Gustave Dore Study – Sneak Peek!

Here’s a sneak peek detail shot of the artwork I have been hacking away at for the past few months.

It’s near completion (hopefully within a week).  So I thought I’d put up a little teaser.

It’s been an age, so here’s the low down on this piece.  I was inspired by the works and techniques of Gustave Dore.  So I decided to create a piece of fan art using the wood block engraving technique adapted as a digital scratchboard.

The actual hours devoted to this piece so far is probably about 12 hours of actual work (including the sketching, drafts, and final), but I have had to spread it out in tiny chunks of time over the past few months due to my crazy life/schedule.

It still needs some more clean up and other details, and wait until you see the rest of this drawing, it’s HUGE!!!!

Anyways…. here’s the peek!  You are looking at the manga version of Kushana from Miyazaki’s Nausicaa Manga.

Click for the larger version.


Here are my previous posts on my Gustave Dore Study Project:

Gustave Dore Study Project – Part 1
Gustave Dore Study Project – Part 2

Study of Gustave Dore: Part 2

Drawing inverse.

That’s right, I said drawing inverse. Not drawing in reverse or drawing in verse. Inverse.

Welcome to Part 2 of my study of Gustave Dore.

When I started to read up on engraving, I learned that the lines you carve out of the woodblock are the “white” negative space. Where the areas that are not carved away will be “black” positive space.  This is because once you’ve carved out your woodblock, and apply the ink to surface of the wood block, the parts of the surface that has ink on it will touch the surface of the paper.

Essentially a stamp.

The reason I find this worthy of mentioning is that this is the inverse of techniques utilized in drawing or painting.  When drawing with a pencil or pen, the graphite or ink that you scratch onto the surface of the paper as lines, dots, dashes, etc., represents shadows  on the object you are drawing (positive space).

So if I wanted to draw a smiley face on a piece of paper, it would be like below:


But if I wanted to make the same smiley face and engrave a woodblock so that it could be printed onto a piece of paper, it would be like this:



(the black area would be what was carved out of the wood block)

So this means that when you draw with a pencil or pen on paper, you are drawing darkness; the shadows cast by the object.

When you engrave a printable woodblock, you are drawing light; the light that reflects off the object.

So before photography was everywhere, negatives existed… in the heads of the engraver!

The reason I am making such a big deal about this?  Have you ever tried to draw a negative?  It’s ludicrously difficult.  Especially if you already learned how to draw conventionally.

Now look at the engraving of “Death” mentioned in my Part I post by Gustave Dore.


The line work, rendering, and background is impressively tight, and almost look like a computer rendered them.  This was DONE BY HAND WITH AN ENGRAVING TOOL!  ON WOOD!

This would already be difficult with a pencil/pen/brush, but the idea of creating line work like this:


Using chisels and a hammer to get this kind intricate detailed quality is just mind-blowing!


And because it is chiseled into the wood, there is NO ERASING or white out.  Every engraving has to be perfect from beginning to finish.

Now as much as I admire the engraving process, and the amount of skill and work it demanded, even I have to admit that it’s too inefficient for the type of projects that I am working on (graphic novels, comics, and digital work).  It would be fine if I was in the business of creating singular fine art prints, but I am not.

So I began to investigate some alternative methods to achieve the style and look of the woodblock engravings by Dore.

My first possible alternative to woodblock engraving was scratchboards.

For scratchboards you cover illustration boards or boards of wood with white gesso, and then cover with a layer of India ink.  Then simply use a knife scratch off the layer of black India ink.

In the tutorial above the artist, Michael Halbert, draws/brushes ink lines over transferred pencil work onto the scratchboard (pre-coated with gesso), and then uses a knife to scratch away black India ink lines to to refine the black lines he laid down.

This is remarkable craftsmanship.

But to work at the level of flexibility and speed that I wanted, I needed to find a digital process that could create the look and style of a woodblock engraving or a scratchboard, but still give me control, speed, and the ability to manipulate or edit/revise on the fly.

The first thing that popped into my head was:

Why not just use a digital drawing program or photoshop and just make the backdrop black and use a white brush?

In Part 3 of my Gustave Dore Study, I’ll explain why this didn’t work out as a viable alternative, and also the other processes I attempted before finding the one I decided to adopt.

See you then!


More Sketches

Trying to keep the drawing muscles from shriveling into flab.

I decided to do some flexing with these sketches.


Here I tried to avoid using any cross-hatching and relied on using line width for rendering. This was part of my warm-up practice for the Gustave Dore study that I started.


This was a quick sketch for a character for a comic book project I am working on with a friend.


This is my western comic-style rendition of Nausicaa from the Studio Ghibli film.

More to come soon!