton #0, #2 and #4 brushes, as well as a set of rapido-graphs, and a set of pigma pens. The rapido-graphs get a workout when I'm inking over glossy paper (which I had to do on a recent James Fry Batman issue), because the pigma pens will smudge on a gloss surface. But when working on a rough, or toothy paper, I work with brushes and pigmas mostly.

The basic breakdown is: I use the brushes for anything that's organic or natural...people, clothing, trees, food, monsters, rocks and mountains, etc. I use the pens for stuff that's, buildings, tools, space ships, jewelry.

For extremely detailed linework, I like either a crow-quill pen (which can make teeny-tiny controllable lines) or a .01 pigma pen, which makes a perfectly decent line on a toothy paper.

JAMES: Is it important commercially to have a set technique to develop a trademark style or is it best to be flexible?

TY TEMPLETON: I figure a little bit of both. I like to think I'm able to ink a wide range of pencillers because I can do both kinds of things. I've been asked to "tweak" a penciller here and there over the years, and I've been asked to ink like a tracer... When I was inking Kevin on the Superboy covers, I was very much carefully tracing his linework (good linework, too!) and NOT adding my character to it, but when I was inking the pencillers inside the book, (of which there were four or five different pencillers in any given year) it was better for me to have enough of a style to keep the book steady over the stream of different pencils. Joe Sinnot was the kind of "Style" inkers, over at Marvel's Fantastic Four, where he managed to keep the look of the book intact well into the eighties, even though Jack Kirby, the creator of the title, had left in 1971. There's no way you'd look at Dan Jurgens and Curt Swan and think it was the same artist, but with the same inker working on both pencillers, at least the faces and the costumes will look the same from month to month.

JAMES: Do you approach inking your own pencils differently to someone elses?

TY TEMPLETON: Yes. I'm much more playful when inking myself. I don't have to worry about offending the penciller, so I often erase pencil lines and redraw things in ink.

JAMES: How do you pencil your own work for inking? In other words, is your pencilling technique affected by the upcoming inking stage? Do you keep inking in mind when pencilling?

TY TEMPLETON: I pencil VERY differently if I know I'm inking it. The figure work is essentially the same, but I barely sketch in the background when I'm inking myself. When someone else is inking me, I get out the rulers and vanishing points and work out the backgrounds with much more care. That's stuff that I can do in ink, just as well as in pencil, so there's no point in doing it twice if I know I'm inking it later. But I want the backgrounds to look a certain way, so I put more time into them when I know another set of hands will be finishing them.

JAMES: Many people find keeping to the line when inking an issue. Any tips on keeping a steady hand?

TY TEMPLETON: Draw from the shoulder and fingertips, never from the wrist. When you're doing extrememly fine details, use just your fingers. When laying out the panel, or drawing the gesture, use your shoulder only. There's no subtlety in the wrist, and there's no large sweep in the wrist, so gestures and details are better kept to the shoulder and fingers.

JAMES: How did you get to ink other peoples work? Should an artist submit inked work to editors or is inking other artists work a progression from getting your own inked work published?

TY TEMPLETON: I started out self publishing a book in which I wrote/ drew/ inked/ lettered/ coloured it all myself. When DC hired me, they knew I could do all those different crafts, and used me as a go-to guy when I first started working there. I pencilled some stuff, drew other stuff, inked when they needed it, I even lettered and coloured some comics for DC.

JAMES: Do you find you work in terms of pencil and ink techniques are still evolving? In what way?

TY TEMPLETON: Any artist worth a damn should be evolving or they should step in front of a truck. I'm trying to learn to trust my gestures more...even though they may not be "correct" anatomy, or carefully thought out, sometimes there's more art in a gesture than in all the measured linework of Brian Bolland.

"Killing Joke" artist Brian Bolland spent many years pencilling and inking "Judge Dredd"

Finally, any inkers you feel that people wanting to get into comics should look at? Any personal favourites?

The ones that juice you. My list would be different from your list and from his list and from her list, therefore it would be irrelevant. Who do you like? My son loves artists I don't understand at all, and I show him cartoonists he thinks are awful. Art is about what juices you.

But since you asked....

Wally Wood
John Severin
Joe Sinnot
George Klein
Charlie Paris
Dick Giordano
Dan Adkins
Mike Royer
Frank Giocoia
Al Williamson.

Frank Giocoia inks John Buscema's pencils.

Kevin Nowlan (who's been in the biz for like, twenty years, so how new is he?),
Wade Von Grawbagder
Scott Williams
Gary Erskine
Rich Burchett
....and Terry Beatty (my current fave, naturally!)

Then there's all those astounding Manga and BritCom artists, who I didn't even list, mostly because they ink their own pencils.

Finally, where else can humble and inspiring artists go to seek more words of wisdom from Ty The Guy?

Interview Copyright James McLean

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