Interview at Mesa Gráfica
Cristian Docolomansky: “You must study the penciled page before inking. If you don’t do that, it’s simply tracing”.
Interview: Carlos Andueza, Pictures: Camilo Mendoza. Originally posted on Mesa Gráfica:
Inking is one of the process that involves the making of a comicbook. According to Gary Martin’s “The art of comic book inking”, the “main goal of an inker is translating pencils into black, printable lines”. Besides that “inker must give the final look of the art”. Despite that, inking is also one of the most underrated jobs by the readers, many times undervaluated and unfairly compared with the act of tracing.
Mesa Gráfica wanted to know a little more about this job and we interviewed Barcelonian born Cristian Docolomansky (1977). Cristian, was the co-founder and editor from 2007 to 2011 of chilean top comicbook news website Dos cafés y una mesa, he is the co-writer and producer “La Ruta del Comiquero”, an upcoming documentary that explains the Chilean Comic Book scene, and he has work in several projects as an inker for Chile, USA, and UK. He will explain what is inking and break some myths about this art.
Cristian, What did you study and how did you took inking as a job?
Cristian Docolomansky: I have a degree in Industrial Design in Diego Portales University. I have a life-time relationship with drawing: My father was a oldstyle architect, drawing blueprints over a great drawing table, using several layers of “onion paper”. I used to steal from him blank papers, and use them inking the comicbook covers I used to like. I inked using rotring pens, professional architecture tools, the ones my father used to do his work and I always ended destroying them, so after my father realized that his tools were a mess I had to run for my life. I Believe that was the momen Inking subconciously was drawn to my attention. I used to enjoy comicbooks that had an inker rather than other comics were the artist used to draw and ink his work. Three years ago I realized that inking, having my hands stained with black ink, doing techical tests with different brushes was way more fun to me than drawing. I like penciling but I choose inking. I have always loved the high contrast of the black and white language, i feel that it goes along with my way of life. I feel that I can communicate much better using inks.
Some comics includes grays in their black and white inking. Is that considered coloring?
Cristian: When you see a bunch of lines that forms a gray area it’s called feathering. You can do pure white, pure black areas and the feathering is the transition between both parts. With feathering you can put light, shadows, textures and volumes. That gives several messages to the reader about how light can affect to the story. That’s the job of an inker: To finish the penciler’s work and gives his best to improve the message of the story, like wood has to look like wood.
Chilean writer Alfredo Rodriguez told us in his interview that when he was a boy, he wanted to be a comicbook artist, because he didn’t know about the existence of writers in comics. ¿When did you knewabout inkers and when did you became a full time inker?
Cristian: I used to read comics when I was a child mostly Marvel Comics, back in Barcelona, the city where I was born, and then in Palma de Mallorca, but I like to consider myself from the Image Comics Era, where the art had more focus than the story. In fact, my favorite inkers are from that Scott Williams’s school (Richard Friend, Sandra Hope, Tim Townsend, then Jonathan Glapion…), not old-school inkers, because they are in the search for more spectacularity in their inks. Three and a half years ago, I took the decision to become an inker. There are lots of better pencilers than me, and it was clear to me that I can ink some penciler’s work better than my own pencils.
How much must the inker work over the pencils?
Cristian: As a rule I get the pencils already approved by the writer or editor. If there are some mistakes on proportions or perspectives I ask if I can correct them or not. One of the job an inker must do is that you can correct those kinds of things but without changing the aspect or style of the penciler. Just like all artistic careers that kind of things comes with artistic sensibility. The biggest mistake an inker does is overinking a page. That uses to happen when the pencils are way too loose and you must create from scratch much of the information on the page to be understood by the reader. So, summing it up, you can’t change the pencils, but if the pencils are incomplete you must end them.
I have understood that inking is much more a collaboration job rather than an imposition.
Cristian: It’s a team work.
What is the line value?
Cristian: Comicbook works in a 2D format, which is the paper and gives the 3D illusion through perspective. While inking you can give the sense of depth and give more weight to the line of the objects that are in the closest plane to the viewer and a thinner line to the objects that lay in the background, that is what you mean of line value. Lessons that you learn while working and I’m adapting it to my work system, since I have only inked a couple of hundred of pages, not thousands.
Who you must deal with in the need of a significant change on the pencils? Penciler, editor or writer?
Cristian: It depends on who hires me o contacts me. While working for overseas comissions I use to deal with writers or small independant publishers. While working for the chilean independant market, like Futuro Esplendor’s main title “El Viudo”, I deal with the art director, despite the fact I have worked with the penciler for years and for many projects before that.
Do you think that in order to be a good inker you must be a good penciler?
Cristian: Totally. I consider myself a regular penciler, I have the main tools of drawing (for instance, composition and lighting) and I use those tools subconsciously while inking.
What is the part of inking that costs the most?
Cristian: The more complicated the page, the better. I got bored with simple drawn pages. No backgrounds or all look alike characters kills me. I ink that kind of pages faster. Two hours and done. The thing I believe costs me the most is to control myself and avoid overinking a page. I like feathering but it’s a challenge for me stop. (laughs).
What are your materials on inking?
Cristian: I ink traditionally. I have done several things digitally, but I’m not getting comfortable with it right now. I am always asked to do some collaborations and I some of them I use to do it digitally as a learning process. But I am more traditional on that matter. I use three kinds of tools: 0.1 to 0.3 Pigment Ink Pens; Hunt 102 quills and brushes. Regarding inking I have tested Higgins india ink, but I prefer Speedball super black India ink.
On your twitter (@Docinks) bio, you post the classic Chasing Amy scene where two guys argues with Jason Lee’s character about inking is tracing. What do you think about inking is being understimated today?
Cristian: “You are a fucking tracer”, I have been told that several times. (laughs). If someone thinks I trace and I can’t change his mind, well it’s his opinion and I won’t make the slightest effort to change that. On the other hand, comics is a shrinking industry. There are more artists and less payable work. Inking is an artificial job created back in the 50’s and 60’s in the United States in order to increase the grasp of good artists and being able to make more than an issue per month increasing sales. Good pencilers who needed good inkers who were good pencilers by themselves. Today, that knowledge of teaming up is dying. Artists use digital media in order to ink themselves, and publishers does not consider inkers as a part of a creative team if they can save the money of hiring an inker. Having that scenario ahead does not gives me time of arguing wheter I am a tracer or not on that guy’s eyes. I have most of my wake time busy inking. But beware: A good inking work can level up a bad penciling and a bad inking can destroy a good pencil.
Chilean colorist Kóte Carvajal told us on his interview that he feared coloring was a job on its way to oblivion. Do you think inking is dying in a really short term period?
Cristian: I don’t want to sound dramatic or cathastrophist, but here’s the thing: I interviewed Renee Witterstaetter for a documentary and she told me: “Inking is a dying art”. Ok, I think she knows this industry way better than me. I may be in love with an art which won’t make me a living of it. Despite that I love inking, and I won’t quit until it’s over. I have been walking a long and harsh path in order to became an full time inker to stop now. And for now, I have not stop working. I have been lousy paid, yes; I have done several pages I won’t do even drunk, yes; but these are my first years as an inker and those pages works as a resumee. And being honest, I don’t think inking would be dying soon since small independant publishers are growing up right now.
What’s the purpose while reciving a penciled page? What do you look for inking?
Cristian: I despise correcting the penciler, but if there are anything that need to be corrected, then I do so. What I look for is to be part of a team. I try to understand what the penciler wanted to communicate over the page and enhance his style. First of all what I do is to study the page. You must take the time to analyze the elements of the page, design, lighting, just like the penciler does while layouting. Is just in that moment when I see how to enchance the pencils. MUST study the page before inking. Otherwise it’s tracing.
– Thanks to Camilo Mendoza and Carlos Andueza for such a great time!