Drawing with a Tablet


Self portrait from mirror

Yesterday I took an hour and sat down with my drawing tablet and a small hand mirror which I propped up on my desk.

I have been feeling like I wanted to do more drawing lately from real life things since it has been too many years since I used to regularly do that. I’ve felt some of my illustration skills slipping a little and I am going to try to draw at least one hour a day.

For fun I took a time lapse of the drawing. I took shots every 30 seconds and turned them into the following video:

I’m continually amazed at the both the flexibility that my drawing tablet offers as well as the way it lets me get every pen effect I used to be able to get with an actual pen and paper.  I use a Wacom Intuos 3 tablet and it has really changed the way I approach drawing.  Instead of having to labor over storing and scanning my drawings in order to post them or use them in a game I can now work directly in a digital environment.  Plus I have become accustomed to the nice tweaks you can do when roughing out the initial drawing’s form.

If you watch the time lapse video you will see where a few times in the beginning I am able to resize the initial shape and size of my head.  It is a pretty common thing when drawing to get some of the proportions a bit wrong. In my case I often tend to make things elongate too much vertically.  I was able to squash the vertical dimension down and then later resize my facial features to more accurately represent what I was seeing in the mirror.

Once the proportions were right I was able to start defining the shape by laying down the shading.  Another nice benefit of digital drawing is I can use the pen set to a white color to come back in and hatch light areas. In a traditional drawing I would do this by erasing an area if I was using pencil or by carefully laying out pen over pencil guides so that I would leave the area white to begin with.  Being able to just come back over with white pen and flip to black pen again and again can really let me focus on getting all the form and feel right without worrying about the logistics of meticulous planning and allows me to flow along with the drawing in a way I enjoy a lot more.

I was trained classically as an illustrator way before things like tablets existed. I was initially quite worried when I bought my tablet if I would be able to adjust to looking at the screen while my pen hand drew on a different surface. What was striking was how quickly I did adjust until it became like second nature to draw while looking at the screen. I didn’t need to watch my hand anymore. I think a lot of that has to do with getting a tablet that is large enough and in the right proportion to your screen’s aspect ratio.  I have a fairly large landscape tablet and the pen is mapped from the relative position on the tablet to the same relative position on the screen.  I think this helps with the transition and learning curve a lot.  The pen has so much sensitivity and angle sensing that I can pretty much get every effect I could out of a traditional pen or pencil.

Anyone else out there have thoughts or experiences to share on drawing with a tablet?

A Couple Drawings

Art Life

I’ve been drawing in the evening again as a good way to wind down from the brain rigors of game development all day.  Now don’t get me wrong–I have an absolute blast making games but doing anything that intense for so long can cook you by the end of the day and I need a way to stretch out a little mentally.

I think I’ve been getting pretty cooked because most of my time these past few weeks has been spent learning all about various performance optimizations and graphical rendering methods in an effort to get Flash to run better on the iPhone via CS5 Beta.  I’ve learned a virtual truckload of information though and it will help to improve my games both in the browser on older computers and on mobile devices for sure.  This is information I’ll be sharing in a different post at a later date though.

As another way to wind down I’ve also been watching a good bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately as a few of my friends have been cranking through episode after episode–season after season.  I watched it back when it had originally aired but it has been fun to see it again years later.  The themes, scenes, and stories have rubbed off on my subconscious though and clearly inspired the above drawing from last night:

This drawing is from a week or two ago.  Just one of those drawings that is stream of conscious style.  You just let the pen flow and move and you try to figure out what you want to draw as you see it.  I find that is the kind of state I like to draw in when I am just trying to relax and day dream a little.