For years I’ve had friends give Kickstarter projects a try and I was always very skeptical… until my little Kickstarter project drew in over $100k in donations!

See original project over here:

Since that project initially launched, I’ve been doing a lot of research on other Kickstarter projects, and there’s one piece of advice I can give that’s actually pretty self-evident. Don’t ask for too much money at the start.

In general, when setting the amount of money you want to get from Kickstarter, don’t ask for the amount of money you need, ask for the amount of money you wouldn’t walk away from.

I’ll use my own project as an example. I wanted to print a hard bound sketchbook and figured it would cost me around $40,000 to make the book… but I didn’t think I would get that amount, as donors would be discouraged after a week if it didn’t get over $18,000. The question is, if I could only raise $18k of that $40,000 I needed, would I not make the book? No! I was going to make the book no matter what, so $18k would be really helpful. If I got less than $18k, however, my losses would be so great that I would probably need to walk away from the project. I was willing to lose about $22k of my own money if the book got made, so that’s how I came up with the bottom line amount to ask for on Kickstarter.

There is a misconception about Kickstarter that it’s somehow supposed to pay for every single aspect of a project, and if you raise enough, then good for you. But most people are going to make a project anyways, so putting the burden on Kickstarter donors to pay for the whole taco might be asking too much.

This is the final post in a three part series on how I ink a two page spread comic page. Make sure you’re familiar with the post on penciling pages…

…and spotting blacks…

Now that I’ve got the pages penciled and have spotted the blacks, it’s time to make the final ink details. It’s important to make sure the foundations of an artwork are right before going on to detail. As I critique a lot of portfolios of up-and-comers the most common mistake I see is a poor foundation. That is, and artwork isn’t likely to gain strength if the foundations are weak. A bad start will limit the greatness of a final work. I observe this problem across almost all disciplines including writing, music, sculpture and even marriage! No amount of detail and finesse can completely cover a bad start. As an impatient artist, I’m tempted to go straight to detail because I want the thing to start looking good right away. Experience has taught me to avoid going to finish right away.

Here’s a look at my final inking tool; the Winsor Newton Series 7 brush (size 3):


You don’t have to use this brush, or this size. Some people do great work with tech pens, and I’ve even done final inks using a twig! What I like about committing to a reliable tool is that I can get to know its weak points and strengths then get on with the task at hand. Having experience with an imperfect tool will often get better results in the short term than superior tools with less experience. I’m always trying to get better and better tools, but it comes time to do the work, I use what I’m familiar with over something “better” I’m not entirely trained to exploit.I like to ink detail in one of two ways, from the upper left hand of the page down to the lower right, or I start at the most important part of the illustration: the focal point, and work my way out to the less important parts of the page. Starting with the focal point means my best and frostiest attention is given to the first thing, then when I’m fatigued by the end of a drawing session, I can slop in less important material.Treat the brush like a pen, and treat a pen like a brush is an old artist’s saying. When I’m inking with a brush, I’m using it like a dramatic pencil:


Detail: (
Notice that I’m not trying to give everything the same amount of detail. Nature doesn’t present everything to the natural eye with identical weight, and our perception isn’t trained to look at everything the same way. As an artist, I want the picture to look natural since I’m trying to convey reality to the viewer. That means I’m not just expressing whatever I want from inside my head, I need to address my audience and consider their perception of the work. This is particularly true of mass media works, the bigger the mass that I want to read it (everyone) the more I have to hold that masses hand through the reading of the work. When I’m doing pencil doodles in my personal sketchbook, I don’t consider an audience other than myself. That will necessarily produce different content and presentation.

Below shows how well those spotted blacks hold up against the new detail. Oh, I almost forgot! Just as you spot in chunks of blacks to hold the page down, we also have to preserve large chunks of whitespace for contrast. I  learned that from doing watercolor painting, because once you paint over white in that medium, you’re never going to get it back. So we “preserve the white pace” in inking because putting black marks on a paper is generally a one way trip. You can always add more blacks to white, but it’s hard to pull them back out if you over detail something.


Detail: (
This page is getting close to done. I’ve worked from the upper right focal point to the left, where I’m at the end of my drawing session and I can easily blow in some detail and be done with it. If you squint your eye, there should still be a good amount of blacks and whites to create an interesting, solid, cluster of shapes to hold the page down. Then upon closer look at the page, the details emerge and a story is constructed in your mind.

Once again, we can ink details with confidence if the foundation of the pages are done right. If I find something wrong with the page at this point, I can usually trace it back to a weakness in the pencils, or thumbnail composition, and it’s rarely due to the final inking phase. The final inks reveal strengths and weaknesses that were there all along at the start.


Detail: (
Once the page is done, I can go in and do some tidy up with white out or further blacking in sections that can handle it. Then I erase the pencils, and it looks like I just threw down a well structured, gestural landscape. But now you’re in on the secret… even the apparent spontaneity of final inking detail was completely reverse engineered from the start.

Now that we’ve got this two page spread penciled (see pencil post:, it’s time to go to the inking.

I have a concern before inking every page and it’s that the page will come off all chopped up with separate bits of black all over the place that don’t make the page look good as a whole. My way to address that is by spotting blacks. What is spotting blacks? It’s blasting in large chunks of black ink to hold the page down. I’ll look for any large section I can make black. Shadows are your friend when spotting blacks. They hold the character or object down on the paper and make it look solid.

Here’s my tools… a bunch of cheap, junky, Japanese horse-hair brushes:

Here’s the page after I finished spotting my blacks. I blotched in a bunch of trees, then hit the left side of every mountain, building and tree. This automatically sets the light source to the upper right so the volume of every shape will subconsciously register with the viewer:

This is a detail that shows how much fun I’m having with those horse hair brushes. Every artist is tempted to go straight in to detail, and that can be a bad tactic. But when people see the page, they’ll wonder how you were so bold with your inks. This is where the drama on the page comes from. Drama doesn’t come from the amazing detail, that’s where the finesse and secondary reads come into play.

More detail. You’ll notice a lot of trees and buildings are not hit with a shadow. If I treat every object with an equal shadow, it may be more accurate, but it’s bad for creating a focal point. Not all objects are equal in the arts. Some things aren’t useful to draw the eye across the page so to punch them up is a disservice to story telling. By treating things unequally, the reader will naturally read them unequally. It makes the story easier to read with clarity.

I could go into these buildings a put a HUGE core shadow down the left side of the entire structure. That might even be accurate. I mean, there are huge mountains here that I just outlined with a single line. I blasted in those big core shadows on GEAR and it starts to make a cartoon, light, fun world look like a heavy, dark, film noir atmosphere. This is where genre starts to dictate how you might render one story over another. Stories by Frank Miller or Mike Mignola are darker and justify heavy shadows, but a lighter fairy tale like Bone or Chicken Hare wouldn’t have these heavy noir shadows in a scene full of daylight.

My next post will go into the detailing of this two page spread. Until next time, spot those blacks!

Doug TenNapel EWJ Commission

November 23, 2012

Commission of EWJ and the Princess. Ink and brush on paper.

When I’m a guest of conventions I do like to sell books, but I also like to draw! It’s a high pressure situation to do commissions at conventions because I don’t want to destroy an artwork in front of a collector or my work. I love it when they turn out and this is one that I’m particularly proud of! Earthworm Jim saves the day!



Doug TenNapel – Art

November 12, 2012

We’re working on my Sketchbook Archives… a compilation of my best, mostly unpublished art scribbles, from the last 25 years. I’m most proud of a series of oil paintings I did in the early 2000’s. It made me feel like a real artist, though I don’t mean to insult my cartoon art by insinuating that it’s not legit. Here’s one of my favorite oil paintings… a self portrait of a trip to Mendocino the Beloved Mrs. TenNapel and I took when we found out she was pregnant with our first child.

Doug TenNapel – Gear

November 12, 2012

The prequel to Newts... and everything else!

Jim Oil Painting

Repost this if you would want a poster like this on your wall! Should there be more Earthworm Jim gear out there for our walls and tee shirt drawers?

I mean, it’s not even possible. Once Andy Warhol came on the scene and made selling out his personal artistic expression the wall between art and commerce was destroyed. Well, that’s what I learned from it. Once an artist can buy a sink at a garage sale then sign it and turn it into a gold mine, our age is revealed as the one where commerce became an art form.

I studied Fine Art in college which is another way of saying that I studied snob art because only elitists and academics could understand what the hell was going on. There were a whole group of artists who wouldn’t title their work for fear that it might influence the viewer into some preferred narrative of the creator of the work. What happened was that people who liked to study art could keep up with feces-as-a-medium but your average pedestrian didn’t bother.

After a while, I realized that I was the dummy for bowing to this snooty specialization of the arts while those who rejected this Fine Art as junk were onto something. The street wise were right, and the round heads were exposed as fools. Just because we can study the Emperor’s new clothes doesn’t mean he’s not naked.

For the most part, artists have always sold their work to whoever was willing to buy it. We artists still have to eat, and once that transaction takes place commerce has influenced the work. I used to criticize my friends where were just illustrators for being sell outs. Yet, I had to admit that I purchased plenty of art, was influenced by the imagery of illustration more in my day to day life than by the Fine Arts.

I took to the commercial arts pretty quickly given I loved animation, video games and telling stories. It’s funner to have an audience just like something without me having to explain to them what they’re even seeing. Art is communication after all, so why not communicate to a ton of people instead of just three if it takes the same amount of work?

So this is why I don’t think an artist can actually sell out. There is an implication that someone isn’t being pure by admitting that they have to eat and that strikes me more as inhuman than artistic. The painter can purposefully make art that leans away from commerce or he can solely chase a buck and both are just as artistic, though I’m more likely to enjoy the latter than the former. I’ve seen the pure artist Warhol’s films and I enjoyed “sell-outs” like Transformers 2 much more… even as fine art.