Inktoberfest – Day 4

October 4, 2013

Inktoberfest - Day 4

Nnewt in a craft. Pentel brush pen on photocopy paper stolen from Big Idea.

Earthworm Jim Commission

February 4, 2013

Earthworm Jim Commission

I did this live at the San Diego Comicon. Earthworm Jim is always fun to blast out!

Ghostopolis, Creature Tech Commissions

Inks (before adding a wash) of The Bone King from Ghostopolis and Dr. Ong from Creature Tech.

Doug TenNapel – Comics

January 3, 2013

This letter from a fan was a real punch in the gut:

I just wanted to thank you for restoring my enjoyment of comics. As a kid growing up in the 70s and 80s I loved comic books. But they became so expensive and grim I gave them up by the mid 1990s. I always missed them, but I just couldn’t find anything that made me feel the same sense of wonder and fun I’d felt as a kid. That was until I checked out a copy of Tommysaurus Rex from my local library. What a fun read. I shared the book with my autistic nephew (I’ve been caring for him since my sister passed away Autumn of ’10) and he loved it too. Since then I’ve managed to find Monster Zoo and Power Up also at my local library and loved them both. Books are I and my nephew and primary source of entertainment. We don’t get out much (I too am disabled). But we really love sharing a good read and talking about it. Thanks for writing such excellent and entertaining stories!

I do my comics for my own story telling reasons, but I really do want to make my audience experience something good. So my internal motive is the cake, but these readers are the frosting. Cake is a lot better with frosting.

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.

Writing comics is a blast. There’s nothing like cracking a story, playing with characters and developing ideas on the page. I get why writers write, it’s fun. Comics (and screenwriting) are unique writing mediums because they don’t require as much text as novels and traditional stories. They are a short-hand, so a lot of the painful bulking out of words just isn’t part of this particular medium.

I tell the story once in script form. It has to be tight, read well enough and come to a point of being finished before I can move on to pencils. But by the time I’m doing pencils, I am telling the story for the second time. By the time inking begins I’m on the third pass. Then the book is all inked and ready to be colored. I have little interest in color. It’s the fourth time I’ve told the same story and coloring is every bit as much work as writing, penciling or inking.

This is why I generally have my pals color my books for me. I can still go in and do touch-ups, but the heavy lifting is done by others who love color. I have nothing but respect for colorists in the comics field. They work on the cheap and generally don’t get the credit they deserve. If a color book reads well, it will almost always find twice the audience of a black and white book. For that alone, color is a key that opens the door to readers who just wouldn’t want to read my black and whites.

The colorist for my graphic novels GEAR, GHOSTOPOLIS and the up and coming BAD ISLAND is my pal Katherine Garner. She’s English. That’s like having my books colored by a Bond Villain.

Today it’s done. The 144 page graphic novel MONSTER ZOO will be available in late spring/early summer for you to purchase and read. I don’t know the exact release date because I’m too burnt to care. I have exactly three thoughts leftover to think and they go something like this:

1. “Pee”

2. “Coffee”

3. “Pee”

Is there room for thoughts on a release date in there? I don’t think so given I can barely remember by third child’s name.

This blog is a test.

I’m Doug TenNapel and I don’t approve of your messages.