On Scene: Failure

I’ve been using the liquid latex mask like a junkie for almost everything. It seems like the perfect, brilliant solution to every masking problem…Just throw it on there! No problem!

I used this splatter ink effect for shading on this heavily stylized eye reflecting the aftermath of a crash in my comic, while giving a sense of the onlooking character’s shock. If I used regular ink shading, I feel this image would’ve been far too clean, and wouldn’t fit with the current style of my comic. I’ve always been aware of splatter effects, but I didn’t think of using them till I saw Shannon Wheeler use splatter to shade everything in a full-page comic panel in Too Much Coffee Man. (The hand-drawn version of the comic, not the digital…Mr. Wheeler, stop using digital, please.)

I have all the action shots of this because I anticipated it working, but let’s just sum up the failure in a few. This is an example of where using a latex mask, which is rubbery, is a horrible idea. I created a mask over the green/yellow iris with latex, splattered ink, and removed the mask with an eraser – typical process.


For one, I didn’t tilt up my drafting table, which is why most of the ink ended up on my white curtains. Don’t feel bad for me. Those were left-overs from the last tenant. This was situation of pure genius where I decided to wear my favourite white skirt, and yeah – that’s ruined.

Second, it may not be as obvious, but you can see the smudges in the previously masked area of the drawing. The latex mask doesn’t actually absorb ink, it just sits on top. Thick ink splatter does dry, but because ink is really a ground pigment substance suspended in a solution, it’s crumbly and smears. So while I tried to erase this, I ended up actually smearing it into the paper. It was also very difficult to erase because of the ink.

Things got worse from here. I was upset this had failed, especially after ruining my favourite skirt and making a mess. I tried ‘saving’ the drawing by introducing mediums I haven’t used in ages and I hadn’t tested with the style. I tried to cover it up with conte and my pure white gauche solution.


Someone out there might pat me on the back and say, “That’s not so bad, what’s wrong with it?” My boyfriend did. Nope, this is garbage. Everything from the splattering being too inconsistently dense, the composition being kind of off, the image being unclear and not up to par drawing-wise, the eyelashes, this bad solution…

Time to start over. My past experiences have taught me that starting over is actually good. It’s an opportunity to revise and rethink problems that you can only come across by trying to create the image. Some people might avoid this process by just doing lots of tests, but I find this a boring method that actually kills my creativity and intuition much of the time. This is the current state of this one panel.