re nder ing Sud­den Grav­ity

Greg de­scribes his love-hate re­la­tion­ship with the hum­ble ball­point pen

ImagineFX - - Interview Greg Ruth -

“I in­sanely ren­dered my first graphic novel project, Sud­den Grav­ity, in ball­point pen. Ball­point pen has a sketchy, al­most pencil-like qual­ity to it, de­pend­ing on how hard you bear down on the pa­per. What be­came clear – far too late – was how much ac­tual draw­ing such a book re­quired and how in­sane it was to ap­proach it with this method. Once you de­cide on a par­tic­u­lar method of draw­ing for a graphic novel, you’re mar­ried to it un­til the book is done. It just be­came in­creas­ingly te­dious.

So when a scene came up where there was a kind of sur­re­al­is­tic dream se­quence or vi­sion, I took the op­por­tu­nity to give my­self a break and test out this new Sumi ink I’d found. I had no for­mal train­ing in ink draw­ing, or dry brush work, so I ba­si­cally just aped a lot of Kent Wil­liams and Jon J Muth.

The re­sult was such that when I had done the scene and had to re­turn to the shackles of the ball­point pen, I knew I would never use them again. When I fin­ished Sud­den Grav­ity, I im­me­di­ately jumped into a kind of se­quel project, The Cal­en­dar Priest, which never saw print, but was done en­tirely in Sumi ink and brush, and that changeover led to what I think was my ca­reer get­ting off the ground.

I think this was largely be­cause there weren’t a lot of peo­ple em­ploy­ing Sumi ink and brush work pro­fes­sion­ally, so I kind of won the field for a bit. It led di­rectly into my first chil­dren’s pic­ture book with Barack Obama, Our En­dur­ing Spirit, and the pe­ri­odic draw­ing se­ries that I still do to­day, called The 52 Weeks Project, as well as work for The Cri­te­rion Col­lec­tion, and just about every graphic novel project I did that came af­ter.

Only in the last year or so have I re­turned to the ball­point pen ethos via graphite pen­cils, but now my ap­proach is so much looser and soft­ened by years of de­voted Sumi ink work. It’s a tes­ti­mony to the need to push one­self out of nor­mal bounds and try dif­fer­ent tools and tech­niques. You sim­ply can­not ever truly know how much of an im­pact that can have on your work and way of work­ing. It lit­er­ally re­shaped my art-mak­ing land­scape for­ever.”

SU DDEN GRA VITY “Oh, boy. Kids, lis­ten to your Un­cle Greg and never, never, not ever take on a pro­posed 12-is­sue graphic novel epic – in ball­point pen! I was nearly the youngest per­son alive with mas­sive carpal tun­nel syn­drome.”

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