Monday, May 31, 2010

the force is with you but requires control

Either we are natural artist or we have developed skills to that end. In any case artists need instruments to channel the force. In digital art the tool of choice could be as clumsy as a mouse or as sensitive as a pen. With my drafting background I got used to drawing with a mouse. Mice are adequate for drafting which is more akin to vector drawing. Vectors are all about lines with end points, connected lines to make shapes and shapes filled with color. Of course it all depends on the type of drawing and vectors do tend to be rather precise.

Drawing with a mouse is like drawing with a bar of soap. Being the average input tool, many of us are used to using a mouse. Drawing with a pen is so awkward at first, it requires a lot of tweaking to match the working end to your way of drawing. The genius of todays pens is that they can simulate pressure and mimic most any drawing tool, brush, ink pen and airbrush. So, the software does one part and you control the other part, as to the line quality. Digital pens require a tablet to transfer the magic to the screen. Pen and tablet is by far the best combo for digital art. My advice, buy Wacom stuff new or used, especially if you are using Linux. Linux has a Wacom driver project and the drivers work well. If you are using MS Windows or Mac, your choices are a little wider. The whole point of a digital pen and tablet is simulating natural drawing instruments. Trying to tweak the pen and tablet and software for the right feel is the trick.

I have a vision of one day using my laptop in remote locations sporting a built-in pen tablet and focusing all my energies into my artwork. Believe it or not this is hard. One reason is the PC can do so much, seems a shame to dedicate one PC to art work alone. As soon as it is connected to the net or internet or you click a non-art application icon your PC transforms into other uses. I lose that artist focus and artist mystique and who wants to have a PC that only does one thing?
Yes we always have to recalibrate ourselves to make things fit us or us things.

Then lets get to the part they don't show you in the movies, actual training. It's hard to believe the force is with anyone when you first hold a digital pen. The best approach is set it and draw and ask stupid what if questions, and don't forget to read stuff. Online searches will yield how-to info, tutorials, but if you don't play with it, you'll never harness the force. The force is different with each of us and to make it flow effortlessly we must practice till the software and the hardware are transparent or second nature to us. Think of a jazz musician who has a tune in his head. If he doesn't know his instrument well, he simply can't make it play what's in his head. That is the whole point, tools are a channel a shaping instrument. I like your humming and air guitar but can you play that on a real guitar in real time? Your fingers need to feel the strings, you must apply that english to bend and stretch notes and use silence with sound to create drama. So, you must do equal amounts of serious study with serious play. Fooling around is skill building and discovery. Don't get lost, study and play.

I am also looking for kindred souls, because when you have a group you can challenge each other by encouraging help. You can inflame egos and put them out too. When you leave the group to do your thing, you are not alone. That is called community. It's good to venture out, good to come home to friends. You can calibrate yourself and break the rules, because you got a baseline.

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