Tonoharu: Part One, by Lars Martinson

I was browsing the comics section of the local library for something interesting to read when I stumbled upon this, the first book in the Tōnoharu series of graphic novels by Lars Martinson. I don’t think I had ever heard about the title before, so it was a lucky find. Why, you might ask? Firstly, because the story is set in Japan, which is appealing to me because I spent almost a full year as an exchange student in Kyoto. Secondly, because I found Martinson’s style very interesting, thinking it would be fun to analyze.

This book is split into a prologue and a Part One. The prologue actually takes up about one fifth of the 105 pages of story, and it introduces a guy who I can only imagine is the man behind the book, Lars Martinson. He’s an assistant English teacher working at a junior high school in the rural town of Tōnoharu in Japan. The prologue introduces a little bit of his situation, how he’s the single westerner in the area, how he’s doing in the workplace and the general ups and downs of living in Japan. Before him stands an important choice; does he want to stay and work for another year, or has he had enough of Japan?

In the Prologue, we also catch a glimpse of the main character in the book, Daniel Wells, who is explained to be the predecessor of the guy I assume is Mr. Martinson. Daniel Wells (shown in the third panel on the sample page to the right) is a worried-looking, quiet kind of guy, and he’s just landed a job as an English teacher in Japan. In Part one, we find out that he has little idea about how to deal with his new job, and he tries to seek help from a fresh acquaintance; a girl named Constance living in a nearby town, also an AET. Daniel does his best to get to know her better. He is clearly feeling lonely, and his pursuit of her attention becomes a main topic. There are also a strange group of wealthy Europeans living in an old Buddhist temple in Tōnoharu. It is said that they’re an unwelcome bunch, but it also happens that they’re the only foreigners other than Daniel living in that rural town.

This graphic novel is an entertaining and very quick read. Furthermore, it made me want to read the next book, just to find out what will become of the lonesome protagonist. The pace of the storytelling is steadfast and on the slow side, which can be very relaxing, with only a few deviations from the most observed 2×2 panel layout per page. Art-wise, it’s expertly drawn with a lot of thought and detail going into backgrounds environments. The characters are drawn simplified with very simple body language, including such subtle changes like shifting the direction of a character’s eyes ever so slightly, or going from a tiny smile to a tiny frown. When you first notice these subtleties, the character emotions seems to convey even stronger.

I would highly recommend picking up this graphic novel. It’ll surprise you with its clear, yet complex art style. The environments Lars Martinson draws are simply impressive. The story also gives an insight into how being a foreigner in a strange land can be both confusing and challenging, not to mention lonely.

Sketchbook Sunday #17 – Linearting

I said I would ink these sketches I drew a few weeks back, and on Friday I finally sat down to do it. Well, I did at least get around to finish the Arrietty-inspired elfin girl. Although I don’t like my scanner’s lousy output, it’s nonetheless better to scan an inked drawing rather than taking a photo of it. The main problem with my scanner is that all of the lines get jagged, and I can’t possibly imagine that it has something to do with the paper quality (I used bleedproof, smooth paper).

Next up is colors. I think I’ll do a digital version as well as one with markers. The challenge, I think, will be indicating a light source and make the cast shadow of the leaf look good.

Touch Twin brush marker review

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a company called Global Hobby. Their main business is import of art and craft supplies, and they distribute a wide range of products to various outlets in Norway. They asked if I was interested in a few product samples, to which I answered something along the lines of “Free art supplies? Of course I want some!”

The main samples in question were the Touch Twin markers from ShinHan Art, specifically the new kind with a brush nib. Just as a side note; I get the impression that the ShinHan Art brand is a new addition to the arsenal of Norwegian art stores, as I was first introduced to the Touch Twin marker just last year. I hope someone will correct me if I’m wrong…

The markers are available in 168 colors, and the marker itself looks professional, has rounded edges and feels good in the hand. Imprinted on the flat, colored area of the caps on both sides are the color name and number. As a downside note, it’s not possible to “click” the cap from the tip you’re using onto the end of the opposite cap. This might not matter much, depending on how likely you are to make a mess with loose caps when using several colors at the same time. The brush tip is very enjoyable to use. It provides enough suppleness to give a wide variety of brush strokes, but it’s also very handy for small details. The chisel end is useful for coloring large areas. The ink flow seems to be generous, but luckily not exceedingly so, and the color itself is lush and brilliant. Although the official product description says that the ink is odorless, it’s not hard to notice a smell from the alcohol based ink. But it’s not particularly strong and doesn’t bother me much.

Here’s a little test I did with the YR33 Melon Yellow I got (clicky for full size). It shows that the color gets richer and more saturated with more layers. To obtain a solid color without the strokes showing, I would recommend going over the area 3-4 times with the chisel nib. Alternating between horizontal, vertical and diagonal strokes also helps. The paper I used for this test was from one of the product samples I got; a pad of Fabriano 240g/m² drawing paper. The test also shows line variation and brush flexibility with light and hard pressure.

It’s pretty obvious that ShinHan Art’s markers are competing with Promarker and Tria markers from Letraset and Copic markers, just to mention a few of the currently popular brands. They’re aimed at fashion designers, illustrators, comic artists, architects, crafters and the like. There is a handful of videos on YouTube where the Touch Twin is shown “in action”. Still, the majority of marker coloring videos feature for example Promarkers and Copics. Personally, I really liked using the Touch Twin Brush. I could get used to the professional feel, brilliance of color and the versatility of having a brush tip.

I also got a few other products from Global Hobby; a few Micron fineliners and the aforementioned pad of thick 240g/m² Fabriano drawing paper. I might just have to compare the Microns and the Uni Pin fineliners I’ve been using a lot lately. But that’s another review…

Sketchbook Sunday #16 – Moving pixels

Would you look at that, I managed to animate the pixel art portrait I made a couple of weeks ago! Doesn’t that coffee look good now?

This wasn’t actually what I was going to post today, but it’s kind of late now to start taking pictures and writing about my current “project”. In short, I’ve been trying to sketch a character design to be used in a very short comic story which I may or may not be making in the two weeks to come. The reason behind the “may or may not” is that the deadline is April 1st, and it remains to be seen if I can make something decent or not. I will try my best to publish updates and sketches along the road. Until next time, enjoy your coffee!

WIP – Collaboration comic

Fellow artist and friend, Mariann Eriksen, colored the half-finished comic I posted before. I think the result is awesome. The coloring generally makes it much more interesting to look at, and her choice of bright colors and subtle shading is very energetic. I can recommend visiting her blog, MREdesign, where she shows off her creativity in many different ways. Among other things, she’s making a cute and charming children’s book about “Howard the duck”.

Colored WIP comic

I spliced the two pages so that it’s easier to get an overall feel of the coloring (click the image to view it in full size). It might look a little weird, but that’s because there’s supposed to be six panels per page, and the last two on the second page were intentionally left blank. It has been a couple of weeks since I sat down to draw this comic, and seeing it again now makes me want to draw a lot more comics!

Sketchbook Sunday #15 – Monochrome depth

So, I’ve got about fifteen minutes left of this sunday to write and post this. I want to go to sleep really bad, but I’ve been working on this little tidbit for the sole reason of having something to show here today. I want to keep up the rhythm of always having at least something to post on a Sunday, despite not really having sketched or drawn much this week…

Not much to say about this small portrait really… I used Sakura Micron pens to make the original lineart, having first sketched the girl on a sheet of marker paper. I decided to practice how to make the lineart a different color, and also to try and give the character some shading to indicate depth. I tried to stick with a monochrome color scheme, and went for a shade of turquoise to suit her… slightly confused style… Is it just me, or is it hard to imagine a punk-rock girl dressing up in a top with a ribbon and a bow? Also, that thing on her nose is supposed to be a piercing… I looked at it just now and thought “Huh, that kinda looks like a wart”.