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Lesson 3 from: The Power Of Your Own Two Hands

James Victore

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Lesson Info

3. Pens

Next Lesson: Sumi Brush

Lesson Info


(upbeat music) Let's move into the next section. It's called Pens because it's about pens. Get it? Good title. Ever since I was a kid, I've customized everything. I didn't call it customizing, I call it, draw on everything. I draw on everything. I used to... I remember having a blue Bic pen and drawing on my jeans in school. I draw on my body, you know, I let other people draw on my body. I customize everything, even to the point where I customize my vehicles. Like I can't ride a stock motorcycle, I have to change it. I have to paint it, I have to change it. Right? I like that personalization. I've talked already about the flaws. I like flaws, I like building them in, you know, making room for those mistakes. So now I'm gonna take you through the pens and the various pens that I use. And I literally just went into my backpack and this is my everyday carry. It literally is everything that I just carry around with me. So I'm ready at any time in a diner or at a bar or at a coffee shop.

I have, you know, pens. I have nice pens for writing. I've got some highlighting colors. I've got, you know, some big ugly pens. So let me take you through these and show you how I use them, show what I do with them. And the first ones I'm gonna talk about are these. And these are very simple pens. This is just a paper mate of what they call a flare pen. And this is a uni-ball. It's just ink with a little ball runner. And I just like these pens because they have just really delicate lines and they make great scribbles. That is that one. And this is kind of a different line. It just depends on what kind of thickness I want. Okay? You can see when you start going too fast with this one, it doesn't really work as well. It comes out a little gray, which is desirable at some points, right? And what I use these for is I use these for a lot of lettering. And the way I would letter is I would letter very small and either have it a very controlled cursive or not cursive, you know, typography and mix the letter forms up. Or get going really fast. Right? So I get these really nice, really lyrical shapes. I don't use them on tracing paper as much as maybe in a sketchbook. This is actually this pen with my daughter, Nova's drawing. So I would draw in this. And I literally would... This could end up being work. You know, this could end up in a job. And I would just cut the page out, take it to my scanner and figure out what size it's gonna be, right? I might mess with the density to get the line a little thicker or a little thinner, but I really don't mess with things too much. I actually don't even clean things up. I think you've seen already. When I scan things in, I actually don't clean them up that much either. You're gonna see either in this chapter, in the next one, a lot of splashy things that happen with different pens. And I like that quality. I want that in my work. So I will use this pen, particularly in conjunction with some of these other pens. Like this is a Posca paint pen, right, with a fat little edge on it. So I would mix these two together to get this kind of balance, right, when I'm working. Or try to go even with a bigger pen, bigger paint pen. But let me show you one of those. So I carry different versions of these. Again, these are these... Just have this wonderful edge on it. And one thing to look at is when I'm using these pens, I don't draw like a pencil, right? I actually use them straight up and down 'cause I want the full force of that tip. Just make sure you don't push too hard, 'cause that will make everything leak out. It'll make the pen leak, which maybe you want that in like a total like near graffiti crank style where it's just, you know, dripping out. Something else to talk about. When you're using these and getting them started and you're shaking them, always keep the cap on, right? 'Cause there's some crazy accidents that might happen and you just go prrr and they smudge all over your nice paper. I actually like what's going on right here. Even with this thing, I like this layered effect. What would be really groovy is to, you know, go in after, maybe I would draw some color thing after, and then in the computer, combine them, you know, so I can get some kind of like... You know, I could get this kind of effect, but not have the yellow pick up the black, you know, just have it kind of underneath there. That might be pretty sweet. I gotta clean that off. So what I wanna get into right now is, these are pretty much ready-mades. They have this, you know, this bald-shaped tip on them, right? That's kind of a given. We don't customize that tip. But let me show you the big guys. So I got this pen here. Let me show you this. So if you can see, this tip is a little mangled, it looks a little arthritic, right? It's kind of more like a mop than... Or a brush than the pen. And I'll show you how I get that. And one of the reasons why I like it is 'cause I can get all those different widths and all these different kind of crazy angles. And depending on how much it's customized, how much we customize, how much we change this tip, you can get different effects. But let me show you how we do that. Actually, I like this thing too. Dang! There's some good work going. God, God, I'm really good at my job. Okay. Let me show you how it works. So when you buy the pen... I just took the plastic coating off this one. This one's brand new. And when you buy the pen, it looks like this. And here's the funny thing. It's got a chisel tip, meaning the tip of the pen actually looks like that, right? It's got a chisel tip to it. I don't know why, what is it? 1800? We're all like calligraphers over here? You know, I don't understand that. I hate that with a passion. I gotta get in touch with Sharpie and say, "Knock it off. Knock it off." So what I do is, again, I customize everything. I wanna change everything. So what I do is I change this and you can do it a couple different ways. If you pull it out, it's round on the end, right? Round and flat. And if you keep the chisel it's chisel. So I don't wanna live with that. I just can't live with it. So what I'll do is, again, take the blade and I'll just cut the chisel off, right? It doesn't have to be perfect. Actually, if you're clumsy about it, it's better. I try to straighten it out a little bit. Try to just basically get that tip off there somehow, right? And then comes the good stuff. So this is... I don't know if you can see it, but it is... If I was gonna draw this tip, it has a couple of different layers to it, right? This, this, and this are all different layers. They're all different angles. And that's okay. So what I'm gonna do now is I'm gonna be super careful, 'cause my fingers are at here, right? You don't wanna cut your fingers. So what I'm gonna do now is I'm gonna take this blade and I'm gonna slowly just back and forth, I'm just gonna spin this thing around and start. (brush scratches) You hear that? Very satisfying. So I'm just mushing it up. Ouch! Dang! You're gonna get some blood on this thing. Which might be cool. So then it's all kind of mushy. Try not to touch it too much 'cause, you know, there's a lot of oil on your fingers and it messes things up. Your brushes too. Try not to touch the tip unless you're washing them. So here it is. So now what I'm gonna do since it's brand new, (brush shakes) we get into the, shaky, shaky, shaky. And here there's like... There's a little shaking. You know what's inside there. Right? The thing that's moving, it's children's teeth. They use baby teeth. (laughs) No they don't. Okay. So nothing's happening, right? And that's fine. So what you start doing is start coming it out. Hey, Hey, ink, where is you? Are you in there? Knock, knock, knock, come on out. And what's really great is when I have a workshop, like when I do my camp at Camp Victory, what's really cool is have a table full of people and they're all doing this. And then you try to get them to like tap out, like, okay, you guys start and go... Can you guys come in and... Just like to play, baby. Just like to play. There, there you are. There you are. You can see already that it's not round, it's not perfect, it's just coming out as this weird shape. I may wanna go back in. (James sneezes) You might wanna edit that. Or not, I don't care. You don't have to edit my sneeze. I'm a human being. I sneeze and I sweat and I sniff. Okay, so now we've got this tip that has some character to it. You know, you can see these little bits and when in the corners, in the corners and these little bits and these little brushy marks, those are... So this is working much more... Ugh. Look at that. Look at those beautiful lines. Working much more like a paint brush than a pen. Ah, look at that, all those extra little lines. Now the interesting thing is comes in when you start scanning those and you gotta figure out how to maintain that line. I generally scan only in text. I only scan in like strict black and white 'cause I just want that. 'Cause if you scan in gray scale, you're gonna pick up all the little differences in there. Especially with tracing paper. Because tracing paper, unlike just white vellum, it has its own grayness and it has its see-through quality. So we gotta be careful of that. Okay? But that brings up an interesting point that I wanna talk about now. Let me see if remembered that. Okay. When we're talking about pencils or pens or Bic pens or paint pens or crayons or anything, we're not just talking about the tool, we're talking about the substance, meaning we're talking about what you're drawing on. Like what paper. Tracing paper is different than vellum. High tooth vellum is different than low tooth. Right? I often use these. I'll take these big guys. And if I'm going to dinner with friends, I'll bring this. And basically when we sit down at dinner, I take all the bread plates. I steal all the bread plates off the table. And say if I've taken this bread plate off and it's this big, right? It's a little plate. (paper scratches) I'll draw on the plate and then I'll turn it over, sign the back, and I'll give it back to them and say, "Put that in your bag." (laughs) Right? These on ceramics or these on different materials. Like for example, here, I have another material called Dura-Lar. And this is basically clear vellum. Now, when you're writing on, you can feel the friction between the paper and the pen, right? With a material like this, there's less of it. So it's much more... Or ceramic like plates, there's much less friction. So this feels like ice skating. It's really smooth, right? This is beautiful, smooth line. There's a butterfly. (laughs) Now the problem with scanning this is you can see that there's gonna be a problem 'cause you, you have to really make sure that it's super flat because there's some shadowing that happens because this paper has thicknesses and has a thickness to it, right? You know, the difference in the combination of the pen and the paper, can be used to your advantage. I love lettering on Dura-Lar. I love lettering on... There's another paper called Yupo, which is basically plastic, right? It's white, but it's plastic. And it's really great to draw on. All of these pens, not only do they sound really cute, (James laughs) but they work really well on this thing. One of the reasons why I like working with these pens and why I like customizing them, you know, kind of mucking them up, so the ends come out much more like a mop than a pen is because I want to embrace the flaws. We've talked about this before. And one of my problems with contemporary lettering is that anybody who's generally trying to do contemporary lettering is trying to beat the hell out of the flaws, right? They bring it in the computer, they vectorize it, they start grabbing points, they start noodling and making those curves perfect and stuff. And basically you're getting rid of the humanity, right? I don't want... I always want my work to look like a human-being-made. Like quite frankly like James Victore made it, right? Even if I was a sign painter, would not want my signs to look like all the grocery store signs, right? I wanna embrace the flaws. I wanna embrace that humanity. I work hard to put that into my work, you know. I often have clients where I give them lettering, and the one thing they respond to is like, "Oh, man, that little splash at the end." I'm like, "Yeah, I know. It's beautiful, right?" I love my job. Have I said that yet? I love my job. Okay. So taking you through a bunch of pens. There's homework. So, you know, stick around, there's homework. But what I'm gonna do now is I'm gonna show you some examples of some lettering and possibly some drawing that I've done with these tools. Again, I use these tools just to make marks. I use these tools to do lettering and sometimes drawings. And I don't hide the fact that I can't draw. I'm not a good drawer. Okay? I don't wanna get good at anything. So here we go. Let's see what we got here. Here is some basic, some lettering that actually comes from my book, comes out of Feck Perfuction. You can see I started here and I made a mistake. So I changed it out with this. It's about as close to perfection as I get. Let me see, where is that one? Like to build in the flaws. There's there's the big... There's two of these pens. This is this pen and this is this pen, right? So I used two different pens in there. There's a beautiful spread. Ah, let me show you this thing. So this is just a smudge of a pen and then just literally writing this out with probably this pen or this. Literally that one, they last forever. There's the title, the eponymous title of Feck Perfuction with a little... But what I wanna see here is have I done any... There it is. So this is important. This is important where I am not afraid to literally publish my mistakes. If I spell something wrong, I'll just cross it out and just keep going, right? That's not only is important to me, but it's beautiful, right? I was just in a museum recently and looking at (indistinct) work or Franz Kline's work. And seeing the artwork that really has a typographic feel, but it's so free and so loose. And I want to aspire to that. Okay? So crossing things out, and here's that, here's this piece. So this is change the world, start here, start now. And there's literally it showing up in the book. Okay? Scan it in, done, right? Okay. So that's one piece from there. Ah, here is the Feck Perfuction thing. So here's one of these versions... One of these going with that was the page that I... It was the page that I just showed you. Perfection pen, perfuction pen. I like that. Don't know what it is. Here's a secret project. I can't show you just yet. This is actually just a blue pen and it's the actual artwork for a Do book that's gonna be coming out. And it's called Do Drama. And the idea for me was to write a few lines and then scribble them out to kind of show the writing process literally, or at least my writing process. So again, writing some things and not being happy and scribbling them out. This book isn't out yet, but maybe we can find a sneak preview. Ah, here's something I wanted to share with you. Okay. This is from the book. This is from Feck Perfuction, but it's actually a drawing that I had done probably a year before the book came out. And the way it works is this, another really great pen. This is just a white out pen, right? The kind we hardly ever use. I don't even know who uses a white out pen anymore. I mean, used to be for typing, right? So it's got this fat little thing, which is kind of used to squish and you squeeze the ink out of the tip and these tips dry up pretty easily. So you gotta make sure it's covered and then get the ink to flow, but it comes out... There you go. So it comes out like this. Right? So you can just squeeze it, you squeeze it and it comes out like that. You see? And that is how this came about. And it's just a catalog of a page from an art catalog where I just drew fat, dumb, poor, and ugly over the girl's head. And it ended up being reproduced in the book 'cause it made sense for one of the pieces, let's see. And now let's see how the color travels from one to the next. Let's see if we can find this guy, here we go. So there's the artwork. And there it is in the book, right? Even with this line that I kept, you know, that I kept in the thing, it's not important for me to clean everything up. So there you go. So that is white out, another great secret weapon. And this next piece, let me show you, is a... This is a multiple of things. You can see that it is the Denril I was talking about, the clear vellum, right? Where I first wrote the words in this pen on the Denril and then used a... It was a paint marker, but it's a fluorescent orange one, and crossed the mouth. Now the idea in this was that for... It was for my book, for Feck Perfuction. And the idea is the things that I wanted to be when I was a kid. I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to be a musician, I wanted to be a dare devil, I wanted to be a writer and I wanted to be a comedian. Somehow they've all come true. So I literally just wrote it on the Denril and then crossed them off. And the reason they're on Denril is because I had this photograph of... It's very cute young boy, me, and you can see, it looks... I put it on a color copier and made it look like it was sitting up a little bit like literally just sitting on the table, and I wanted to draw on it. But I was having problems getting the kind of correct color and the correct look. So I figured out how to put Denril over it and then figured out how to properly scan it in, so I could get that look. So this is the original piece. And then let's see what it looks like in the book. Boom. See? It has graded down a little bit, mostly because this is uncoated paper, an uncoated paper. You know, when the original stuff looks great, you put it on the computer, it looks fantastic because it's lighted from behind, right? But then you print it on uncoated paper and it's like having a guitar where you got it in tune, it's like going, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. And then you print it on uncoated paper, it goes, ding, ding, ding, dang, dang, dang. But you gotta be cool with that 'cause that's just what happens with uncoated paper. If I chose glossy paper, everything would look great, right? So there's that piece. Couple more things. Another piece for the Do book. This was the back of a magazine that they took out an ad, and I literally did the drawing with this pen and this pen. You can see the two different pens here. And then ran it over just some watercolor that I had done actually for another Do book. So I do a lot of repurposing of art using the lettering from here or something I made previously and put it into my book, right? So there's just some clumsy lettering. Here's some more clumsy lettering for a Vox Lounge Magazine. Really nice, big thick like cloud, underpainting of white, right? Under painting of white. And then just doing, again, two different pens. And it just says, "And then you die." And there I made... There were some other illustrations of mine in here that... Like this one, there is no truth. I have no idea what that means and that's why. It's just like, I was playing on the idea of psychology and therapy memes on the internet, right. So the image behind makes no sense. It's not important. Here's a couple of other magazine covers where I just used lettering. This was for Smithsonian Magazine. It just says, "Genius happens." And I used Albert Einstein's face and put some color behind it. And I don't know, it sounded funny at the time, and they published it. So that's how that works. I'm sure there was a very logical, very erudite intellectual reason for it. Yeah, right. Here's a magazine cover for Wired Magazine that says, "Love music again." That's one of my favorites. I love this cover. They did a great job reproducing this and this fabulous quest love photograph. I love this one. And that lettering was probably about that big to begin with. And here are a couple of pages from... I had mentioned before Entrepreneur Magazine, where I was writing articles. And here's a unicorn that I drew and then just dropped some lettering and then did some kind of, you know, that smudge in the back was just done with a brush. And then I dropped in some other colors that I had done. That was always ask for more. And the reason it's a unicorn for always ask for more is there's a saying that I like that, "If you want a pony, ask for a unicorn." You see, 'cause it's always gonna get taken down, but you're gonna get what you want, you see? So ask for more. Here's another page for... And this is a couple of different techniques at once. So this is the page for Entrepreneur Magazine, an art piece called Do the Work. Do the work, do the work, do the work. If you're gonna take any of these techniques and use them, you gotta do the work. It means you gotta do the homework. It means you gotta practice, right? And practice and just keep practicing. You don't wanna make your work look like mine. You wanna make it look like yours. And that takes practice and takes trusting yourself and takes trusting your client, okay? So here's what it look like in the magazine, Do the Work. And this is how I did it. It's actually just a couple of different words. See the line, this rule is on a separate piece. This is on a separate piece. Do the... Oh, and actually every letter here is on a different layer, right? And underneath is just taped this heart, this cut out heart. And they're all just taped on. And I scanned it in and it held all of the bits, right? All the tape and all the... And I loved it. And they published it. Okay. And they published it because I had instilled in them, the confidence that I believed in this, right? I didn't have to say anything. I didn't have to fight for it. I sent it in like this, okay. I, you know, always ask for more. Here's another page from Entrepreneur Magazine. It's the secret of the universe. And again, this is just lettering where we dropped underneath, we dropped, you know, an image of the universe. So that's the secret of the universe. And I'm very happy breaking words up, very happy scribbling things out and starting over. You know, these things make me really... They make me giddy. And even just... It felt unbalanced, so I put this arrow in, right, at the last minute, because the whole thing kind of... It just felt like it needed more, right? And the secret of the universe... You know the secret of the universe, right? The secret of the universe is nobody knows Jack shit. We're all just making it up. Okay? And you have the answers. And the last piece I wanna show you is this oversized magazine called Tablet. This was the first issue of Tablet Magazine. And I worked with a really smart art director. And he said, "James, we're gonna get... We want you to paint on a chair." And I said, "Let's do it." And they got this big, expensive photo studio. And I showed up and there were three different chairs. And they said, "James, we don't know which one to do, could you do all of them?" I said, "Are you gonna pay me three times? 'Cause if you pay me three times, I'll do three chairs. But right now let's do the gold one." And they said, "Okay." (laughs) So this is just a real chair with a plastic covering on it. And I used a bunch of different sizes of pens, even ones bigger than this. Like they had one that was... I mean, these are obviously a very big pen and these use the black and the white. There are white versions of these. I generally don't like the color versions 'cause they just... I don't think the colors are very strong. And I just I'm attracted to black and white. So that's the front of the chair, and then for shits and giggles, I painted the back, and they published that as well. So that's the back of the chair. Right? So that's how I... That's how I use and customize and play with all the different pens that I like. Now, homework. Watch this. So one of the ways I started goofing around and playing and trying to find my chops and trying to find out what different pens I wanted to use and different tools is, I used to hang out late in my studio. I would go around the corner to a magazine store and I would buy W Magazine. W was a big fashion magazine. And back then it was oversized. So it had like big photographs, like big photographs with nothing on them. So I would buy W Magazine, and I would have a paint pen, or even just start off with just a sharpie, right? And I would basically have a challenge to myself. I'd have a glass of wine and I would just like challenge myself to go through every single page and draw on it, put a mark on it, change it, alter it, make it say something else, you know? And through that exploration of trying not to just draw the same thing on every single page, through that exploration, I got to some very interesting places. And I actually found out that I really love drawing on existing work. If you take me to a photography exhibition, I'll look at the photographs, and I'm like, in my head, I'm already putting fluorescent orange typography on them. You know, whether it's El vertigo or Cooper black or my handwriting, right? 'Cause that's like a ready made for me. I'm like, you know, I wanna alter and customize, right? I wanna customize every everything. Even somebody else's art. So homework is, I was at visiting a client recently in Houston, right? Who actually picked me up in his private plane, which was very cool. That was my ride, the private plane. But we went to the Menil Collection. We went to a museum in Houston and I bought this book. And the reason I bought their gallery catalog is because they had these big pieces of art on white. There were a bunch of these, right? Look at this, all these things. I love... I will go through this book occasionally and find different images that I wanna alter, okay? And I'll literally, I'll cut it out. Maybe drawing on this makes sense for... Is fun for me. So I'll cut it out and I'll fold it up and stick it in an envelope and send it to somebody, you know, as a gift. Because I just like drawing on existing pages. So what I want for you to do in your assignment, I want you to go out and find a magazine or a catal... Or you know, a book or a picture book, you know, something inexpensive. Get yourself a pen, if you wanna start off with one of these big suckers and start customizing it yourself, awesome, go there. Don't cut yourself. Right? Put the cap on where you're shaking it and just start drawing, just start making stuff, right? So go through a picture book and start altering the pictures. This one calls to me. But I actually cut this page out earlier. I thought these guys were really great. And you know, like what I'd probably do is, so I make lunch notes every day for my kids. So I've got two notes that I have to make every day. And this catalog is gonna be fodder for a lot of the drawings. It's just a card that says, "I love you." You know, it just a funny little drawing for my kids to say, "I love you" in their lunch box. So I would... You know, maybe I could just draw, you know, turn these guys into little characters, right? You know, this one I'd give this one a balloon, you know, maybe. Oh, a heart-shaped balloon. That's funny. This one will go to my daughter, you know? And this guy is, I don't know, he's like farting out of his mouth, I don't know. It's not supposed to be good, it's just supposed to be fun, okay? So don't try to make anything perfect. Don't try to make anything, you know, too elaborate. Just find a new tool, maybe it's a paint pen, maybe it's something as simple as, you know, as one of these pens, and just go in and start, you know, start making. And using existing art is a great kind of way for... A great push start for me to get to making stuff. And who knows, you know, maybe you'll be like me and then you'll have like drawers full of these really quirky, really fun images that'll show up in your work later. I'm James Victore. That's pretty much everything I know about pens and some homework. Go get it, do your thing, have fun. I'll see you later. Adios. (upbeat music)

Ratings and Reviews

Lucy McConville

What a great class! This guy is so REAL, and clearly so excited by what he gets to do for a living! His examples of what can be achieved with simple tools are very inspiring. Mostly, it was his attitude toward creating, and life in general, that truly lifted me up! Yeah, Man, we can use more of that these days! Thanks James!

Linda Ryan

Wonderful reminder of the "power of the pencil"! I have been drawing since age 3 (maybe 4). I would watch Howdy Doodie try to draw the characters.... and guess what pencil I was given....the old 2HB. Thanks for the reminder. :))


Victore helped me to let perfection go and just listen to the words coming from my heart. This course encouraged me to start my book artwork right after finishing this course.

Student Work