Inspired by the book illustrations from what now feels like a distant past, I do my work in black and white, mostly in pen and ink. Sometimes I will draw digitally, or I will use a program to generate the image if I feel it creates the right mood.
Most of the drawings reproduce well in print; my pen drawings are designed with that in mind. But in our modern days, much art is consumed online, and so the images are designed to work well online also.
The illustrations could thus be used to accompany episodes of a story told in serial form, online or in print, or they could be printed with the story in book form.
Today, with social media, people spend a lot of time on their phones looking at their feeds with their famously short attention spans.
Would an illustration with a line of dialogue be enough to get them interested in checking out a story? This is the thing I want to find out. Nobody else seems to be doing custom illustrations for stories published online, but maybe it does work?
I am currently creating illustrations and combining them with quotes from public domain world literature to figure out what works. You can try it out yourself with my Quote Image Maker.
Starting in 2008, I became fascinated with beautiful pen and ink drawings, and from then on, I went on a long, eclectic journey to find out how they were made. This endeavor took me through art academies, online courses, and studies of many masters of the past.
Over time, I drew a lot of inspiration from many, many artists, including Joseph Clement Coll, Moebius, Francois Schuiten, Didier Comes, Hugo Pratt, Milo Manara, Mike Mignola, Cosey, Jacques Tardi, Andreas, Sergio Toppi, Winsor McCay, Alfonse Mucha, Luke Parker, Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, Andrew Maclean, Joe Dellagatta, Lorenzo Mattotti, Mark Hendriks, Dino Battaglia, Geof Darrow, Gabriel Rodríguez and many more.
I was also lucky enough to have three ancestors who were great artists! Gottfried Kirchbach, who was my grandmother's father, but also his father Frank Kirchbach and his father Ernst Kirchbach who was the head of an art academy in Chile.
All three of them created paintings that told stories and drew illustrations for stories printed in books. I also recognize some parts of my style in their work. It is an enormous honor to study their work and to, with that, make them my mentors. I feel connected with them when I study their work to learn from it.
I was inspired by the beautiful pen and ink drawings they published in books in the past, and I want to find out if such images could also serve a purpose online.
First I will make thumbnails to try to arrive at a composition, framing, staging the characters, designing the lighting, the surroundings, the abstract shapes of the composition, all in service of telling the story. I will go through many thumbnails before deciding which one to expand on. This is intellectually the hardest part.
Then I go in search of reference images so I can study what things really look like. I am crap at drawing from imagination if I haven't first studied what things actually look like.
I then fill sketchbook pages with studies based on the reference to try to understand better the subjects I want to draw.
I do a first rough sketch on the final size, a large sheet of paper. I work as large as possible — up to A2 size sheets of paper — so that slight mistakes disappear when shrinking the image for publication. Also, it allows me to use the full dynamic range of my arm, using all joints from my shoulder to my elbow to my wrist to my fingers.
Amazingly, even on these large sheets, details sometimes have to be placed sub-millimeter precision. Drawing tends to take many hours and a lot of concentration.
The first sketch is intended to get the things in the right place. Now I will use a lightbox to trace the drawing onto a fresh new sheet of paper, and then I draw it again.
During this stage, I get to refine the drawing, to fix glaring construction mistakes, and to add more detail. I will try to make this pencil drawing as tight as I can. This is crucial for any of the following steps.
Next comes the “rendering” part. I am experimenting with different approaches. I may scan the pencil drawing and then ink it digitally.
Drawing with digital tools feels like cheating, but it gets results. You can zoom in to work very precisely on a detail and then zoom out to instantly see how the entire image reads. You have the undo button, separate layers where you can try out a different approach, you can easily work with “white,” erasing lines. You can easily make backups of your work. These are all harder to do on paper.
Or I may run the pencil drawing through a program that tries to approximate the drawing with stipples if I feel the effect suggests the right mood.
Or I may decide to draw it in pen and ink, manually.
To draw it in pen and ink, I will lightly trace the pencil drawing onto a new sheet of paper with a blue pencil, tracing only outlines.
Then I go to town with a dip pen and ink.
My favorite ink by far at the moment is Brown Bistre, the same ink Rembrandt used because you can use it on about any type of paper. It will not bleed like Indian ink will on some papers. But I digress.
After rendering it with pen and ink, I scan it and filter out the blue lines with a computer program.
Please feel free to , I might have time to create custom illustrations.