We asked Comic Artist, Matt Brundage, to share how artists can use a light box, such as the one made by Copic, as an essential drawing tool in their process. If you get stressed by finishing quality artwork on a deadline, this is a must read.
Let’s be honest, if you’re sitting in front of a clean, quality sheet of paper and expecting to create a finished piece right off the bat, you’re going to get stressed out. This is where the light box comes into play, along with Matt Brundage’s advice in this article.
Professional comic artist, Matt Brundage, is also a well known instructor in the industry who has taught thousands of aspiring artists. He knows that many of them experience what he calls “must-make-it-good stress.” He recently sat down with a few of us on the Copic team to show how the light box is an essential drawing tool that every artist can use to relieve themselves of that unnecessary stress, all while speeding up their process.
The ‘must-make-it-good stress’?
Think about it. When your brain gets in detail mode before it’s ready, you probably don’t even notice how your face tenses up. You kind of goofy, tense expression. I call it the ‘details face’. It’s often combined with a tight ‘writers grip’. While I enjoy and have a great time with mechanical pencils and drawing with the point of any pencil, my primary method is with the side of the pencil using the famed kung-fu- or Candlestick artist-grip.
This drawing technique allows for a greater range of tone and thick-and-thin in the line. It also frees the artist to draw from the elbow, not only the wrist. It takes some adjustment in technique, but with some practice and experiment it reveals itself to be excellent. I render even very small figures and details this way. This also allows me to relax and build this illustration without the pressure of trying to correct or draw something good. An added benefit is it promotes a gentler attack on the paper resulting in less fatigue in the hand.
So a relaxed grip is important. Your creativity doesn’t flow very easily from tension. It allows you to freely make those lines that you’re not even going to use. Remember your goal is to simply sketch the basics of form, perspective and shape before going into detail. Free your mind to create without focusing on the final lines of your illustration. Start with a simple sketch on cheap paper, then transfer it on good paper later. After all, there is no use worrying about a finished piece when you haven’t even made an initial sketch.
The Oreo Fairy
Matt begins his sketch on super cheap paper. It’s an “Oreo Fairy” inspired by a good friend and co-worker of ours, Nigel. Yes, Nigel loves Oreos and is a super sweet guy. In watching Matt sketch, you can see he’s improvising and letting his silly ideas float onto paper without much thought. We point out that the fairy has the body of a pickle. Matt spontaneously sketches out the form of a pickle beside the Oreo Fairy which gradually turning into a nervous sidekick. Matt’s creativity is flowing as we join him in laughter.
Why don’t you use an eraser?
Erasing is all about correcting, and while you're creating you shouldn't think about correcting. Correcting is not creating. Once you’re trying to ‘fix it’, you’re too focused on making a ‘nice piece’. When I know that I’m going to lightbox this, I’m free to be as messy as I want, I’m free to build with a soft lead pencil. I can play without stress. After all, all I’m looking to do is get the rhythm and form.
"Erasing is all about correcting, and while you're creating you shouldn't think about correcting. Correcting is not creating"
What about using a light box to trace?
I wouldn’t call it tracing. You can use them to trace, and that may be fine, but it’s not about that. I’m sure people use them trace every detail of someone else’s work, but it’s not about that. It’s about transferring over your own sketches, or elements from reference material. Professionals use them all the time. It helps them work quickly.
Tracing over details can save you the time of having to draw everything freehand. With the light box you can print out any patterns and sketch those in. I do suggest, however, that for all the time you spend transfering over a design or pattern, it’s a good idea to practice redrawing it from your mind later on.
Matt then shows us how he traces the pattern and shape of a wing he found in a reference book of insects. Gradually his messy sketch of the Oreo Fairy, which includes the basic details of the traced wings, is ready for transferring.
So the light box helps establish the details?
Yes, you begin to dial in the details on the good paper. Using a light box lets you decide which lines you want to keep from your initial sketch and eventually have inked. It helps you get a feel for the final piece without stress. So it’s not as if I’m tracing it. I’m bringing the best lines to the paper. As I do this new ideas and details may pop up. I just flow it, adding details as I go along. Anyone can use the light box in this way, to relax and work quickly.
What is the ultimate benefit of the light box?
It allows you the freedom to quickly build and construct the illustration you envision. With the light box I think you’ll find that you get some of the best artwork you’ve ever made. Best of all, you won’t be stressed about the finished piece. Speaking of finished pieces, check out the completed 'Oreo Fairy'!
Copic makes a light box?
For this project, Matt Brundage used an LED light box by Copic, also known as the ComicMaster. Not many Copic users realize that the company also makes a super bright light box, allowing you to easily see all the lines of your rough sketch on your heavy, high-quality paper. The lightweight box measures less than an inch and the surface stays cool.
We always sell out of these light boxes at conventions, so now we’re offering them on our online shop. Get one today to improve your artistic process for 2018.