A Convert


As readers of this site will likely be aware, I produce a webcomic called Malcontent. Malcontent is drawn in a very traditional way. I pencil the images on drawing paper and then ink them using india ink and brush. This is a laborious process that requires a great deal of fine motor control and manual dexterity. But I've been inking on and off for decades now, and I do okay. For me it is a fairly straightforward affair that I can do relatively quickly and with a minimum of mistakes. And I love doing it. I love inking.


As readers of this site might also be aware, I am currently recovering from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). This has affected my nerves, and, in particular, the nerves in my hands have lost a good deal of fine motor control. The last time I inked a Malcontent strip it was a disaster. I managed to get through it, but I had a rough time controlling my lines, and had to make all sorts of corrections with ProWhite. I ended up doing a lot of the detail work with pen and at one point I even dropped my ink-laden brush on the paper, making a giant blotch that had to be whited out. Though rationally I realize that in most cases GBS sufferers make a complete recovery, I admit I started to despair that I might never regain enough function in my hands to ink again, or that I'd at least have to put Malcontent on hold until I did.


The iPad Can Draw

Not long before I got sick I'd received an iPad for my birthday. I'd wanted one to help me with my comics, figuring it'd be useful as a sketch pad for roughing out ideas. But I quickly discovered numerous great drawing and painting apps for the device. With the addition of a stylus to the mix I started to be able to make fairly sophisticated drawings and paintings. I've been drawing up a storm ever since, and it's been a blast. I'm even working on a set of drawings about my experience with GBS.



And, though it took some time to figure out, I've finally managed to devise a method for inking Malcontent on my iPad. Now, when I make a Malcontent, I pencil it on the paper (try as I might, I can't seem to get the right feel if I pencil it on the iPad), photograph the penciled work directly onto the iPad, then ink in Procreate using the pencils as a reference layer.



The iPad-inked work looks a bit different than the hand-inked stuff, but I think it's close enough that it doesn't change the tone of the strip, and some of the changes I actually like. Since most of the process is now digital, it's actually faster, easier and more consistent to work this way. And I no longer have to scan and correct inked pages, which is a huge time saver and convenience!



Technology Saves the Day (Again!)

But the best thing about the iPad is that it's actually allowing me to work past my disability. While my function is limited I can still use the iPad to do fine line work. There are two things about the iPad that make this feasible: zoom and undo. With the ability to zoom into the page, fine linework is no longer difficult because it's no longer fine. I can now make lines far thinner than I'd ever need to just as easily as I can the fattest line on the page. And with undo I no longer have to worry about the mistakes my often spastic hands make, or correct those mistakes after the fact. I can make corrections immediately and as often as necessary. I can screw up all I want!

A few years ago, best case scenario, I would've needed to take a break from certain types of cartooning, and in particular, I'd have had to either suffer through a much-compromised hand-inking process or put Malcontent on hiatus. But the iPad has changed all that. With the iPad, and the amazing drawing apps available to it, I can get on with my creative life almost immediately after suffering from a debilitating paralytic disorder.

I used to be one of the people who thought that the iPad was only good for content consumption. But I've been converted. The iPad is an amazing and extremely versatile drawing and painting tool. (I'm sure there's other stuff you can do on it as well.)

And while I still love inking with brush on paper (and miss it dearly, but mark my words I will do it again), I love drawing on my iPad just as much.