Fine lines and magnetic sandals


I’m nuts for brilliant comic art – going all the way back (surely Sidney Paget counts, just as Winsor McKay cannot be ignored). One of my very favourite narrative line-men of all time is Will Eisner, whose “Spirit” insert in American newspapers in the forties, was in many ways the first proper serialized super-hero comic book.

His clever and intricate “splash pages” (the big single-drawing opening page, which serves the film-equivalent functions of both title credits and ‘establishing shot’) are still studied to this day as models of the form – but for me it’s the particular fluidity of his line, and especially line-width, that are unmatched. Curiously, he did not use a flexible metal stylus of the speedball/hunt family, like so many cartoonists (traditional weapon of the guild, really), his thing was inking with Chinese brush.

Having done a little work with that same brush as a kid (enough to know how to grind my own ink, hold the brush, and shape the tip) I got very excited when I found out about Eisner’s heavy reliance on this super-powerful, but also tricky to control, master-tool. It’s natural organic quality is very hard to beat!

To all of my cartoonist friends (painters too – but inkers most of all) you owe it to yourself to try one. The brushes themselves are not expensive (they can be, sure, but do not need to be, to explore their value) and the really unique thing is not just the fineness of line possible, but the way you can vary from ultra-fine to super-fat and then thin smoothly back to ultra-fine again in one single stroke (because the brush-head itself acts like a coherent water-droplet, it’s liquid-load reshaping it, as you draw it away from the paper).

This set (and my own last few) are from Village by the grange, just across from OCADU, on the NE corner, in the lovely Chinese gift-shop (nice folks, and also decent cheap reading-glasses!).  Sun Wa also good.

Seriously – bring ten bucks and get a few, or twenty and get a whole lovely boxed set, complete with the slate inkstone (very useful) – you’ll thank me when you get them moving! (load ’em nice and wet, and look-out!)

I love everything about Chinatown – not only was the Sun Wa bookstore my second favourite place to buy comics and art tools as a kid (still thriving a half a block away from it’s original location – now in the Dragon mall) the rich variety of cool (and generally affordable) things to sample and investigate makes for an always stimulating and inexhaustible trove. As I said in a poem, “choices made differently, for reasons just as good”

Just one example of a ‘find’. For about a quarter of a century I very much enjoyed wearing spiky-soled plastic sandals (fakir-crocs?), with powerful magnets embedded at favourable meridian points. (Centre of heel, and just behind the ball of the big toe).

I am not a subscriber to the system itself, mind you (though I do completely adore the fine models of the human body, mapping and describing meridian lines and energy flows).

Those spikes absolutely do stimulate the soles of the feet very nicely (made everything else I walked-on afterward feel pillowy-soft by contrast – including concrete!) and the very fact of the magnets much appealed to my writer-head as a good way to remind myself about the complex situational bias we all carry around like blinkers, which we just zero-out and then think of as ‘normal’, because we happen to be swimming in it.

I really enjoy the thought that some people consider sandals without such carefully placed magnets to be ridiculous and uncivilized – perhaps even barbarically unsophisticated. And yes, I would still be wearing those magnetized and spiky sandals today (and would prove-it with an enclosed photo), if only I could still find some that were big enough for my hiking-splayed clodhoppers!

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