It Came From The Sketchbook – The Little Black Book

A few weeks ago I decided to give the What I Like About Comics category a rest and blow the dust off of the It Came From The Sketchbook category shaking loose some of the drawings from sketchbooks I’ve got stacked around the studio. The name of the site is Willceau Illo News so I figured I’d better live up to the name and give you some illustrations.

At the top of the page is a banner for the category I just cooked up. It’s probably too big, but I like the way it looks. So enjoy it in all of it’s scratchy glory!

Below is a 9″ x 6″, hardbound sketchbook I bought from Charrette and started drawing in 18 years ago. Charrette was a chain of art and drafting supply stores that came to Philadelphia in 1992. It was a great store with a deep inventory and decent prices, and it shook up the moribund Philly art supply scene that was dominated by a couple of clumsily performing chain stores and a family (as in Manson family) owned place that had obnoxious prices but was blessed with an excellent location. Charrette made a big splash, upset the local art supply ecology for the better, and one day pulled up stakes, vanishing never to be seen again.

The little black book was another one of those purchases I made on impulse thinking that the landscape shape of the book and it’s attractive binding would lend itself to making exquisite drawings. My descendants would one day pull the book from a vault with white gloved hands and marvel at the brilliance transferred upon it’s leaves.
I ran a Gerber sign system in the place I worked at the time, and I even put my name on the spine in imitation gold letters, no less! Classy! Of course, I was going to do great works in this thing!

Nah! I did mostly uninspired, crappy, tentative, little pencil drawings that didn’t beg to be finished or looked at. Similar to the Sketchbook from Hell, I’m not sure why it resisted every effort to do decent drawings in it. Maybe it was the size. At home, I like sitting on a couch or an easy chair and drawing in front of the TV with a sketchbook in my lap. This doesn’t sit in the lap too well.

So it was another sketchbook that languished through the years and travelled through a couple of apartments and a house. I threw it in a bag and took it back and forth to work where it would sit ignored. Maybe I’d make a sketch here or there or paste a sketch I made on some scratch paper into it. Mostly it got ignored.

After I killed off the Sketchbook from Hell during my commute, I selected this little black book as my next victim to be polished off.

October 17, 2012

Either it’s the magic of an urban commuter train (I doubt it) or my frame of mind at that time of day, but I was finally getting some fun drawings that I was happy with scribbled down into that little black book. Maybe it was the position I was in. I usually set my backpack in my lap as a makeshift desk and put the pad on top. The train shakes like crazy which doesn’t bother me strangely enough. I rough out the drawings during the shaky portions of the ride and refine the lines on one of the many stops. It works for me!

Above is a berserk Jungle Man. The character has shown up in the pages of Monkey & Bird. I’ve been planning his return to the comic in the pages of this sketchbook.

March 19, 2008

Above is a sketch Of Mickey the Monkey and Jungle Man that I did back in 2008. I pasted a sketch I did on scratch paper into the sketchbook and inked it in with a brush marker. Jungle Man shows up quite a bit in this book as I refine his look. The red pencil sketch is a more recent drawing, and in it I was trying to capture or spoof the “berserker rages” that John Buscema would illustrate in Marvel’s run on Tarzan and Conan. In the inked drawing above, Jungle Man is a little too smug and too smart looking for the way he turned out in Monkey & Bird.

October 18, 2012

I generally don’t sketch fellow commuters during my commute. I’d like to make it to my destination in one piece and don’t want to arouse undue attention by staring at folks. This glum gal was an exception. For some reason I noticed her waiting to get off the train at 34th Street. I committed her features to memory and offloaded them to the page after she got off.

Generally, I try to draw in blue pencil on the way into work and red for the return. It doesn’t always work out that way. More often than not, I usually use the first pencil I grab.

I finally killed off this little black book on Friday, October 19, and I have to say, I enjoyed the format. To paraphrase Linus, “It wasn’t such a bad sketchbook after all.” I won’t buy another one like it, but if I was given one or had a few more, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

July 28, 1994 – October 19, 2012

…and now a more sensibly sized web banner for this category:

©Joe Williams

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