Monday, April 29, 2013

the digital media input device mod

So I showed you a pic of my tablet work, then the screenshot of MyPaint software, now we will look at the digital media input device.

The story goes like this. I really wanted a graphics tablet, really really bad. I got the least expensive one with the possibility of working with Linux OS. Wacom was/is the way to go with Linux OS. I got the thing and tried it out, hated it. The surface was too slick, it was too small and I really didn't have the desire to actually use it. Up in the cupboard it went. I'd pull it down every now and then to see if I had the gumption. I discovered that I was so used to drafting with instruments and with a mouse I didn't trust my ability to freehand draw.

Then after a few years of sketchbook sketching I developed some freehand skills. It was time to pull it out of the closet. What to do about the size and the surface slickness? I taped the tablet to the inside of an old laptop lid, it seemed better to work with. I found an even older discarded laptop. The old laptops were thick with a 12" screen. I removed the lid and took out the screen. Then I cut the bottom edge of the Wacom tablet off by 1/2". It fit right into the display lid. Then I used foam-board to fill in the sides and covered it all with mylar film for a smooth surface. The display frame snapped on perfectly. The slick surface was handled by a square of paper taped to the surface. What? Oh, you want pictures!
On the left the original Wacom Graphire 2, the right the trimmed down and modded. Yes, it works the same just a little bigger and a lot more fun to use.

Friday, April 26, 2013

a picture jumped on the page

MyPaint is an Open Source painting and sketching application that has versions for Linux, Windows and Mac. It is made for the graphic tablet and is quite intuitive meaning, without fuss you can start making scribbles. Learning how to use it to do something with it however takes time.

I want to be a painter, I buy brushes, tubes of paint, canvas, great desire and go to it. I squirt, I brush, I dab, I smear and discover I needed to prepare the canvas first, then proceed to paint with forethought mingled with invent as you go. I'm not knocking traditional media, just that the process is the same but different for PC art. Put things in good order so as to not waste valuable art materials. On the PC it is not so much a waste of materials but time if that is important to you.

I was sitting in the gallery office, had the tablet hooked up and trying out the brushes and backgrounds in MyPaint. Each brush lends itself to a kind of line, texture and evokes a look. Just like with real paints you have to discover what you can do. There are movements that are natural to you, those are sweet spots. There are awkward movements, those are challenges.

Like I said many times I want to start by drawing like I do in my sketchbooks, why? That is what I am used to, sweet spots. Then try to move on. I started with a few pages of brush stroke lines, smears, splotches. Then tried to form some shapes of objects. A picture started to take shape. Ooh, the eraser works and the undo and also the save often (learned that from drafting).

Subject matter is your passion, superheros, spaceships, animals, faces, you know what you want to do. If you give it a start no matter how cock-eyed it looks, eventually you'll work towards a good outcome. Me, I'm not a natural artist which is rare. I'm a home-brewed, dyed in the wool doodler. If you have professional artist desire, go for it, I'm in it because it's fun and I like it. I have a romantic notion of the fine artist of the past. Today most think of a JOB, get some dime for your time. Keep your passions in sight, prepare for opportunity but, do it because you like it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

let me explain

When I look at accomplished artist's work I realize the time it took to get there plus the start was not via top shelf, top of the line, name brand equipment and materials. My cousins drew on butcher roll paper. My dad brought home scrap paper from a scrap paper store (pre-recyclling centers). Nothing like a clean side of a blank sheet of scrap paper.

The equipment was the same way, but I would have to justify buying the best quality stuff with my proven skills and deep pockets. Now let me hone in. Using a PC to do art in a comfortable way requires a tablet and pen input device. If you are just starting to draw this way and look only at the stuff that accomplished artist use, you will "stifle yourself Edith!"

I am not a school trained or from birth art prodigy. The money I make goes for food, clothes and rent. I do doodle, draw, sketch, etc; and I want to do it on the PC which is affordable. Graphic tablets can be on the cheap end and still do the job. That is allow you to move the cursor with natural hand motions and leave a trail of pixels on the screen. Being able to use hand pressure to mimic a real pencil or pen is great, but if you've ever drawn with a ballpoint or felt-tip pen, the line weight is constant. You don't even have to buy a new graphics tablet. You just need to do it, get into it, get use to it. Then when you can move up in the drawing equipment world, you can.

Spanking brand new, top shelf stuff is fine but used is great. Awkward and unfamiliar stuff test your limits, incites workaround wisdom and inventiveness and work ethnic (I mean ethic). Hey I started drafting with pencils, then pen and ink, then computer aided design (CAD). Even CAD is leaps better now than Cad back in the day.

So, go get a used graphics tablet if you simply need to doodle on the PC and quit vexing your mouse. The fewer bells and whistles the more you have to put yourself into it. Keeps the human touch in art.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

sketch what you like

Sketch what you like. I mean that literally. If you are trying out your tablet via tutorials you may make a good attempt, but if you draw what you like it will drive you to draw it like you want to see it. What the first time is not so good! You'll draw it better the next time. Mind you, I'm not the step by step guy here. I do doodle and to digital doodle is the same. I want you to feel your pen and the tablet.

 When I first used a ball point pen for doodling it was messy. Eventually the character of the pen lines plus the occasional ink globs were no longer an unexpected event. When you know what to expect, you trust your tools. Now you can let ideas come through your tools. It is the same with using a paint brush as with a digital pen. You are learning the parameters of the media, the feel, the control, what the output is. Sketch what you like and think about the process. Adjust your input, grade your output.

What I like about drawing and painting digitally, no waste of paper or canvas when trying out stuff or doodling. I can print if and when I want on what ever media the printer will accept and also print via 3rd party printers.

Again draw what you like, that is a motivator. I've been into designing homes using quonset huts and steel cargo containers. Here is a sketch on the digital tablet I popped just before writing this blog post.
Yeah, the house looks like a camera. There is no professional blah blah blah. But the point was to sketch out the idea I saw in my head. I have done this on paper and now I can do this on the digital tablet. Woo, woo, lookie what I did!!!!!!

Now I can pick up a tutorial or two on fine points like perspective, shadows, texture, color, line types. And make use of computer stuff that makes digital drawing so great like undo/redo, erase, layers and masking.

Now some words from the master Yoda concerning knowledge of the (creative) force. Doodle or doodle not, there is no try, just doodle!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

tablet cronicles from scratch

For me there there are two main kinds of drawing, sketching and single line. Sketching is used for capturing the idea. There is usually the expectation of refining a sketch to bring the idea into focus. You could very well wind up with a photo-realistic picture if you were of that bent. That is way beyond my skills and desire. Now single line is a way of drawing the outlines. To me this requires a level of assuredness to capture a likeness with simple single pen strokes. This is like cartoon drawing. But can you draw like this right off the bat? I'd say not. Try to draw a circle or a box or a shoe or a bike. We might see it in our head but putting pen to paper requires some concentration and practice.

Now doing this on paper is one thing, on the digital tablet is another. Can be close though if you have comfort and control. On the left of the above pic is sketching and I tried to single line the same objects on the right. The confidence of the single is lacking as I am so used to sketching. I don't draw many objects anyway. What has captured my mind is Zentangles. This is a kind of concentrated single line drawing where perfection is not required. Good line quality can be developed over time. And yes most people approach Zentangles with a fiber pen and a 3.5" square of paper. To do digital tangles is kind of new and kind of awkward. Sounds like fun to me. I'll let you know how I'm progressing.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

beginning the art of tablet from scratch

As usual, if I determine to do something that requires habit changing work, it don't work. But if I'm curious, aching to try it or stumble upon, the game is on. This is why I got a pen and tablet years ago but never used it. Now that the thrill is gone and the tablet is many years old, I'm ready to use it.

Hey it still works like new! A Wacom Graphire 2, the working area of the 7 x 8 tablet is 4 x 5 inch. First make it comfortable for me. I took the lid of an old laptop and mounted the tablet inside it. I used foam board to fill out the sides and match the size of the lid. Then I covered the whole surface a sheet of thin mylar. The active area is still 4 x 5 inches but the lid is 8 x 13 inches, a little bigger drawing plane.

The surface of the tablet is slippery for the pen tip. It makes drawing unstable. I taped a sheet of paper over the the active area. The grain of the paper slows down the action of the pen on the surface enough for good hand feel. You got to feel you are in control. Having always drawn on paper, the pen tip across paper feels right. The next thing is to doodle, make lines and shapes to develop stroke skills. It is like drawing with a pen overloaded with ink. The lines start before you really want to write and finish after you intend to stop. Why? because the equipment is sensitive, you have to compensate. This tweaking involves both your equipment, your motor skills and eye/hand coordination.

On that web site "deviantArt", there is a couple of tablet tutorials that have exercises. These are much like the pencil and pen skills you learn in art class.
Now while you have the momentum, start sketching stuff and look at tutorials on you tube. That's where I'm at now. Do do it. Here are my recent attempts.

These were done in the program called MyPaint. I'm not much of a freehand drawer. I want to first draw the way I do in my sketchbooks. Then I will start working on projects for cards and printer art. But what I like about MyPaint is the keyboard shortcuts to control pen size and hardness. This frees you up from clicking menus. And also I like that the drawings look like I drew them and not the computer. On the computer but not by the computer. So, I made the jump, your turn.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

not too late

One of my buds let me fix the laptop of a member of his bible study group. He was an older person who lent it to one of his kids. Now I have done this very thing myself and the results was the same, viruses.

Kids like games and music, only the sites they hit are dispensers of PC pestilence. This also happens when you hit certain advertisers and of course peep show sites. The need for user discretion is not always adhered to.

There is also a crime perpetrated on new PC users called selling an unprotected PC to make more money selling separate protection software packages. Many buyers are unaware they need protection, think they are careful, can't afford the cost of virus protection. My answer is because the viruses are out there, buyers should be informed.

Now, there are free anti-virus software available like Avast, AVG and others. Microsoft Securities Essentials, which I used on this laptop I fixed is also free. This was a Microsoft Vista laptop. When I got it, it had 264 or so copies of a Trojan virus. Just like the Trojan Horse, it looks innocent, packs a replicating mess. Two days of scanning and cleaning removed the viruses from the hard drive. Nothing but mindfulness  will change the habits of the users that allowed this to happen, plus virus protection.

I don't know how well Microsoft Win 7 and 8 handle viruses, XP and Vista are wide open. You need protection, buy it or download a free anti-virus.

I am a Linux user. In my 20 years of using Linux I have not had any problems with viruses. Most viruses are written to attack Microsoft systems. I have had malware added but they were only compatible with Windows operating systems and could not run in Linux. I do have scanning and cleaning apps for Linux just in case.

Some users will fork over a PC to a techie friend and ask them to please fix it. This is not always a quick fix but a intricate tangle that could hose your PC. You could lose important stuff if the quick fix is format the hard drive, reinstall Windows. If the hard drive is large/full, there is no quick fix. Scanning files takes time, the more files the more time it takes.

For care-free, free-wheeling computing, you should do the following. Do regular maintenance (clean up files, stuff folders, defrag), do anti-virus update and system scan (can be done while you sleep), backup your newly cleaned hard drive to a remote USB drive or DVDs and create backup set points so that you will have a copy of "the last working system settings", just in case start up problems arise. These things will also help your techie friend fix your stuff. And just as you learn to check the oil and change a tire on the car, learn a little bit about the PC to save on a repair bill (read the users manual and or get a book on the subject).

Remember, popular computing without protection is a no no.