Sketching is super important to me. I always carry at least two, often three, sketchbooks with me. Wherever I go. I also carry three fountain pens, and a bottle of ink. I don’t tend to carry anything else -- especially not pencils. Pens only. I don’t like that pencils smudge, and I don’t like the possibility that I might erase something I’m working on. I like to move forward. I don’t want to look back, or dawdle, or spend too much time on any one drawing. I save my important concept work for physical sketches, because if I don’t have the base idea ready, I run into the same problems when sketching digitally as when I sketch with pencil. (It’s the eraser: that’s the problem.)
I like having a trail of thoughts and ideas. If I have an eraser, that erases the train of thought that gets me to the final drawing. I want to be able to see the evidence that I had thoughts before the final piece -- interesting things lie within.
I work in the front and back simultaneously, much to the chagrin of one of my partners. (I don’t know why that should matter, but apparently it does!) To me, it helps separate thoughts. If I have two sketchbooks, one being for my main comic and one for my adult comic, then each one is going to contain only relevant ideas to whatever I need to think about at the moment. The front half is for sketches when I’m in a confident mood, and the back half is for miscellany or side notes or drawings I know will look especially bad (even though that’s okay, it’s just to keep them organized).
My sketches are not made to be pretty -- they're the precursor to something pretty. It's more important that my sketches be useful, that they help outline the way I'm going to approach the drawing when I need to do it later. They’re not made for anyone else’s eyes, though I don’t have a problem showing them off. They’re made so I can get the feeling of an idea, so I can communicate a concept to myself. I work through shapes, through silhouettes… using these, I try to chip away at a core thought. Sometimes I need to narrow down what that thought even is, so there’ll be scribbled notes everywhere throughout the book.
I like putting stickers on the fronts of my books because I have obsessively been using the same exact size and shape of sketchbook for the past year and a half, because something about a horizontally rectangular sketchbook is really appealing to me. Maybe it’s the fact that each page allows for a just enough to capture a particular thought I have? I’m not entirely sure, but I like them a lot more than full-size sketchbooks, for most occasions. (There have been exceptions. I had to design Andre in a full-size book, because his design is large. I had to finish Amdusias’s design in a large book, as well. Also, I couldn’t even get good concepts of Baphomet out without my largest 14 x 17 sketchbook.)
I like writing in sketchbooks a lot more than I do in notebooks. I think with pictures often, too, which means I need to draw out expressions alongside words for a lot of my drafts. Something about seeing the words written on paper helps me visualize it a little better, and helps me cut out useless dialog. I have a hard time working on thumbnails and script separately, because they’re so intertwined in my mind that it feels absurd to differentiate between them. I’ll be editing my script up until the last page because I’ll get an idea for how to better thumbnail or sketch it, or I’ll have some other thought that ties things together better.
I love the energy of sketches. I feel like it comes through in ink sketches a lot more, for me, because something about ink is freeing. You can’t undo it, so you can go all out. Ugly drawings are okay. You just want to capture the feeling, the idea, the concept, the form. Exaggeration is key. How can you communicate something to yourself best? What kinds of things can you make if you know undoing it isn’t an option? Can you let go of the feeling that an idea is too “bad” to put on paper? What if you learn that putting the bad ideas on paper helps you find the good ones? It’s important to get them all down, but to understand that it’s only the first step in finding the ideas worth pursuing. It’s fun. It’s hard.
I left the pencil behind something like four years ago, now. I still use it when I need to work on a physically inked page, sure, but I just don’t want to have the option to get rid of sketches immediately. Good ideas can be found within lackluster drawings, but sometimes you’re not always in the right frame of mind to appreciate it; this is especially true if you’re getting frustrated with a drawing.
I have three different fountain pens, each with a nib that’s supposed to be “extra fine”, but there’s enough size variance among them that I essentially have three nibs with different line widths. The smaller two are good for sketching and writing, and the largest one is good for filling in large chunks of an inked drawing a little more quickly. This, of course, changes the texture. Lots of thick lines look different from lots of thin lines.
I love mark making with pens. I love how you can define a lot of subtle movement by leaving gaps in between parts of a drawing, and I love how ink sketches let you “suggest” things without actually drawing them. You can imply form and energy with lines that don’t quite connect - but the tension and movement are nearly tangible!
In case you’re wondering, here’s the fountain pen I use (though I use a converter, not ink cartridges), and here’s the ink. Here are the sketchbooks I draw on. Certainly, you should use what works for you, but if you’re curious about what I like to use, now you know!