Doug TenNapel – Nnewts

December 18, 2012

Doug TenNapel - Nnewts

Ho-hum, just another day in the world of Nnewts.

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 – On Comics

November 30, 2012

Question: Thanks for the logical kick in the proverbial pants Doug. I’ve wanted to create a graphic novel using my own characters since I was 13. At 37 it’s still on my someday/sometime list. Now, with 2 kids and one on the way, it seems extremely unlikely, but given your advice, I think I’ll try to commit a small portion of time during the week and just get it started. Any advice on using small portions of time during your day to make progress on your story? I feel like it takes me a long time to warm up creatively.

Answer: Small increments are your friend. Commit to 20 minutes a day, 5 days a week for a year and you’ll be a more prolific comic artist, piano player, or carpenter than most others who long to do the same. The key is in the longevity of your commitment, not in the amount of time you are committing. Set aside 20 minutes a day, preferably in the morning before work, and only work on your graphic novel. Do this for a year and you’ll start seeing profound results.

The problem is that we aren’t used to seeing our art as a craft or a skill that needs practice and discipline, not inspiration and feelings. On any given day my feelings come and go about my faith, my commitment to my marriage, my place in the world, my sanity, my desire to draw or not draw, my care about you as a person, but my values do not change. Try to find the values-shaped handles on your art, not your feelings. Tell me that you will commit to it, that you will simply do it regardless of how you feel about it and you’ll accomplish a lot over time.

The ant is stupid. He has one millionth of your intelligence at best but moves one grain of sand until it is placed at its destination. Ants rework the whole world. The little termite can completely dismantle your house, not because of his passion, but because of his tedious, regular work at small, repeatable tasks. If you want to do something big, then the ant’s way is one good way to try.

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?

Doug TenNapel – EWJ

November 12, 2012

If you love Earthworm Jim, then you’re probably older than 22 and younger than whatever. But part of my experience in creating a mass media character has been in watching the audience mature and develop.

One thing I could never have anticipated was how when a 5-9 year old consumes a character, that it deeply effects their person because it’s in their formative years. When people at conventions or online tell about their EWJ memories, I can see their eyes drift back to being a 7 year old, and it just hits them in a very deep spot that perhaps they haven’t accessed in months or years.

It’s a great honor to get to entertain children, and now adults, and the children of adults! Part of my job is to be a responsible cartoonist that cares about the audience I draw. Thanks again for your support… even after all of these years. You make me feel like a 27 year old kid again!

Making Books

March 23, 2012

It’s easy to talk about making books, than to make books…and that includes me! One of the disciplines I practice when making a new graphic novel is to stay focused on the difficult things to do in story. That means I have to put my head down and work alone, even when it’s not fun to put my head down and work alone.

That said, I’m working on my 14th book! Does it get any easier on the 14th go? No. It really doesn’t. What does get easier is that with experience comes less mistakes and less plot holes to have to fill.