For all the fun I’ve had drawing a bunch of superheroes this month, I’ve done remarkably little where I got to depict any characters actively using their powers. Part of the fun of superhero comics is that the characters have these really spectacular abilities that really underscore the sense of otherness and fantasy that the a superhero world represents. Part of why I’ve not done much drawing showing off powers is because some of them are visually complex in ways that I don’t want to deal with in a daily sketch, and another part is because I think it’s more fun to imagine characters who are normally depicted in heroic, larger-than-life situations doing everyday things. Naturally there have been a few drawings that are more action-oriented this month, but my favorites have definitely been the ones where a character is just hanging out, doing something they’d do in their free time. That said, I decided to draw some powers for today, and because I seem to be really focused on figuring out how bodies exist in three dimensional space, I did one of someone who can walk through walls.
The prompt for today is “Ghost” which implies a stealthy person. The first choice I would have gone for is Kitty Pryde, but I already drew her sleeping in bed a week or two ago, and I’m trying really hard to not have character repeats for my first Inktober. Fortunately, there is another character in X-Men continuity who basically has the same power set as Kitty plus other cool stuff. She’s just really obscure because she first appeared in an X-Men series that didn’t run for very long and then she faded into a background character in one of the main series before disappearing altogether (this is strangely apropos given her whole deal, but it makes me sad because the more I think about her the more I wish she’d come back). The character for today is Alisa Tager, code name Cipher (with an ‘i’), who has the mutant ability to render herself immune to all forms of detection except the most powerful of telepathic senses and also to walk through walls. She’s basically a perfect spy with a more powerful version of Kitty’s powers, which probably explains why other writers didn’t pick her up following her debut in Young X-Men.
I think this picture turned out pretty well, all things considered. I’ve only drawn locced hair a couple times before, and never with the deliberate shaping that I did here. I’m also pretty pleased with the figure emerging from the wall. It probably doesn’t make a lot of narrative sense for her to be running out and looking in the opposite direction from where the guard is, but I wanted her face visible, and it didn’t occur to me until I’d gotten well into detailing that I could probably relocate the guard to the other side of the page. It’s not all great; I wish I’d rotated the fist more so it didn’t look like she’s cursing at the heavens. Still that’s a pretty small quibble, I suppose.
I wanted to draw some hands doing something more interesting than just making fists or splayed out, which is pretty much the entire reason I went with today’s picture. It’s also obviously a bit of a pastiche, but the hands were the main thing.
The prompt for today is “Treasure,” which was a hard prompt for me to work on. I spent most of the day yesterday trying to think of an angle on it. I already drew Gambit, the X-Men’s most prominent male thief, and I didn’t want to do a repeat, so I had to come up with something different. I finally landed on Fantomex, a sometimes X-Man whose chief qualities are his snootiness, fake French accent, and external nervous system that also acts as his personal space ship. He’s essentially all about playing at being a suave international thief, which I figure means he would be totally fine with pretending to be Indiana Jones for a scene, although he might not admit it.
While I was working on this drawing last night, Rachael asked me if it’s possible to have a conversation with someone while I’m drawing, and I wasn’t sure. I don’t think I’m able to in the early stages when I’m planning a drawing and sketching out the initial shapes, but maybe it’s doable later on when I’m adding smaller details or doing the initial inking. The whole conversation revolved around whether drawing uses the same kind of working memory as writing, which we weren’t really sure about one way or another. I feel like it has to do more with attention, because I can stop drawing to talk with someone and then it doesn’t take me too long to pick back up what I was trying to do (this might be because I’m doing relatively simple artwork right now; even my most complex Inktober drawings have been done in a couple hours’ continuous work at most). Anyway, it’s an interesting question.
The general premise for this drawing was that I wanted to do a pose that conveyed motion, but slowly. I had this image of a person very carefully taking a step forward to minimize the amount of noise they made, and I landed on a more horizontal orientation for the composition. I also apparently continue to gravitate towards drawing figures who are wearing dark colors, because yet again I found myself shading most of the body. Though I’m slightly exasperated with myself for that, I do appreciate that I’m getting better at conveying shape and curve in inks. You could compare today’s picture with the one from the first day of Inktober to see how things have progressed with my inking technique.
The prompt for today is “Tread,” which, as I noted above, is why I got caught up in the image of someone taking a quiet step forward. When we discuss stealth and the X-Men, it’s probably not long before we’re going to land on the team’s resident ninja, Betsy Braddock, code name Psylocke. Psylocke has a long, complicated history that involves nonconsentual body swapping and cultural appropriation (For a majority of her character history she is, essentially, a white English lady trapped in the body of a generically Asian assassin). Her powers have gone through a lot of permutations, but the most iconic of her ninja form is her psychic knife, which she uses to basically give targets a really bad case of brain freeze.
Where yesterday’s drawing was relatively simple but had some complex thoughts behind it, today’s is very straightforward. It took me less than an hour to put this one together, and it was fun playing around with the figure’s pose (I think it looks particularly good), but it was otherwise an unchallenging project. It left me with an itch to do some extra drawing yesterday, which resulted in a couple of pencil portraits that I’ll throw in at the end of this post for fun even though they’re not technically Inktober related.
The prompt for today is “Sling” which is a word with a lot of different meanings, but the marathon-like pace of daily drawings has left me grasping mostly for the apparent connection. The thief Remy LeBeau, code name Gambit, can charge inanimate objects with kinetic energy that makes them explode. His weapon of choice is a deck of playing cards (because they’re cheap, disposable, and don’t appear to be weapons to anyone who isn’t familiar with Gambit’s powers). The thing about Gambit though is that I’ve never strongly associated him with, y’know, gambling, at least not in connection with card games. He takes lots of risks (world class thief, after all), but I don’t remember much about him sitting down in a tuxedo at a Poker or Blackjack table in a fancy casino. Anyhow, here’s Gambit celebrating after winning a hand of Poker with a Dead Man’s Hand. It’s not colored, but his tuxedo is pink.
And as bonus content, here are those portraits. They’re of the characters Chuck and Angela from the comic series Die.
The proportions of the face are a little off for Angela, but I think Chuck looks like an excellent rascal (there’s a stronger term for what he is, but it’s not appropriate for children).
After the relatively complex last few days, I decided to do a few simple drawings. Today’s is very straightforward, with a relatively ordinary composition of two figures facing each other in an over-the-shoulder perspective. I’ve not drawn a lot of backs lately (funny how faces tend to be more interesting), but this one was done in a simple enough style that it didn’t strike me as particularly challenging. Playing with the proportions to communicate that I was drawing a child were a little fun though.
The prompt for today is “Misfit,” and I thought primarily of Rahne Sinclair, one of the original members of the New Mutants who has the power to transition at will between the forms of a human girl and a wolf. Rahne had a very strict religious upbringing in a fundamentalist Scots Presbyterian community, so she’s spent most of her life processing and extricating the internalized self loathing her religious community instilled in her for being a mutant. Combined with that is Rahne’s early portrayal as a child whose powers manifested unusual physical traits, specifically her inability to grow long hair. She’s an extremely feminine character (her primary fantasy as an adolescent was to be a fairy tale princess) who for a long time was denied the basic visual markers of femininity. There’s a fair bit of text surrounding Rahne’s adolescence that codes her in ways that evoke transgender identity: the rejection by her fundamentalist community, the aspiration to explicit feminine presentation despite the limitations of her body, the euphoria she experiences in her wolf form compared with the doubts of her human mind as a stand in for body dysphoria in general. It’s no wonder that Matthew Rosenberg chose to use her as the subject of a scene in his recent Uncanny X-Men run that carries the trappings of a trans panic murder (much has been said about the general insensitivity of the scene itself elsewhere).
That was a lot of thoughts for a simple drawing, I guess. Sometimes I suppose the ideas end up being more complex than the execution.
For today’s drawing I wanted to take a break from obsessing over shading and focus instead just on getting some clean lines. This one’s a profile, which isn’t that difficult on its own (I enjoy doing profiles but they rarely feel extremely challenging; I’m sure this will change as I get better and realize things about profiles that just don’t occur to me right now), so I decided to add interest in the form of water falling on the subject’s head. Figuring out how to convey transparency, especially in ink, has come up a few times in my recent drawings, and the technique I settled on most recently was the interrupted lines that are visible in this piece. I think it’s a pretty good approximation of the distortion you get when light passes through a slightly opaque medium, especially a liquid like falling water. Given’ the subject’s relatively intricate tattoo patterns, it was especially fun to play around with where to obscure the lines and where to draw them clearly.
The prompt for today is “Ornament” which only went about as far as putting Nezhno Abidemi, code name Gentle, in my mind because of his vibranium tattoos. Gentle is one of the younger generations of X-Men who most recently featured prominently in the run of X-Men Red. He’s a Wakandan national whose mutant powers involve near instantaneous muscle mass expansion and super strength and durability. The vibranium tattoos were applied when he was a child as a way to help him manage seizures that he suffered when he was younger, but in the present their primary purpose is to restrain his powers, which haven’t been measured as having a clear upper limit. Gentle’s base strength and muscle mass increases with every use of his powers, which will eventually kill him. He’s a strong character designed with built in limitations that are meant to emphasize restraint in the way he acts; he should only be using his powers under the most dire of circumstances.
A recurrent thought I’ve had over the last few weeks is the bit of advice that an image put down on paper, no matter how imperfect, is always better than one that stays stuck in your head. It’s sort of turned into my mantra for the days when I finish a drawing and wish I could just move on from it, like today’s piece. The idea I had was so clear in my head, but then, as often happens, I ran into the limitations of the media I’m using in addition to my own shortcomings as an artist, and the finished product looks significantly different than how it did in my head. The great thing about Inktober at moments like this one is that I’m only ever a day away from setting a drawing aside and moving on to something new. The sunk cost fallacy is nowhere to be found this month.
In less metacognitive matters relating to the drawing, I feel like the major struggle I had here was one of perspective. I wanted to do a drawing where the two subjects are running towards the camera at an angle, and I knew that that was going to require playing with the proportions of limbs and torsos depending on their respective poses, but I felt really shaky with the sense of scale as objects recede into the background. There are some weird things happening with legs and feet, and the scale of the drawing made it difficult in the moment for me to figure if I was getting the general silhouette right. Besides proportion and perspective issues, I’ve also realized that I just really don’t like shading with the pens that I have. They have fixed width tips, which is great for doing lines but terrible when I need to fill an area with ink. I’m also still very much a novice at drawing texture in ink, so I always feel like any shading I add looks out of place with the rest of the work.
Today’s prompt is “Wild,” and the first thing I thought of was Storm’s ex-girlfriend from Japan, Yukio. The punk look that Storm rocked in the ’80s was a direct result of her time with Yukio, so I wanted to nod towards that whole thing. I’m pretty sure there was motorcycle riding in that era, but I might just be adding it because Yukio’s defining look is just a black motorcycle jacket with black pants. Anyway, that’s another one in the sketchbook; tomorrow’s another day.
Eventually I’m going to stop coming up with characters and concepts for my drawings that require so much ink (probably around the time I unexpectedly empty one of my Microns in the middle of a project), but today is not that day. It’s not tomorrow either, for that matter. The big thing I was going for with today’s drawing was to convey a sense of grandeur and pomp. I think I got there, although I continue to wonder how things would turn out if I were working on a larger scale.
The prompt for the day is “Legend,” and I fully admit that I did not dig very deep at all to come up with my subject. When I think of X-Men and its surrounding mythos, the character who stands out the most as legendary is the villain Apocalypse. It’s not necessarily because of anything he’s specifically done (he’s kind of an ineffectual villain), but more because he’s the character who implies with his age and powers a certain mystique. He’s been alive since ancient Egypt, near the beginning of human civilization, and he’s set himself up as a god multiple times, so there are bound to be some legends about this guy.
I think I can sum what I learned after doing today’s picture up like this: there’s a lot of wisdom in doing digital art so you can create custom brushes for applying repetitive patterns to your work. I wanted to do a portrait of my subject hiding in the woods as a sort of nod to the cover of Lord of the Flies, but I quickly realized that drawing a bunch of leaves to obscure the subject’s face was way more work than if I had done a straightforward portrait. I think the end result looks pretty good, but it took me a lot longer than some of my other stuff has because of all the work drawing branches and leaves.
The prompt for today is “Overgrown,” which automatically implies some sort of wild domain full of aggressive flora. I decided to spin off of that and do a picture of Lin Li, code name Nature Girl, because she’s always hanging out in the wilderness with her animal friends. There’s not really anything else to this one; I think Nature Girl’s a fun, relatively new character, and her powers mesh well with the concept here. It could have pretty easily been someone else if I had thought a little more about it. Mostly, I just needed to draw more leaves.
I am unsure if this piece falls into more pathos or bathos territory, but I generally like the look of it. The big innovation in the pose (for me, anyway) was having the left hand planted on the ground next to the figure. I don’t think I quite got the sense of weight on that limb, but it’s a nice bit of asymmetry in the pose. The palm was originally supposed to be flat on the ground, but while I was drafting I realized it looked sort of like a clenched fist and decided to go with that.
So today’s prompt is “Ash” which immediately evokes something to do with the aftermath of a fire (also trees, but that just didn’t capture my imagination this time). I started with the concept of characters who realize they’ve really messed things up at some point, and then it was just a matter of winnowing down to whoever’s power set would be lend itself to playing with the visual motif. I thought about using Gambit for a bit, but his powers make things explode instead of burn. Then I remembered there was that one time a few years ago when Cyclops possessed a piece of the Phoenix Force, and the power rendered him so unstable that he murdered Charles Xavier (they both got better). It seemed like a perfect encapsulation of the themes I wanted to play with, so now you have sad Cyclops staring at a pile of Charles Ash-avier. Someday I’ll do some drawings of the Summerses being happy, because that just doesn’t happen often enough for them.