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M/W/F homeschooling webcomic

author's journal

Tue September 27 – Why I use ink

Those of you who know me know I’m a bit of a nerd.

I grew up playing computer games. Dad had me sitting on his lap programming in Logo at age 4. I make money by making websites, I’ve been known to read /., and I can’t bear to consider a life without wireless internet or my own personal web server.

So why do I draw Daywood Academy on dead tree pulp?

Right now, it is possible to create wonderful finished artwork on computers. Computer art can do things that paper art just can’t. The deciding factor for me isn’t about capability or end products per se, as these often are better digitally, but rather about the relative usability of the medium, and more than that, the pleasure involved in its use. There’s a gap between how much fun it is to work with ink and paper and how much fun it is to work wired.

Three things would bridge that gap, for me:

  1. The Cintiq. (35% towards digi-drawing joy.) This has been here for a few years. I saw one “live” in the mac store in Sarasota when they were new. I wanted it. I couldn’t afford it. I still can’t. What I have is a Graphire 2 (thanks mom!), and it’s swell, but having my hand do something over here that results in changes over there doesn’t make a lot of sense. My brain has to do a certain amount of pretending that my cursor and my pen tip are the same thing, and it doesn’t take much to spoil the illusion. The worst is when I move and the tablet ends up oriented a few degrees differently than the screen – I draw my hand down towards me and end up with a diagonal line instead of a “vertical” one.
  1. Haptics (45% towards digi-drawing joy.) This is probably the deal breaker for me. Moving plastic against plastic is very, very, very un-sexy. Some of the first advice I got when I started using a tablet was “put a piece of actual paper over the tablet”. It helps. But how much better if … my paint program and my tablet-of-the-future agreed on the texture of my “paper”. If the tip of my “pen” changed its size, shape, and consistency/resistence to match whatever tool I was using (brushes! erasers! smudge sticks! They don’t feel like plastic … Wacom gives a little of this to their high-end users). If “paint” had some viscosity. Yeah. That’d be fun.
  1. Digital paper (20% towards digi-drawing joy.) Truly this is the least of the reasons to keep working towards digital paper (it’d probably go 100% of the way towards digi-reading joy). While the previous things would make my hands happy, my eyes deserve something too, and a reflective surface would do the trick. If said surface was thin, roll-able, lightweight … that’d be even better. Cheap and waterproof would also be good. I reckon this will be the longest coming.

The things my computer can do now that paper can’t are awesome (and more such things are on their way, but they’re all about capabilities rather than the pleasures of the process. Infinite canvasses, consistent colors (with each other, I mean – cross between software or even hardware and you’re screwed), endless copies, layers!, perfect erasing, vectors! and their any-resolution curves, filters, color adjustments, 3d modeling, mathematically derived geometry (free hand drawing a circle is great practice, unless I need an actual drawing of a circle) … animation is easier, environmental impact is (probably) less, no ink-stained fingers … I don’t have any software designed specifically for drawing (I have photoshop, illustrator, poser, blender, and flash), but I imagine if I did it would let me do things like set some vanishing points and snap lines in line with it and let me move it and have the lines move. That would be cool. Also I’ve never run out of photoshop and had to run to the store for more. (Although “more photoshop” costs more than “more india ink”.)

Well, there you have it. My rationale for shacking up with paper for my next several hundred hours of learning to see things, remember what they look like, imagine what other things would look like, and tell my fingers what to do with that knowledge. Oh, and you want to know why I do the lettering by hand? That’s easy. It’s 'cause I hate my fans.