Master Of The House

Well, maybe not when Gladys is home, but when it comes to being a master of the comic art form, you will be hard pushed to find a better example than Ian Kennedy. Ian has been drawing for an incredible 67 years and has been freelance for 64 of them.

And now that Ian is enjoying his autumn years, he has managed to slow down his output to the stage where he is able to pass on some of his wisdom to those of us who are eager to listen and pick up any tips that we can. Ian kindly gave up his time to put on two Masterclasses at the Dundee Comics Creative Space as part of the 2016 Dundee Literary Festival. As we can see from the initial photograph, he was ready to create art and tell me off for taking pictures of him!


One thing this Masterclass drove home to me is how little a truly great artist needs. As you can see, Ian has three tubes of acrylic paints in the three primary colours, plus a couple of spares and a tube of white. You can just see that Ian has two paint trays for mixing his washes, two jars of water, a number of brushes and just on the right, you can see his secret weapon of a hairdryer! More on that in a little while.

The preparation that Ian carried out for each Masterclass was to prepare a picture upon which he could demonstrate his acrylic technique and he spoke about his use of pens that create a picture that looks like an ink but can be erased and changed just like pencils. A great saving to any artist, but when you see how Ian’s pencils look, you wonder why he would put inks on them as they look gorgeous as they are. But each layer of work that is added only enhances each picture of Ian’s, so on Saturday, we started with the Mekon.


And Ian self-deprecatingly described his acrylic technique as the same as any colouring book where he stuck to putting in the colours without going over the lines too much. And after the first 30 minutes, we had progressed to an almost complete background with Ian giving us some of the secrets of his work.

The first being that he waters down his acrylics to a wash that he uses to add colour and depth to his pictures. So he applies one wash after another to get the depth of colour that he wants. However, as he is doing washes, the problem is that it soaks the board and is almost unpaint-able until that layer is completely dry, which is where his secret weapon comes in. Using a hairdryer, the wash dries in mere seconds rather than minutes or hours for a particularly heavy layer. So between layers, we were treated to the whirr of a fairly hard used hairdryer as it dried out the board ready for the next layer.

The only time when he would not completely dry the previous layer was when he wanted to gradiate the colours into each other. And by keeping the layer slightly wet, it would allow the merging of the colours.


We were then treated to a further use of Ian’s layering technique to enhance the depth of the colours in the background and watching the blue of the sky become almost black was a revelation as Ian was only using primary colours to do this.

As Ian continued to refine the background, it was stunning to see the colours changing in each part of the picture. During this refining part, Ian was asked if he would always start with the background and Ian was happy to say that it was dependent on each picture as to whether he would do the background or the characters first and we ended up with this result.

Even with the deft use of light strokes, his mottling of the moon just adds to the menace of the picture.


Now Ian was getting into his stride and started on the star of the picture, the Mekon. With the use of washes, specific applications to different areas, Ian was able to create the feel that the light source was coming from the top left of the picture and we have a figure that becomes more menacing with each passing brush stroke.


But as it is a space picture, so how can it be without a reminder of the vastness of the galaxy, the star themselves and the annotation of approval of the Master illustrator himself?


Per Ardua Ad Astra

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