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A Study in Ink

A Study in Ink
November 13, 2016 Dustin Parris

This is Papyrus. Papyrus likes making spaghetti and puzzles. He is confident and a little clueless, sort of like a labrador puppy. Papyrus hails from the world of Undertale, which has become my favorite RPG. I was a late comer to Undertale, and admittedly had become slightly obsessed with Papyrus and his brother, Sans (He’ll be posted up here soon too). Seriously, I adore those guys. They’re hilarious.

Papyrus began as a simple anatomy study of a skull, just for some warm-up practice. While I was studying references for skulls, it should come as no surprise that the idea to turn my simple study into some fan art was inevitable. Doing studies are so much more fun when you put them into the context of something you love.

Now, I don’t spend much time on fan art. I use it as a means to experiment with new styles or techniques. Fan art enables me to focus entirely on how I’m drawing, instead of also getting too bogged down in designing what I’m drawing. I try out a new technique on a piece of fan art, decide what I do and don’t like about it, and then apply it to my own ideas.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was terrified of inking. It was so permanent. So unforgiving. I’ll let you in on a secret—I was scared enough of ink that for A Tale of Two Elders, the inks were done on pieces of acetate (transparent plastic) on top of the watercolors. I claimed it was because I was paying homage to classic cel animation, but honestly it was just because I was afraid of screwing up my watercolors. I was doing a lot of learning-on-the-job with that book so I wasn’t terribly confident with my paints or inks. The acetate method let me relax with my inks because I stopped being afraid of them. It reduced the pressure. I could wipe mistakes away with a damp rag and redo it. If it was lost beyond repair, I just grabbed a new sheet of acetate, and didn’t have to mourn the loss of a watercolor painting as well.

Now it may sound like I did things the hard way (I did, but that’s beside the point), but I had a particular style I was aiming for with that book and that was how I felt I needed to achieve it. I learned to take time with my inks and be mindful of details. I think doing things the way I did was necessary to get me where I am now.

Let’s compare the ink work in A Tale of Two Elders to Papyrus (or any of my dinosaurs). I’ve loosened up, haven’t I? But just because I’ve loosened up, doesn’t mean I’ve sacrificed attention to detail. In fact, I think I’ve gotten better at it, even if it’s a little more abstract.

The more important point though, is that I am no longer terrified of ink. In fact, I love it. I have so much fun with ink. Papyrus was so natural to draw, and when I sit to work on a dinosaur or something with this style of inking, I fall into this rhythm, and it feels so fluid.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”

After all those acetates and practicing and studying and experimenting and testing techniques on guys like Papyrus, I think you can say that qualifies as persistence. I think art can smell fear, because once I stop being afraid of it, I get better at it. My relationship with ink improved when I no longer feared it.

Papyrus is done on Bristol with watercolors and india ink.




  1. Dustin 3 years ago

    “That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.”

    It is amazing how true this statement is. Even more amazing is looking back on the journey and progress we have made through our diligence. Great post. Keep up the great work!

  2. Jake 3 years ago

    Love Papyrus! You are getting better and better all the time! Keep it up!

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