COMICS - DRAWING
I liked stories that gave me a chance to draw water and ships sailing into storms and big pictorial panels. It helped take the monotony away from drawing just round-headed ducks all the time. I'd look at pictures of boats or whatever when I was working. While I never copied the layout of any boat, I would always develop one that was so simple I could use it from one scene to another. I really liked to put the ducks into situations where they could be at sea. There is something romantic about harbors and sunken ships that appeals to all kids.
Barks' eye for geographical accuracy is
legendary. When he drew a setting in which the ducks were
wandering around, we are in no doubt whatsoever that that
particular location really looks like Barks drew it.
Whether we are taken to the real and rugged coastline of
Labrador (FC0408 The Golden Helmet) or
to the imaginary spot of Plain Awful (FC0223 Lost
in the Andes) we just know that Barks'
drawings are correct. His eye for detail was most
When you're starting sketching
it is much better to draw the ducks as circles, because
then you get the construction, the basic construction of
the guys. In the next stage their expressions have to be
refined, which is done mostly with patient redrawing and
erasing. When I'm drawing the faces I think about what
their basic emotion is, what they are doing there. Maybe
the little guys are really happy, they think they have
seen a lake of water out in the desert, so I try to show
that emotion in their faces and in their poses, their
eagerness as they look out across the sand and think they
see a lake. They really lean into it. Even their fingers
have to express a certain amount of emotion.
I changed the drawing of the ducks every few years, it seems. My reason was that I would see changes in the movie Donald and realize that my Donald wasn't up to date.
Barks drew hundreds of more or less complicated and inventive machines - that all seem to have been able to function in real life - in his stories: I understand enough about machinery from having been a farm boy. I knew what machines should look like, and gear teeth and sprocket wheels and things were just part of my growing up. I've worked on printing presses and threshing machines and engines and so on, so I know a little bit about the principles of mechanics. I just naturally picked up on the way of drawing the darn things. Even though they were completely crazy machines, they would look like they'd work.
Barks used a well-known technique that is not always recognized by the reader. When drawing his ducks he usually took out a pie-cut shape from their eyes in the opposite direction of where they were looking. In that way the characters' eyes would look more alive and shining and it was also easier to understand what they were looking at.
A certain order
I usually draw the head first, which
establishes the size of the characters, and then I draw
an action line. For example, in a pose the head and the
torso is stretched out. The action calls for them to be
stretched out much longer than they naturally would be.
Their hats have to react - they fly off of their heads.
Their coattails have to fly back in the air.
Breaking a story down into the panels
was quite a bit of drudgery. But that's where all these
little gags would come in - during the business of
breaking it down; little sight gags and little dialogue
gags come at that time. So when I got my plot all broken
down into eight-panel pages and the whole thing written
out and sprinkled with gags, the real pleasure came:
Sitting down to draw.
Drawing the lines
I used a #356 Esterbrook art and
drafting pen which could do everything from thin 'fadeaways'
to broad accented curve sweeps on foreground circles such
as the ducks' forms. The trick of breaking in a new pen,
I discovered, is to soak it for several minutes in the
ink bottle. Then wipe off the ink and the pen's varnish.
For some weird reason most new pens then start out
flexible and free-flowing.
See also THE FRONT COVERS and THE PANORAMAS