Intuos3: Into the Digital Breach

Probably five years ago for my birthday I asked my wife if I could get a digitizing tablet.  I hooked it up, played with it for a few days, realized it was not very intuitive and set it aside with the intention of practicing more in the future.  Not too long after that my motherboard blew up and the smart repair was a total system upgrade.

Once I got the new machine up and running I never got around to reinstalling the tablet which meant no free-time digital doodling and no improvement with the device.  I have read it enough times to believe that it takes 10 years to become an expert at something.  I could have been half way there by now.  As a consolation, I did keep the stylus in its cradle on my desk because it does look cool.

One of my goals for the year is the Thing of the Week and doing stuff with the digitizing tablet has always been near the top of that list.  Fast forward to last week.  Because of goal setting, this project finally moved from “important” to “do now” on the list.

What I didn’t realize was just how difficult it would be to create something that doesn’t generate laughter and rotten tomatoes from its viewers.  I had one cool project in mind that I hope to return to once I knock the rust off my fingers.  After trying it and failing a couple of times, I had to switch projects.

I’m ok with a pencil and paper.  The high point of my sketching career was probably in high school.  Sadly, there was so much to learn about design in college that I didn’t make time to draw as much as I should have and my skills languished.  It was even more extreme once I got my first real job.  No time to draw.  Little time to design.

I did a little bit of water color painting in architecture school.  Nothing fancy.  Just even washes or gradations of color.  Remember, this was way back in the olden days when drafting and rendering was done by hand.

Once I started industrial design I got some good marker instruction.  Even though the training was quite good my skills were average – competent but not exciting.  Since leaving college I’ve tried my hand at acrylic painting for fun a couple of times and have found that I really enjoy it.

So you would think digital sketching and painting would not be that different and maybe it wouldn’t be if I had a Cintiq tablet where you draw directly on the screen.  However those are literally ten times the cost of my Intuos3.  With the Intuos you are drawing on a tablet and looking at a screen.  It is disorienting enough not to be looking where you are drawing, but now imagine that each time you zoom in or out or you change the angle of the tablet to the screen, you affect your drawing.

Don’t hear me say that the Intuos is a bad product or that I don’t like using it.  It’s not and I do.  I actually have had a blast learning how to use this thing and am looking forward to the next painting I’ll hopefully be showing you at the end of the week.  I’m just trying to convey how awkward it has been to learn.  You’ve been driving a car for years and now someone tells you to try it using only your elbows.  Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

Every minute I spend with the tablet is completely worthwhile.  Once I’ve accumulated the equivalent of about six months of daily use, I bet it will be my preferred method.  I can already see just how fast ideation can be, there is no clean up and, best of all, control-z.

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