Category Archives: Pen & Ink

Bilquis Evely

Bilquis Evely, comics artist, WonderWoman
Bilquis Evely is a comics artist based in São Paulo, Brazil who is currently the artist on the new Wonder Woman series from DC Comics.

Evely has worked on a number of titles for DC — including Batman, Legends of Tomorrow and the Shadow — as well as titles for for Archie Comics and Dynamite Entertainment. I can’t find much information for work she may have done for Brazilian comic book publishers.

Her fine line and hatching style carries a feeling of the European-influenced Brazilian and Argentinian comics I’ve seen, and is a welcome approach amid the often more heavy-handed styles common in mainstream American comics.

Her work is also grounded on solid draftsmanship and lucid storytelling; the overall feeling is one of crispness and clarity.

Evely doesn’t appear to have a dedicated website, relying instead on her deviantArt gallery, Tumblr blog and social media for her web presence.

I particularly enjoy her Instagram feed, in which she frequently posts work in progress, often with her drawing instruments in the photo to give a feeling of the scale of the original drawing. She also sometimes posts examples of the same drawing in both the pencil and final ink stages.

 
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Eye Candy for Today: Theodore Rousseau pen and wash drawing

Village and Church of Beurre, Franche-Comte, Theodore Rousseau
Village and Church of Beurre, Franche-Comté, Théodore Rousseau

Pen and brown ink, with brown wash and touches of green and red-brown watercolor, over graphite; roughly 7 x 10 inches (17 x 26 cm); in the collection of the Morgan Library and Museum, which has both a zoomable and downloadable version.

19th century landscape painter Théodore Rousseau, one of the key figures in the Barbizon School, here portrays a charming scene of the French village of Beurre, near the border with Switzerland.

Rousseau has captured the trees and buildings with quick, gestural pen strokes, filled in with loosely applied touches of tone. I get an impression of him sitting at the edge of the road, taking in the full essence of the scene and its key value relationships with the most economical notation at his command.

I love the way he has suggested the nature of the shallow water in the foreground without laboring over the usual visual clues of reflections and downward strokes. He simply noted it as he saw it — the reflections mere scribbles with splashes of tone — but his grasp of the immediate appearance of the area reads true as water.

 
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Nestor Redondo

Nestor Redondo, comics art and pen and ink illustration
In the 1970’s the scope of style in American mainstream comic book art was suddenly expanded by the “Phillipine Invasion”, the advent of a number of highly skilled Filipino comics artists establishing themselves with the American comic book publishers.

These artists, already established in the Philippines’ active comic book market, owed as much to the influence of Golden Age pen and ink illustration and early 20th century American newspaper comics as they did to the contemporary comic book styles of the time, and they had a distinct impact on the styles of many American artists.

Many of them became well known, like Alfredo Alcala, Ernie Chan, Tony DeZuniga, Rudy Nebres, Francisco Reyes and Alex Niño, among others.

My favorite from this group of artists — and one of my favorite comic book artists in general — was Nestor Redondo.

Redondo first came to my attention when he was drawing short stories for DC Comics’ anthology horror titles like House of Mystery. He then did a knock-out run on six issues of Rima, The Jungle Girl, bringing to the title a flair reminiscent of the 1930’s newspaper adventure strip Jungle Jim by the great Alex Raymond.

Redondo really knocked my socks off, though, by doing the impossible — following up on Bernie Wrightson’s landmark run on the first ten issues of Swamp Thing; not only maintaining the extraordinary standard Wrightson had set, but bringing his own sensibility to the series and hitting it out of the park for thirteen more issues.

In addition to his numerous projects for the Philippine comics market and several other projects for the American publishers, Redondo also brought his solid but fluid inking style to collaborations with other artists, notably on one of my favorite lost gems of 1980’s comics, Doug Moench’s Aztec Ace.

I’ve long thought Redondo’s comics work and pen and ink illustration worthy of a collection, and though it has been a long time coming, we finally have one courtesy of the always remarkable Auad Publishing, who also published a collection of the work of Alex Niño (unfortunately, sold out). Auad was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of the new book on Redondo’s work.

The Art of Nestor Redondo (images above, top, with details, and bottom three rows) collects a variety of the artist’s comics art, ink drawings, splash pages, sketches and pencil drawings in an inexpensive, but high quality, 80 page black and white volume.

It’s paperback with nicely stiff card covers and high quality paper; and the printing is beautifully sharp and crisp, showing the details in Redondo’s ink drawings to best advantage. Most of the art was scanned from the original drawings.

The book is available directly from Auad for $24 USD. If you click on the cover in the listing on the Auad site, you will get a pop-up preview gallery of images from the book. Auad is a small publisher, and most of their past titles are sold out. If you want a copy of this one, you should probably order it sooner rather than later.

For those who aren’t familiar with Nestor Redondo, it’s a nice introduction to his style and abilities; for those who are already fans of Redondo, it is, of course, a must-have.

For me, the primary appeal of Nestor Redondo’s style is in his solid draftsmanship, the careful balance between areas of detailed hatching and open white space, and the key element of strategic openness in his line work. Unlike many artists who try too hard to lavish detail on their ink drawings, Redondo knew how to leave his outlines open in just the right places to let his figures breathe.

 
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Jim Woodring

Jim Woodring, surreal comics, illustrations and paintings
Jim Woodring is a comics artist and painter who delves into strange and wonderful imagery derived from dreams and a history of childhood hallucinations.

Woodring is known for his short comics stories, told wordlessly and in a stream-of-unconsciousness manner, that feature his recurring character, “Frank”.

Frank is something of an apparition in himself, a fever dream version of 1920’s anthropomorphic animal cartoon characters, who is the center of the dream and also a stand-in for the dreamer.

Woodring also does painting, in monochrome and in color. I’m not one to toss the word “surreal” around lightly — having read the Surrealist manifestos, and aware that true Surrealism is by definition drawn from the unconscious in the form of automatic drawing or dream-state imagery — but Woodring’s work is truly that: surreal.

As much as I enjoy his work in color, I find it most entrancing in the form of his black and white pen drawing. His thick repeated linear patterns and woodcut-like wavy lines create “colors” in much the way the gray inks of Chinese ink painting are said to have colors. This is wonderfully evident in his comics, which are dream-like in the telling as well as the in the imagery.

You can see previews of two of his titles in the comics section of his website.

I will be the first to suggest that Woodring’s work is something of an acquired taste and not likely to appeal to everyone. However, if you acquire that taste, you may find it irresistibly fascinating.

If you were not previously aware of Woodring’s work, and the small taste here has piqued your interest, believe me when I say the small online excerpts here and on his site don’t do justice to the way his drawings look in print.

There are several collections of his work: The Frank Book, which collects 10 years of his signature work; a follow-up: Congress of the Animals; a one-off treat for fans of 3-D comics: Frank in the 3rd Dimension; and the latest, Weathercraft, a full-length graphic novel, told — like most of Woodring’s work — wordlessly. You will also find other titles, most published by Fantagraphics Books.

There is currently an exhibit of Woodring’s work at the Frye Museum in Seattle, for which the museum commissioned a series of large scale pen drawings — drawn with a large scale dip pen created by Woodring — that is on display until April 16, 2017 (images above, bottom three).

 
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Tonči Zonjić

Tonci Zonjic, comics and illustration
Tonči Zonjić (pronouced TAWN-chih ZAWN-yitch, according to an article on Illustrator’s Lounge) is a contemporary Croatian comics artist and illustrator.

I make a point or mentioning that he is contemporary because of the wonderful feeling his work has for the classic comics artists of the past. His chiaroscuro ink style carries echoes of early 20th century greats like Noel Sickles and Milton Caniff, but melded with the sensibilities of modern European comics and perhaps a touch of Will Eisner.

The blend, however, is definitely Zonjić’s own, and his cinematic approach and visual storytelling skills have made him a favorite of many readers as well as admirers of comics artistry.

Zonjić signs his work “To Zo”, and you will see him under that name.

Here in the U.S. Zonjić is noted in particular for his work on Mike Mignola’s Lobster Johnson (Amazon link, preview pages here), which has a nice “Blackhawk” kind of vibe, and two spy thriller series with writer Nathan Edmondson, Who is Jake Ellis? (amazon link, preview pages here) and Where is Jake Ellis? (Amazon link, preview pages here).

There are lots of examples of his comics and illustration work on his website and blog.

He also has a Tumblr blog on which he produces a short feature that I particularly enjoy, called Not/But (images above, panels on colored backgrounds at bottom), in which he wryly addresses the anxieties and self-doubt that all artists face at some point.

 
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W. Heath Robinson (update)

W. Heath Robinson, illustrations, cartoons, contraptions, watercolors
William Heath Robinson, who signed his pictures “W. Heath Robinson”, was an English illustrator, cartoonist, author and watercolorist known in particular for his wry cartoons and his series of drawings depicting unlikely and complicated contraptions for accomplishing mundane tasks.

Here in the U.S. we associate the latter with American cartoonist Rube Goldberg, but Robinson was the original, and Goldberg… well, lets just say he “borrowed” the idea from Robinson. Robinson’s elaborate nonsense machines were also the inspiration for Nick Park’s delightful Wallace and Gromit animated films.

W. Heath Robinson’s brothers, Charles Robinson and Thomas Heath Robinson were both well known illustrators, as was their father, Thomas Robinson.

W. Heath Robinson was active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, during the “Golden Age” of illustration. He is not as well known here in the U.S. as contemporaries like J.C. Leyendecker, N.C Wyeth, Arthur Rackham, Franklin Booth, Elizabeth Shippen Green and Maxfield Parrish, and Robinson doesn’t really get the recognition he deserves, even among aficionados of classic illustration.

Also, Robinson’s cartoons, as delightful as they are, often overshadow his achievements as an illustrator in pen and ink and in watercolor, and he sometimes is thought of more as a cartoonist than an illustrator. I love his cartoons, but I think it’s unfortunate that many miss out on his superb book illustration.

For me, one project of his stands out as a high point in the annals of pen and ink illustration, up there with the best of the best, and that is his illustrations for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (images above, top, bottom and several of the more complex images in between).

The project also included several color illustrations (image with the reflecting pool above), but it is the ink drawings from the book that have always captured my fascination.

Exhibition at Delaware Art Museum

As much as I have long admired them in print, I was astonished to find how beautiful the original drawings are when I had a chance to see some of them — along with a wonderful selection of Robinson’s other work — at a new exhibit that opened recently at the Delaware Art Museum.

The exhibit is a retrospective drawn from the collection of the William Heath Robinson Trust (UK), and it covers the breadth of his styles and length of his career. It is beautifully arranged and presented, and the selections of his work are superb.

Wonder and Whimsey: The Illustrations of W. Heath Robinson is on view until May 21, 2017.

I intend to go back as I have the chance.

Books

There is not a catalog accompanying the exhibition, but there is a nice book from Dover titled Golden Age Illustrations of W. Heath Robinson that makes an acceptable substitute, and gives a nice overview of Robinson’s work. It was authored by Jeff A. Menges, who wrote the terrific book on 101 Great Illustrators from the Golden Age that I recently reviewed. Dover also publishes an edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Robinson’s illustrations.

There is a new book of Robinson’s clever contraption illustrations, Very Heath Robinson, coming from Sheldrake Press in the UK; I don’t yet know if it will be available in the U.S.

A general Amazon search will bring up many more titles either by or with illustrations by W. Heath Robinson.

Online images & articles

As far as online resources, the selections are not as wide as I would hope. The Delaware Art Museum offers a modest gallery of a few of the images from the exhibit. The websites of William Heath Robinson Trust, Heath Robinson Museum offer image galleries, but the images are frustratingly small, and in the case of the Trust, defaced with watermarking.

The best and most extensive source I’ve found for Robinson’s images is Poul Webb’s Art & Artists, which features 20 extensive articles filled with Robinson’s cartoons and illustrations.

You can start with the first article and look for links to the others in the sidebar under November and December, 2015; or you can do a general search for W. Heath Robinson. If doing the latter, keep clicking through the “Next Posts” links at the bottom of the pages; there are 20 articles, but not presented in order when viewing that way.

I’ve linked to some additional articles, image sources and biographical information below.

 
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