Drawing with a Tablet

Art

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?

The Results Are In

Art Game Business Games

AVOIDAL Concept Art IllustrationThe results for Ludum Dare 18 were posted last night and I’m excited to report that my latest Flash game AVOIDAL was in the top 20!

AVOIDAL placed 14th out of the 172 game entries submitted to the the competition.

Ludum Dare is a solo game making event where participants have 48 hours to create an entire game with all content from scratch after the theme is announced. This time the theme was “Enemies As Weapons.”

I wrote up a detailed post mortem about my experience creating AVOIDAL and created a timelapse video of the entire process.

This was my most successful Ludum Dare yet and I am happy to continue to meet my goals when I participate as I try to raise my personal bar for success with each event I enter. I wanted to get a top 10% finish again and I was able to get top 8% so my goal was met.

I’ve been able to predict pretty well how my games will place each time which I think is a good exercise in trying to be self-aware about your game and the potential audience for it. This can matter when you are trying to make a Flash game that you want to stand a chance of being enjoyed by millions of players rather than thousands.

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What Games Mean To Me

Art Games Life

What Games Mean To Me

Before I can really talk about what games mean to me I think it is important to provide a brief amount of background on where I am coming from on this personal subject.

I began developing a love for both drawing and programming as a young child and have spent countless enjoyable and priceless hours on those activities over the years. I caught the art bug bad in the late 70s after encountering Speed Racer on TV and the first Star Wars movie.

I filled page after page in my father’s art journals with little car race and space battle scenes. I remember him taking a lot of time showing me how to draw and even how to do flip book animations on the corners of the journal pages.

Even before we had a home computer my parents started sending me to Radio Shack computer camps at age six for programming in LOGO where I would get very familiar with that friendly drawing turtle and pen up and pen down. Then when I was about eight years old my parents got our first home computer. It was a TRS-80 but we only had it for one night–the salesman from Radio Shack called back to say they had received something better and wanted to know if my father wanted to upgrade.

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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.

Concept Art and Game Design

Art Games

Concept Art Driven Game DesignI like to use concept art as an alternative way to think up game design ideas.  Here is a quick illustration I came up with today for a game I am creating.

I have done a few illustrations for this game working through various game mechanics, styles, and ideas.

This is a useful creative tool for me to rapidly try out different concepts and see what they might look like before I even write a single line of code or start creating any game assets.

Creating concept art becomes a way I can immerse myself in the world and atmosphere of the game ahead of time because as I am drawing these illustrations I am imagining the various aspects of the gameplay occurring.  This can even include me making hand gestures and sound effects without me realizing it as I try out the game in my mind’s eye.  As embarrassing as that might sound for some people it has been something I’ve done unashamedly since I first started drawing as a child.  It makes the experience that much more involved and creatively useful for me.

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