This is the month of October, or to those artists on the interwebs, Inktober. And just to name a few more, there is Sketchtember, Drawloween, Aquavember, Drawcember March of the Robots, MerMay, Junebug/Junicorn, and many more that art communities and individuals like Jake Parker who started Inktober, in hopes to generate a work and study routine throughout the month to improve their skill sets. These motivational challenges are similar to the speed paint and quickdraw threads of the art forums from the early 2000’s.
I also use this month to experiment since most of the work I do is for clientele and is already preset in the way it should look and feel, giving me little wiggle room to expand my dialect and experiment in different variations of delivery. Digital is really not a fun “experimental” medium unless you have the program you are experimenting with totally “mastered”, and even then, experimenting is something more procedural than organic. Traditional media on the other hand is so random and is so interdependent on your bodily motions that there is always room for “err” and/or as I like to call it, “room for exp”err”imentation”.
A splotch to one is a-creature, character, environment, city- to the conceptual minded thinker. Ink is such a great material for both the Rorschach test blotches, washes, dashes, and so much more that it really is a fantastic exploration medium. Water it down, try it with a brush, use a spoon, a straw, a toothbrush, a rag, your fingerprint; ink is a pure mark making medium that can help you see the bridges that connect design with objectivity if you are open to the deceptively obvious pathway.
If you aren’t sure of what to do for Inktober and are trying to break away from your usual approach, here are some inspirational artists that might not necessarily be on your radar of influence but should be for their unique and inventive approaches to the medium. The first one especially since he did pretty much everything you can do with the ink medium in the art world. This first artist I am referring to is Virgil Finlay, an amazing painter and draftsman but is most noted for his extremely far and wide use of the ink medium. While he was mostly pen and ink, he experimented with brush techniques, washes, and every other form of ink application the medium could possibly stretch into.
Another artist that has tested the medium to its limits is Franklin Booth. He is especially one of my favorites for depth of field and variations of depth layers through graphic design choices rather than light and shadow.
Next is this amazing painter, inker, watercolorist, Fortunino Matania. It is hard to believe, but like Kim Jung Gi, this artist made these images up out of his head. He did preliminary sketches for his subject matter but the images were staged and composed right there on the spot. Very few preliminary design studies and or comps for his work exist because he rarely did them.
And because I just mentioned him, Kim Jung Gi is another one of the very few spectacular artists that concocts his imagery on the spot without much of any reference to work with, and unnecessary for this photographic thinker. Mostly done with brush pen and micron or ballpoint pen like tools, his drawings can be straight forward what he sees in front of him, from some distant aerial perspective vantage point, in fish eye, or collaged in the most unusual but highly entertaining manner.
George Pratt is another fantastic multimedia master, with his Enemy Ace comic being one of the best on the subject ever conceived. He has an energy in all his work, letting loose with whatever he has in his hands to work with.
The one and only Barron Storey who I am certain is the kick in the pants for so many illustrators, Bill Sienkiewicz, George, Dave McKean to name a few. Barron is the master of spontaneity and has thousands of sketchbooks filled to prove it. Here are just a few of his works of wonder.
Did I say Bill Sienkiewicz? Here is another of my big inspirations. I first learned of him with his insanely energetic comic work, some of my favorite pages are in his Elektra Assassin book that is one of those graphic novels that has to be on your reading and viewing list.
Moving in a different direction here are a few amazing designer inkers starting with Rick Griffin, an artist that worked mostly with the surfing industry in the 60’s and 70’s then moved on to religious art before he passed on. His work inspired many designers in the action sports industry during his time.
One of his famous character designs is Murph the Surf.
Rene Gruau was a spectacular fashion illustrator with thousands of beautiful vignettes and silhouettes that he did for magazines like Vogue, for the fashion industry in general and for several theater posters. He would spend hours perfecting one drawing by pulling one stroke down the page, all at once, over and over again until he found the most beautiful version of that stroke for his final. He was obsessed with simplicity and elegance, and it shows.
Yoji Shinkawa, artist for the Metal Gear franchise is outstanding with the sumi brush and making deliberate and exacting marks in his design work as you can see below. His loose yet exacting style has made it a bit difficult for copycat artists to come close replicating his look, but he has been very influential in loosening up many artists in the all but extremely tight and highly rendered concept design industry.
Sergio Toppi’s design sense is beyond incredible, but his handling of the ink media is also one to be revered. He had so much versatility with just ink alone and I feel like he was still just getting started with his unique vignettes at the end of his lengthy career.
You might know Charley Harper for his graphic design look with the patterns of lines and colors, his beautiful inventive graphic illustrations, but maybe didn’t know that he illustrated for just about every encyclopedia company that was around when they were a hot item. He was also highly influential in the infotainment art direction and educational books of the 50’s – 70’s. His work was more illustrative for these publications at times, but still stuck to his dynamic shape language and simple color choices in inks and dyes.
Cory Loftis is one of the best designers Disney has had in a long long time and is so good at capturing emotive characters in simple line gestures. He has a real gift for finding the sensitive and subtle behaviors and then caricaturing them to perfection.
Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin are the dynamic duo that make up the site and team called Creaturebox. Highly stylistic and hugely influential especially in the vinyl toys market with their amazing balance of big and small shapes that make for some of the coolest statues out there, not to mention their 2d art is awe-inspiring to say the least.
James Jean has been a very big influence to artists, especially in their sketchbooks all over the sketchbook threads on many of the big art forums. He can do anything extremely well, but his handling of line and line weight is superb. It is really great to see him back in action again.
It’s hard to make one of these lists of artists who do amazing ink work without including Jeff Jones and all the wonderful art he made, especially his highly sensitive and beautifully designed brush and ink drawings.
Mary Blair did a number of amazing things in her career and is best known for her work she did with Disney during their Golden Age. She had so many graphic design styles that became extremely influential in the children’s book market and in magazine advertising of the 50’s and 60’s. Many of today’s designers are still referring to the vast library of shapes she invented during her career.
Ed “Big Daddy” Roth did amazing pin striping on the sides of hot rods, motorcycles, bicycles, and other metal surfaces, trash cans, signage, etc. He was also known for his wacky adrenaline junky cartoon characters driving insanely suped-up hot rods. He was very influential in the way he rendered chrome, influencing Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Coop, and Robert Williams to name a few.
Herb Railton is known for his vignettes for travel books, guides, and brochures. Along with Dean Cornwell, I feel he was one of the best vignette designers in the business. His economy of line and his ability to express a full range of values with so little drawn goes beyond most of the designers then and now. Here are just a few of the impressive spot illustrations he created.
As much as I could go on and on, I am going to wrap up this lengthy post of ink specialists with one of my all time favorites, Al Dorne. He was like Norman Rockwell but with ink. He could pull personality out of everything he drew. I am not surprised that he was a big influence on artists like Milt Kahl and Jack Davis, both of whom I also wanted on this list.