Layering and Versatile Pencil Marks by Drew Shannon

You can feel the sense of being worked by hand in Drew Shannon’s illustrations. The scraping and sliding of graphite against the grains of the page is captured beautifully in the way he uses his materials.

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While adapting techniques he picked up from screen printing to layer colours, Drew also puts a lot of thought into bringing out the best qualities he can from pencil.

The rough, heartfelt marks that can be achieved are perfect for the narrative illustrations he creates. He tells us more below.

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When I was in school I tried working in a lot of different ways with different mediums, and it was there I really started trying to incorporate digital and traditional methods.

I had gotten into DIY silk-screening back then, but it wasn’t until I had left school that I really started to figure out how to incorporate those same principles into my professional work using Photoshop.

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Now what usually happens when I go to the final stages of an illustration, after my Art Director and I have decided on a concept we both like, I start to think about how I can break down the drawing into layers of colour.

Usually, I pick just 2 or 3 colours and blend them to get a third or fourth. Then I usually draw each of those colour layers by hand with just a 4B pencil and a light table.

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I’ve always found the Pencil such a versatile tool, but it’s usually only used at the preliminary stage of a lot illustrations.

It’s often discarded afterwards for ink, paint, or digital tools. I find the texture and varying line weight of a pencil mark to add a certain tactile quality that is often hard to imitate with a digital facsimile.

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Once those layers are all done, I slip them into scanner and bring them up on Photoshop where I begin to change and adjust their colours, and add any other flourishes that I think will really put the finishing touch on the illustration, like a grainy airbrush (I’ve provided animated gifs to somewhat illuminate this all a bit better).

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With the new comic I’ve been working on, The Montague Twins, I’ve again gone back to the unique line quality of a pencil and I think it’s so expressive and works so well for a comic.

My new kitten Ripley has become a permanent fixture on my desk while I work, either all over everything I’m trying to do, or peacefully sleeping by the mouse.

My desktop image usually reflects someone whose work is having an enormous impact on me so right now it’s Matteo Berton.

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My sketchbook habits rise and fall in regularity, and often times I have one with me but never take it out.

I end up doing a lot of conceptual work in them when I have a project, or just trying out different ways of drawing something when I’m only doodling.

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© Drew Shannon, 2015

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