Francois Schuiten just won Inktober.
Again, Inktober is not a contest. There is no prize. It’s all just about the experience, learning, and getting better.
But then you see this insanely beautiful short film of Francois Schuiten penciling, inking, and watercoloring a large piece, and you find yourself having to remember to breathe. I get nervous for him. There’s so much to learn here. Blow it up full screen. There’s a lot to take in.
While other so-called comics websites are busy devoting all their resources to making galleries out of the latest Marvel or DC movie trailer, I’m going to pick this video apart. I have questions, and I bet there are artists who know this stuff better than I do. So, please, let me know in the comments below where I get anything wrong, or if you have the answers to my questions as we go along here…
0:02 – Francois Schuiten faces a blank page.
0:31 — Look at all those pencils on his table. I wonder if they’re set dressing or not.
1:21 — Check out that sharpener he uses on his pencil. I’ve never seen one like that before. It’s crazy. He puts the tip of the pencil in that ball and then rolls it around vigorously to keep it sharp. I bet he does that frequently to get this kind of precision.
1:38 — I’ve never seen the ink bottle like that. In all the artist work areas I’ve ever seen, they usually have a special tray or some kind of cup holder to hold the ink bottle in. Schuiten is the first I’ve seen to basically glue the ink bottle to a heavy weight to keep it from spilling. I like it.
1:46 — That is one very very steady hand with a dip pen.
1:48 — Wow, take a look at that studio. Natural light from the left side. A ridiculously large wooden table to work on, topped with all the reference and tools he might need. Top that all off with a “Terry and the Pirates” Sunday original behind him.
2:15 — It looks like he’s scratching a ditch into the paper, which he then inks into. I guess that helps to keep his hand on the right line? Curious. Is that a common technique?
2:29 — I really like this overhead shot, so I’m giving it a bigger size. I’d be so afraid of smudging the pencil work with my hands, though…
2:59 — Inks are complete. What will Schuiten now do for the other 30 days of #Inktober?
3:05 — And then Schuiten spills water all over his art and brushes it around. No, wait, he’s coloring this. After you see the insane amount of work he put into inking this piece, he then splashes water over top of it. I could never imagine doing such a thing. That’s NUTS. But it works, as you’ll soon see.
4:13 — Doing this kind of detailed work will give you gray hair. I’m guessing that’s what this shot is all about.
4:46 — Most artists use a blue pencil as the first step. It’s non-reproducible. Schuiten, being The Man, uses it after he’s done the watercolors. And it works to give that sheen to the buildings.
5:26 — The amber and teal color scheme is well documented, and it looks good here, too.
5:30 — Another heart attack moment. Having completed the painting, he then rolls up the page. All the watercolor is causing the page to warp and roll up, so he’s attempting to keep it flat by reversing the bend with that roll up. Still, I’d be completely freaked out doing that to a piece of art I just created that will no doubt fetch thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in the art market.
It’s worth watching the video for the final process shot that runs from 5:41 to 6:24, where the camera pans down the image as the image fades backwards in time, step by step. It’s impressive.
I’m hoping there’s a 10 hour director’s cut to this video to be released soon. I’d watch that all day…
But, wait! There’s more! Join me again for “The Birth of a Board,” where we set the time machine for 1999 and watch Schuiten work together with writer Benoit Peeters on a page. If you thought this was crazy, wait till you see what he does with colored pencils…
I should have A/B tested these headlines…