The Inker; Artist not tracer
One of the oldest disagreements in comic books is whether the inker is just a tracer rather than a true artist. A great example of this occurs in the Kevin Smith movie ‘Chasing Amy’ when character Banky gets into a fight at a convention when a fan calls him a tracer.
But, how true is this?
Are inkers really just those who trace the work of artists?
If so, why wouldn’t the artist do it himself or herself?
The truth is that inking is an art form all on its own.
Inking goes far beyond simply tracing the lines, which another artist has already laid down.
The inker must have knowledge of anatomy, light, perspective and how to use line thickness.
If an image were to be inked with all the same thickness line, it would look flat and unrealistic.
“I had always loved seeing images finished in ink, but it wasn't until the late 2000s that I really starting taking an interest in what inkers were doing,” said inker Jeff Graham. “The craft of taking an artist's pencils, whether it be tight or loose, and turning it into an incredible black and white image was mesmerizing.”
Although Graham began bwanting to be a penciler, during his art training in high school and then college, he became interested in inking.
“Seeing what could be done with different brush strokes, various texture techniques and an array of tools blew my mind. I had to give it a try.”
Despite his experience in digital media from his days as a graphic artist for a newspaper, Graham works traditionally using digital medium for final clean up and to smooth out borderlines.
What do inkers look for when they receive the image?
Graham says the first thing he looks for is the image resolution.
“All pencilers/editors/publishers are different and, therefore, work occurs in a vast array of sizes etc. If the resolution is good, I'll make sure it's sized appropriately so that when I import it into my page template, I don't have to mess around with the image.”
So, how much leeway does he have with the images he receives?
“Most seem to want me to stick pretty close, adding a few of my own tidbits here and there but, for the most part, staying pretty tight. Editors/writers are a lot different than working with a penciler; pencilers tend to have the final image in their head already, so you're trying to surpass their expectations while not messing up what they've done.” Graham said, “Editors are a little looser on the final product; they may ask for a few things to be changed, but allow you to sort of do your own thing. “
As with anything, constant practice and application makes the difference between being good and being great. “Each page you do is a chance at developing your skills further. There's always going to be something you haven't done, or wanted to try, or saw someone else do that you want to attempt.” Graham said of practice, “I will do "samples" in between actual page work and to warm up with prior to starting on pages; I'll spend anywhere from 15-20 minutes up to an hour on a piece before starting with pages.”
Having already produced 113 pages for the title ‘Deadly Harvest’ (published by Arcana Comics), Graham continues to produce work for a variety of projects.
“Coming up, I've got Agent: Wild which just went to the printers. That was a successful Kickstarter campaign that I did logo designs, trading card art and a few interior pages for. Creator/Writer/Penciler Don Walker is hopeful for a late April release.” He said, “I've got pages in the works for a book to be published by indie publisher 215 Ink. I'm working over pencils by Kevin Enhart, whom I've had the pleasure of working with in the past. I believe the writers are looking to have the first issue wrapped by some point in May 2015.”
“Lastly, I always have little things coming out from the guys at Pilot Studios.” Graham added, “Owner/Operator/Writer/Penciler Ben Ferrari and I currently have an issue of his Carriers title in the works which should be finished up I'm guessing summer 2015.”
Far more than a tracer, Graham illustrates the role an inker plays in the creation of comic books.
You can check out Jeff Graham’s work in one of the titles listed above or through his Deviantart page.