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Rhymes With Acrylic Squash

I decided to create a webcomic. I created a setting for the story. I came up with characters to live in this new cartoon world. I decided on the graphic style that I’d use to represent my setting and characters. Finally, I had to decide on a media to use. I had to answer the question, “What am I gonna draw it with?”

Don’t end a sentence with a preposition, you say? You say I should have asked, “With what am I gonna draw it?” Well, I say no one talks like that, and if they do they get beat up a lot. Besides, I think that sometimes a preposition is the best thing to end a sentence with

What am I gonna draw it with? I have struggled quite a bit with that. I want to be able to sell the original art from the strip, so drawing it digitally on the computer won’t work for me, since there wold then be no real tangible artwork to sell. Traditionally, comics have been done in ink on bristol board. But I wanted my comic to have a unique look, more than just black ink on white paper. I wanted my comic to have broad areas of black, gray and white, rather than the traditional black outline on white background.


                        I wanted something more like this:



                                          …and less like this:



Since I love to paint with gouache (see “Rhymes With Squash”), I first tried doing ink outlines and coloring in between the lines with gouache. The results were fine,



but it took too much time to color inside the lines without painting over them. I am proud of my lines, and they are an important part of the “look” of the strip, so no covering up allowed.

Then I tried doing an ink wash over my lines (A wash is ink diluted with water to make it a transparent gray). I was not happy with the splotchy results:



I still thought that painting with transparent color would be the best way to go. I tried different inks and watercolors, airbrush paint, transparent acrylic inks, Dr. Martin’s watercolors, regular watercolors, etc.! All were not satisfactory for one reason or another.

So I went back to gouache, love of my art life. See how pretty it looks? This is just how I want my comic to look.


Too bad it is so fussy a paint. So fragile.

Then I found Acryla brand Acrylic gouache. Acrylic Gouache? That is an oxymoron! Make up your mind! Is it acrylic, or is it gouache? Well, it is a bit of both mixed together. Not as gummy as acrylic, not as fussy as gouache. Dries matte, not shiny like acrylic. Dries permanent, not fragile like gouache. You still have to mix exactly exact the exact correct amount of water into it, like gouache. And it gets icky and gummy when it starts to dry out on your palette, like acrylic. But it is kinda fun to work with. So, as I said at the end of my post, “Rhymes With Squash“, I changed my mind. I was switchin’  ta Acrylic gouache!

I’ve used it for two weeks now, and…

I’ve changed my mind again. I miss real gouache. I just love the way it feels when I paint with it. Acrylic gouache is not as opaque as the real deal. too transparent. I gotta do multiple coats. and it still looks a little splotchy, see?

acrylic gouache1

SOoooo… gouache, if you are listening, please forgive me. Take me back. I will first paint the broad areas of color with you, Gouache, then do my ink lines of top of that. I will still keep acrylic gouache around for some things like painting  big black areas, which it does pretty well. But for brush flow yumminess and opaque one coatness, I just gotta pick regular old gouache. Gouache, gouache, gouache. Gouache, I love you. Hugs and kisses, Dave.



Paint It Black

Here is the strip I have most recently completed in my crazy quest to publish a webcomic:


Great googly moogly!  the  hardships I went through to get this done. And most of the hardships were brought on by trying to do things more efficiently.

First of all, I decided that since the strip is mostly colored black, I would paint it on black paper, therefore saving myself the inconvenience of painting all that black space around the character and stuff. This turned out to be more hassle than it was worth, because I spent a lot of time being so very careful as I painted inside the character and  stuff. To paint inside a tiny character you must use a tiny brush which does not cover much area at all, and so takes lotsa time. Plus, the paint I use is not as opaque as I would like, and it took multiple coats to keep the black of the paper from showing through. Ugh. 

I then pasted the black panels onto a white board, so that it had a white border and all. Cutting and pasting is fun, like kindergarten, but costs time. Valuable time. I am trying to get a week’s worth of work done in a week, after all. And failing miserably!

Lastly, I decided to make a change in the art. Lookie here at my rough draft:


See the swooshy lines that show the path the ball took when the robot threw it? Once I painted them that way, I didn’t like it. I decided a dotted line approach would be cleaner and fit the graphic style of the strip much better. So before painting new dotty type lines, I painted over the old lines with black paint on the black paper. But the paint and the paper are not the same color black, if you can believe it, so I had to fix this with photoshop once it was scanned. More extra work. (The dotted lines rock. I love them.)


Next time I make a strip with a lot of black, I will just take out my black paint and a brush, and paint it black.


Rhymes With Squash

I love gouache. Gouache, gouache, gouache. I love to say it. Gouache. It rhymes with “squash”. Or you can say, “Go wash”. Gouache. 

It is a type of paint. It is also called opaque watercolor. It is also sometimes called bodycolor, but sometimes bodycolor means a different type of opaque watercolor. Sometimes it is mistakenly called tempera, but it isn’t tempera. It is gouache.

It is more fun to say “gouache” than any other nameofapaint. It is more difficult to read the spelling of gouache than any other nameofapaint. “Casein” is another difficult to read nameofapaint.

I made up the word, “nameofapaint”. Copyright 2009 David Scott Smith.

Wikipedia says, “Gouache (rhymes with “squash”), the name of which derives from the Italian guazzo, “water paint, splash” or bodycolor (the term preferred by art historians) is a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water. Gouache differs from watercolor in that the particles are larger, the ratio of pigment to water is much higher, and an additional, inert, white pigment such as chalk is also present. Like all watermedia, it is diluted with water.[1] (Gum Arabic is also present as a binding agent just like in water color.) This makes gouache heavier and more opaque, with greater reflective qualities.”

Wikipedia should always be pronounced, “wi-KEE-pedia”, and never, “wi-KUH-pedia”. Or I will slug you.

Gouache comes in tubes, like little toothpaste tubes. But don’t brush your teeth with it because it is the opposite of toothpaste, as it will filthy up your teeth and not whiten them, unless you use white gouache. And  not even the white type tastes like peppermint (This I know from experience. Never get so drunk as to brush your teeth at your easel.) It comes out of the tube in a similar consistency to toothpaste (see warning above).

You mix water with just out-of-the-tube gouache to make it the correct consistency for painting. Don’t mix in too much or too little water, or you will ruin your painting forever. I am not kidding. This is not some sissy’s paint! You want to paint from a hammock and sip an umbrella-fruity-drink while someone fans you with a palm frond? Then tiptoe to Michael’s and buy some liquitex, you milksop. And you, put down those colored pencils and learn to paint with a brush like an adult.

Gouache contains a very high concentration of pigment, which makes its color very vibrant. This is why art school students are forced to use gouache in color theory class. Art school students usually get frustrated trying to get good results with gouache, and end up hating it.This is because they try to paint with it as if it were oil or acrylic. Gouache is not oil. It rhymes with “squash”, not “mohel”.  You have to use a methodical technique if you want to get flat, even coverage when painting with gouache. Start at one end and paint toward the other, without going back over where you have already painted. If you paint back over semi-wet painted areas you will leave blotchy spots. And like I said before, learn to mix in exactly the exact perfect exact amount of water, or die a fiery art death.

Gouache is delicate. When dry, it can easily get scratched. A gouache painting can discolor if it gets wet. You should not roll a gouache painting like you may with an oil or acrylic painting on canvas, because gouache is brittle and will flake off .

Gouache is usually painted on paper or paper based board. It will not adhere well to canvas or other non-porous materials.

This gouache sounds horrible, you say? What in the world is so good about it, other than its name? Alright, I’ll tell you if you promise to stop texting for just one single minute and pay attention to me for a change. 

Gouache is opaque. That means it is the opposite of transparent. This is why gouache is also known as opaque watercolor, as opposed to transparent watercolor, which is actually translucent, not transparent, but you get the idea. When applied a certain way, most colors of gouache lay down on the paper in a very thick, rich, opaque kinda way, with a velvety chalky kinda matte finish, not in the least bit shiny. This matte quality makes it superior to oils and acrylics for reproduction. A camera or scanner won’t have to deal with shiny reflection spots on a gouache painting. 

As I said before, the color you get from gouache is amazing and beautiful. So rich and vibrant. Deep blacks, bright oranges, dazzling flaring up in your face yellows! ZZZZZZZing

Gouache flows, just fuh-lowzzzz off the brush. Touch the brush to the paper and see the mark appear there. Now move the brush and the paint just pools perfectly where you direct it. Use a pointy brush and gouache is your line-making love slave. Long luxurious loveslave lines. Perfectly opaque. Vary the width by varying pressure on the brush. Lonnnnnnng lines. Try that with acrylic and you get short gooey lumpy goo lumps of varying goopacity. 

I love it. Love gouache. Love it. That is why I decided to use gouache when making my comic strip, Space Base 8. Historically, most comic strips have been done in ink. More recently, webcomics are often done digitally. I decided to use gouache because I love it and I wanted to use it every day.

Then I changed my mind.

But that is a different story for a different post.

Now gouache your hands, there’s paint on them and you’ll get it all over the couch.


I’m Scared

I have to say, I am a little bit scared, and I will explain why.

When I started to develop my webcomic, I decided to post my comic five days a week. This would be one black and white strip a day, Monday through Thursday, and a double sized color strip on Friday. This way people could get into a habit of checking the comic weekdaily, and the Friday color strip could be the end-of-week bonus like the color Sunday newspaper comics.  Some webcomics post less often, like Monday-Wednesday-Friday, but I really wanted to get more content than that out there. More comics a week equals more content for people to enjoy, and that means more visits to my website, and hopefully more of an audience. Also, having a schedule really keeps me motivated. I have motivation problems (I’m lazy). So I set the goal to five strips a week. 

I decided to make two months worth of strips before I posted anything. This would give me a good decent buffer of strips in case I fell behind in the future. Because I was just beginning, I would give myself as much time as I needed to come up with the first month of strips. Then for the second month’s worth of strips I would set a deadline and do a weeks worth of strips every week for four weeks, to get me into the groove. Then I would start posting the strips five times a week.

There was so much to do. For the first month’s worth of strips I had to come up with templates for the strips and  then developed a work pipeline going from thumbnail sketches to full sized roughs to final art. I worked on designs and personalities for the characters. I made decisions about what media to use, what fonts to use, and what color schemes to use. Writing was easy at first, but I found when I turned the script into a cartoon it took a LOT of rewriting to make it work. That first month of strips took me about three months.

Last night I finished the twentieth strip. The last of the first month’s worth. Now comes the second month’s worth. Now comes keeping on a schedule and doing a week’s worth of work in a week. This is why I am afraid. This is still going to be a LOT of work. I don’t want to back down and post less often. I really want to post a weekdaily strip.  I feel it is important to set up a comic that posts often and posts regularly. But doing this much work in a week might be too much to handle, especially since there are still things to fugure out artistically and technically. And I still need to learn how to POST the comic…

This just might kill me. I’m scared.




How to Make Webcomics suggests I draw a lineup of all my characters so that I can see the size relationships between them. What a great tool this has been for me. I keep this picture posted near my drawing table and it helps me keep the characters the same from panel to panel.

Another bit of advice from the same chapter advises me to look at my characters in silhouette. This lets me check the character’s design. A strong silhouette can be an important part in good character design. I filled in my lineup and it looks like this:

silhouettes1I’m pretty happy with the silhouette test. The first two characters are pretty similar, but I think the differences are enough to make them work. 

I will eventually make model sheets for each character. In case you don’t know, a model sheet is a collection of sample drawings of a character that shows how it should look from different angles and in different positions. It may also include “how to draw” instructions. Model sheets are commonly used in animation where multiple artists must all draw the same character in a consistent manner. I am going to wait until I have drawn these characters a while and explored different expressions and personalities for them, then I will make model sheets to keep myself consistent. 

In a future post I will write more about my character design process and how in just twenty strips the characters have already started to evolve.


My Webcomic

In the first chapter of How To Make Webcomics, the authors remind me to get my priorities straight and at first just concentrate on making my comic. Get a bunch of comics made. Don’t worry, they say, about fancy websites or making t-shirts with your characters on them. “Focus on your Webcomic first.” Right, guys, I hear ya. There are already too many distractions in my life that keep me from getting the comic written and drawn (I hope this blog doesn’t end up being one). 

It’s not as easy as I thought it would be. I have daydreams of making little books with my strips printed so many on a page, mailing them out to my friends and selling them at conventions. Hey, come back to earth, Dave! You don’t even have a month’s worth of strips done yet! So get to the drawing table and draw, Dave. Do it now.

I have gone back and totally redrawn four strips already, one of them a double sized color strip. I spent a lot of time trying to redo things to get them just right. The book tells me to just post the strip the way it is and move on to the next strip, that here is another chance to get things better in the next cartoon. Advice I promise to follow more closely from now on. So get to the drawing table, Dave. Do it now.

And the book tells me not forget that cartoons are fun. Even though I intend on doing a lot of hard work, I am gonna have a blast doing it. So get to the drawing table, Dave. Do it now!


here’s a preview

Here’s a preview of my comic. I have completed fifteen strips, and I intend on finishing forty before I start posting them weekdaily. My plan is to bust out five a week. Monday through Thursday get black and white strips, with Friday’s strip double sized in color. I think it may kill me to keep on that schedule, but I want to try, at least for a while. This is Space Base 8 strip number seven.


April 2018
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