Who are you, and what do you do?
Oh hello! I'm Lucy Bellwood, a professional Adventure Cartoonist based in Portland, Oregon. I worked as a deckhand aboard traditionally-rigged tall ships before transitioning to a life of words and pictures back in 2010. My first book, Baggywrinkles: a Lubber's Guide to Life at Sea, captures my experience working aboard a tall ship in the 21st century, along with a bundle of interesting nautical factoids.
For shorter minicomics projects I travel and explore in order to bring back stories about life at sea, the natural world, and other new experiences. I've rafted the Grand Canyon (and illustrated during the voyage) twice, explored the feminist undertones of social dance, been to sea on the last wooden whaling ship in the world, tried out a sensory deprivation tank, and a host of other things.
What hardware do you use?
I really love working with physical media, so for travel assignments I carry a modular, home-made watercolor sketchbook made according to Lucy Knisley's sketchbook recipe. (She's got a fantastic video about autobio travelogue comics that includes a section on how to make your own here!) It's 6×9 and pretty sturdy—five vigorous, multi-week outdoor trips and counting!
For paper stock I like working on Fluid cold press watercolor paper or Strathmore 500 Series Vellum Bristol*. I trim down my pages with this NT Cutter utility knife, which I swear by. It's seriously the best knife of its kind I've ever used.
*If I'm doing larger comics work at home, I'll use these sheets full-size for inking on, plus a variety of Kuretake and Zebra felt tip brush pens. I also have a water brush loaded with diluted blank ink for watercolor-like greyscale washes without the mess.
For actual drawing materials in the field: I'll usually bring any old 2H pencil, a Windsor & Newton pocket watercolor kit (though I should note that some of the pans have been replaced with other brands of watercolor—you can squeeze tube watercolor into an empty pan and let it harden to build your own custom kit!), Pilot Hi-Tec-C gel pens (0.3 and 0.4mm), a Platinum Carbon Desk Fountain Pen (a mouthful, I know, but I promise it's cheap), and a water brush.
I also swear by these super nerdy neck lights, which keep my hands free for inking and coloring after dark (they even have a red light setting so you don't damage your night vision!). I'll also supplement them with a Black Diamond Cosmo Headlamp. DON'T RUIN YOUR EYES DRAWING IN THE DARK, KIDS. IT AIN'T WORTH IT.
If I'm not drawing comics that need to be on isolated pieces of paper, my sketchbook of choice is the Hand•Book mid-size travelogue sketchbook, which has delicious, creamy paper that takes watercolor and ink equally well. Super durable, really high quality, not fiendishly expensive.
When I'm working digitally at home I have a Cintiq 13HD and a 13-inch 2014 MacBook Pro. I vastly prefer the 13HD to its predecessor, the 12WX, both for resolution and color fidelity. I don't actually use the touch sensitivity very often, but that probably has more to do with the frequency with which I use it than the features themselves.
I scan my watercolor work on my studio's Epson Perfection V550 scanner, which I can't recommend highly enough for capturing the subtlety of those light color washes. Scanning watercolor accurately can be a huge pain, and this is far and away the best tool I've found for the job.
I keep organized with a Lechturm 1917 dotted notebook and the Bullet Journal method – it really helps me balance the variety of tasks on my plate as a lady with several projects in the pipeline at any given time.
Also Post-It notes. Lots and lots of Post-It notes.
And what software?
Since I self-publish a lot of my work, I need to be set up for the entire production pipeline. I use Manga Studio 5 EX (now known as Clip Studio Paint Pro, I believe) for drawing digitally, but I do still cart around a copy of Photoshop CS5 for additional editing work. Manga Studio is just miles better for drawing comics and getting a natural-feeling inking experience with the Cintiq, which is huge for me. I use InDesign CS5 for assembling comics, print design, and production work.
What would be your dream setup?
Hoo boy this is hard. Uh.
The world's lightest travel camp chair, so I can set up and draw wherever rather than hunching on the ground like a pillbug.
An infinite whiteboard for Post-It organization.
A proper business manager/personal assistant so I don't have to spend my entire life running a small business rather than doing creative work.
A custom-built Pelican case that could hold my sketchbook and protect it from getting soaked in a whitewater rapid the way it did back in 2013.
And I'm even thinking about making a bigger travel sketchbook? Like.. 9×12???
Dream big, Little Bellwood.
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