Friday, June 24, 2011

"When in doubt, make a fool of yourself.
There is a microscopically thin line
between being brilliantly creative

and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth.
So what the hell, leap."
— Cynthia Heimel
Three years ago, I attended my first caricature convention in Raleigh, North Carolina. I bought a $100 wacom tablet for a workshop that was being offered. While it was fun to play around on, I really struggled with drawing on a black tablet and see the image show up on the laptop. I couldn't get used to the disconnect between my drawing hand and where the end result was.
So I never moved any closer to digital drawing as a result.

Until this Spring.

One night in March, while watching Bill Maher, I started by doodling on my iphone, with my finger.

Then I borrowed my little friend Emma's ipad and bought a stylus, and suddenly the potential of what I could do finally over shadowed the technical learning curve I feared.

On my way to the European Caricature Convention in April, I met up with my good friend, Jon Casey, (who is a master at live digital caricatures) in San Fransisco and confided in him that I was finally seriously thinking about getting into digital. Over wine, we discussed the kind of hardware and software he used, he offered tips and suggestions and was VERY encouraging, especially about doing live digital gigs.

In Spain, I watched Harold from Holland draw brilliant digital caricatures on a cordless tablet and at that moment I thought "OK, now I especially like that". I spent the week watching him create caricature after caricature, print them out on small 4" x 6" postcards and I was hooked.

All I could think was.... "Yup...I want to be able to do that".

So, a couple weeks after I got home, I bought the Cintiq 12W, choosing the smaller version because its easier to carry around. I already traditionally draw quite small (8.5 x 11) so it seemed like a good size for me as I would be I would be using it mostly for gigs and bringing it back and forth between home and the studio.

I must admit...when I first started drawing on it, I felt lost. It was kind of like standing at an endless buffet table, not knowing where to begin eating, completely afraid that I would pick all the wrong entrees and then my brain would be too full to digest what I really needed to learn. I knew that eventually I would be able to do SO MUCH cool stuff, but I realized that I needed to start somewhere familiar, to avoid feeling overwhelmed, (plus I had 2 live digital gigs booked less than 3 weeks away and had to be ready).

So first, I spent a lot of time looking over the digital work that I admired. I dissected it and tried to think about how I wanted mine to look, and tried to figure out exactly what tools would I need to use to make them look that way.

Since, I really do enjoy drawing in my traditional live gig style (and because I have been doing it for 27 years), I figured it would be better not to stray too far from what I already knew. So, I figured that if I made the digital tools work the way my familiar markers did, then the transition might be simpler.

I opted for Photoshop because I already knew how to use it quite well and I set up a "mock gig" at my studio and tried my hand at live digital drawing. It went ok, but there were things I didn't like about photoshop.Corel Sketch Pad came with my Cintiq and since I remembered Jon saying he liked Corel, I thought I would try it. We instantly hit it off! I quickly figured out which tools acted the most like what I was familiar with and then I made a cheat sheet for myself to remember what tool settings those were. I practiced a few more times and it just felt so easy.

I have done 5 digital gigs now and 3 digital commissions and I LOVE IT.
Digital allows me a freer approach to drawing, which is relaxing and refreshing after 27 years. I love not having to be so committed to the line. Marker is just so unforgiving.

As a result, my relationship with digital is lighter and more experimental, fueled by the ability to "undo".

I don't know exactly where I am headed...but I will definitely be bringing my Cintiq with me.