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  • hilarybarta

A Brush With Destiny

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Many years ago Canadian artist George Freeman was visiting Chicago, and somehow he ended up in my apartment. Possibly for one of the wild Halloween parties my roomate and I were hosting back then. He was probably in Chicago for a convention, or because he was doing something for First Comics. First art director Alex Wald might have brought him. George is an amazing artist, and was known to me as the artist on Captain Canuck. In any case, George wandered into my studio and looked at the current inking job on my drawing board. He asked a simple question. "Why aren't you using a brush?" At the beginning of my caeer in comics I was an inker, and I was using a crow quill pen to do most of the work. George immediately saw that I was pushing the pen to create lines for which the brush was best suited. Sometimes I pushed the quill so hard to make fat tapered lines that the quill would snap, ink splattering across the page. Why was I using the pen to do the job of the brush? I was afraid.

When I got my first inking work I was intimidated by the professional pencil drawings I had to ink over. I lacked confidence in my control of the brush, and was using the more easily mastered pen as a crutch. George's question hit me like a bucket of ice cold truth, and from that very day I started using the brush as much as I was able. I became more and more comfortable with the brush, and it has been my primary inking tool for decades. When I switched to the brush I found my home as an artist. My own little inky planetoid. Thanks for the push, George.

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Apr 13, 2021

I had the exact same experience coming to work at WildStorm- except reversed. I was a brush guy, but Tom McWeeney, Scott Williams, and Alex Garner showed me I could be a nib guy too (and needed to be, were I to continue to work at WildStorm!). Always have been thankful to other pros for being willing to share how to get things done- it certainly aided and extended my career. Cheers, Hilary!


Apr 13, 2021

I hate using markers--it still feels like chating. But I love the Pentel Colorbrush, though I dip it in real ink. The stuff that comes in the resevoir takes too long to dry.


Apr 12, 2021

It was much the same with me and Wally Wood. Before I started working for him I never used a brush. I used pens with variously sized nibs. But Woody basically pooh-poohed that, saying, more or less, "Pens are good for some things, but to get a good line you need to use a brush." I started practicing my feathering with a brush -- a Windsor-Newton #4, as I recall -- doing page after page after page of brush stroke feathering. It didn't take me that long to gain proficiency, and ever after that I used brushes. Until, that is, a few years ago when I discovered the Japanese brush pens! Those guys are GREAT! No more dipping, no more ink…

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