Wednesday, July 06, 2011

actually drawing on a PC

Here at the Linuxville chateau things are a changing. As you can guess I am the most scatter-brained artist who ever lived. Most of the artist I know have this focus like a laser to get projects done. Me, more like a flashlight. You've got to understand the media I'm working with is so vast. A traditional artist might say here's pen and paper, so I draw. I say here's the computer, the software, how do I proceed to draw.

I do have an ancient laptop which is my tool of availability and a digital drawing tablet. The tablet is a Wacom Graphire 2 about as old as the laptop. I never used the tablet because the cursor jitters uncontrollably plugged into the laptop. It works OK on my upstairs desktop but I don't spend much time upstairs. The other day I had a thought, what if I plugged a monitor into my laptop and see if the tablet would work better. So plugging my 14" CRT into the laptop brings the following revelations besides I should have tried this years ago.

I now have dual monitors but the same image on both. I don't think I can get split screens, this is OK. The color is richer on the CRT and the image more precisely focused on the laptop's LCD. Then somehow when I plug in the drawing tablet the jitters are gone. The cursor is rock steady. I am laughing like crazy because my old nemesis has resurfaced, I can't draw well. Sure I have used a sketchbook to record ideas but hand drawing a finished picture I can't recall ever doing. I am a draftsman, used to drawing with instruments. Even using computer aided drafting software (CAD) is basically instrument drawing. In my artwork I have used mostly what is known as vector drawing. This is the equivalent to instrument drawing with shapes and color fills. To draw on the computer similar to drawing or painting on paper is called raster or pixel drawing. Whats the diff?

With vector the end points of a line are marked then connected. The line between the recorded points can be altered by moving the line or the end points. It all stays connected. With raster or pixel drawing a line is a trail of independent pixels. If you want to move them, you've got to select all of them. It's just a line of dots and you can erase any of them the same as a pencil line on paper. It is said that vector lines are intelligent (they bend and stretch) and raster or pixels are more natural. On the computer you can make one look sort of like the other but pixel drawing can resemble more closely the natural way things look when we draw them with natural media. The big thing is that in vector you can draw a postage stamp and scale it up to a billboard size with no loss of composition. Scaling a pixel postage stamp spreads the pixels, the image gets fuzzier (pixelated) until it's just a array of widely spaced dots, the picture is gone.

Well the fun part is that both kinds of drawing are before me to mess with. And the computer can assist to extend my meager skills and add a few of it's own (under my direction of course). So just as with discovering how the paintbrush flops and the paint flows, I have to see how the points and pixels do the same on the screen. It's a wide world of experiencing this electronic media. Then there is printing but that's another adventure.

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