I got me a Cintiq! Woo hoo!

After lots of research and deliberation, I took the plunge and ordered a Cintiq. It arrived yesterday, and I was so excited waiting for the FedEx truck that I could barely focus on my projects. Each time I heard a big vehicle drive by, I would literally jump out of my chair in anticipation.

I have a Wacom tablet which I’ve used for digital painting, but drawing on a Wacom just isn’t as natural as drawing on a Cintiq. For example, I can actually rotate the Cintiq just like I would rotate a piece of paper while drawing or inking, something you can’t do with a tablet. The CIntiq is large, sturdy, and amazingly natural to draw on. No more drawing on paper means no more time wasted scanning and cleaning up drawings. I can also make changes faster on the computer than on paper, and the Cintiq has several programable buttons and a touch pad for scrolling/zooming that will definitely make my workflow more efficient. It’s amazing, I tell ya! Once I get the hang of it, over time ths machine will definitely pay for itself.

I spent a couple of hours last evening getting it set up and playing around with it. Above is the first piece of artwork I created on the Cinitq.

So far I’ve only discovered one glitch in this otherwise perfect machine. I tried some inking and discovered that, when making vertical brush strokes in Photoshop, the line gets visibly jagged unless I make the stroke really fast. The slower I draw, the more jagged the line looks. But this doesn’t seem to be the case with horizontal or curved brush strokes. Strange. I’ve tried swapping pen nibs and adjusting the settings, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. The lines aren’t terribly jagged, but enough that it will take a little fussing to get a smooth vertical stroke.

I’m also having difficulty figuring out how to calibrate the color on the Cintiq without affecting the color on my main monitor, but I’m sure that can be solved with a little more putzing as well. (EDIT: Figured it out, piece of cake.)

Also, the Cintiq is plenty big. In fact, it’s just a few inches too big for my computer desk. So for now I’ve got it set up on an adjoining drawing table and I’m shuffling the keyboard back and forth between the two stations. Looks like eventually I’ll be making a trip to the office supply store for a new desk.

Still, the Cintiq is a beautiful machine and I am extremely fortunate to have one. Thanks again to everyone who gave me advice and feedback on the decision.

Real Cartoonists

John K has written an article on his blog entitled “Dan Gordon and What Makes a Cartoonist”. John briefly surveys the history of animation and cartoons, pointing out the difference between cartoonists who can draw well structurally but tend to use cliched poses and expressions versus cartoonists who perhaps can’t draw quite as well but who bring a heightened sense of believabilty and authenticity to their characters. Fascinating stuff.

While I don’t agree with John entirely, I do see what he’s getting at. If I were to be honest, I probably see myself a lot more in the “cliche” camp of cartoonists and not enough in the other, perhaps because when I draw I tend to think structually first and emotionally second. But I don’t want to stay where I’m at, I want to keep growing and maturing to the point where I can put more personality and gut-level believability into my drawings.

John K’s blog has some great stuff. It you haven’t lately, give it a read.

Curious George

Last fall I was approached by Houghton-Mifflin about possibly doing a Curious George project. They were looking for an artist who could replicate the style of H.A. Rey, the writer/artist who created Curious George. This is what I submitted. (EDIT: The images have been removed at Houghton-Mifflin’s request until their Curious George project is completed.)

It’s not uncommon for larger publishers to approach several different artists at once and then pick their favorite for a project. In this case, ultimately a different artist was chosen. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

Someone recently wrote me asking if it is hard to land a job working with licensed characters. Well, this marks the fifth time in my career I’ve been approached to work on a major licensed character, but each time either the project fizzled or another artist was ultimately chosen. Hopefully 2007 will be my year!

New! Download My Portfolio

You can now download a condensed version of my portfolio in PDF form. If you are an art director (or you know someone who is), just print the PDF and you’ll have some of my character designs and illustrations for your files. Pretty neat, huh? The mini-portfolio is five pages and contains 25 pieces of art from 13 recent projects. It’s 7MB so it might take a minute or two to download depending on your connection speed.

You can also request a free hard-copy of my portfolio in the form of a glossy booklet by joining my mailing list. Just check the box on my sign-up form and I’ll be happy to pop one in the mail.

Ain’t technology grand?

Finally! A Tablet Computer for Mac Users

The other day I wrote that I was seriously considering the purchase of a Cintiq so I could draw directly on the screen. Then I read about the Modbook, a new computer unveiled today at the Macworld Expo conference. It’s not sold by Apple, but it is a Mac. Made by Other World Computing, the Modbook appears to be a Macbook laptop that has been converted into a tablet computer.

It’s got everything a MacBook would have, except the screen is where the keyboard and mousepad should be. I phoned the company and was told that if you want to use a keyboard and mouse, you have to provide them yourself and then plug them in to one of the USB ports. This seems a little bizarre to me, but if I can draw on the screen I almost don’t care. For only a little more money than a Cintiq monitor, I could have what is essentially a smaller, portable Cintiq that is also a fully-functioning computer.

The Modbooks won’t ship until March or April, but hopefully there will be some demo models reviewed on the internet before then. Apple products generally consist of very sophisticated technology and high quality materials, so the thought of someone cutting apart and rebuilding a MacBook makes me shudder a bit. But from the detailed description on the Modbook website, this looks like more than just a hacked-up Mac sold out of some back-alley chop shop. It seems they’ve taken great care to make this a durable, quality machine. They’ve even re-mounted the iSight camera so that it will point directly at the user if he is lying the Modbook flat on his desktop. And they’ve installed an optional GPS capability, something regular Macs don’t have (although why I would need that is a puzzle). It comes with a one-year warranty that can be extended to three years, just like a regular Mac. And the pen/screen interface is designed by Wacom, the same people who make the Cintiq, including low-glare glass that is specially textured to feel like paper. So one can assume that an artist could do some pretty nice drawings with this machine.

If the Modbook turns out to be as good as I hope it is, I will almost certainly buy one.

EDIT: Before I get too excited, I’m going to have to think harder about the missing keyboard thing. When I draw with my Wacom tablet, I still use a lot of keyboard shortcuts (to change tools, resize brushes, rotate and transform, etc.) because keyboard shortcuts are much faster than drag-and-click menus. One of the main reasons I want a tablet computer is to increase my speed/efficiency, but the lack of a keyboard might seriously slow me down. Then again, maybe I could navigate drop-down menus faster with a stylus than I can with a mouse or trackpad? Makes me wish there was a demo model somewhere here in Minnesota that I could play around with.