13 October 2008

Artists And Thier Tools: Watch Scott Adams Draw A Dilbert Daily

1814.


Stan, who, for someone I've never actually met in person knows me unnervingly well, spotted my discourse on Bob Staake and Scott Adams here and thought I'd enjoy this: a four-minute video hosted at Amazon.com of Scott Adams actually performing that voodoo that he do so well (this is not an embed, clicking on the illo will take you to the video's page at Amazon and you can play it there):


Scott Adams Drawing Dilbert


(or clicky here) That loverly bit of tech that Scott's drawing on is a Wacom Cintiq 21ux tablet. This tablet has an lcd screen beneath the tablet surface, so in apps like Photoshop you get the luxurious experience of drawing directly on your documents ... tools, brushes, erasers, marqueeing, everything. It's a combination of touch-scren monitor and digitizer tablet. Luxury like that costs: the price I just saw for one is $1999. But as Scott shows, it just makes for a killer workflow.


The takeaway here for me is that I didn't know that Adams created the strip from jump street in the virtual world. Many web cartoonists and cartoonists that use digital tools I've read about work in a hybrid; nailing down the art on paper or bristol, then scanning and coloring and finishing on the computer. The working is particularly interesting, because aside from stritctly-digital moves ... like using the paintbrush tool at a touch to fill in spots instead scribbling in the color or fill ... what he does is what a lot of artists do: rough in the general shapes the go back and harden in the lines that matter.


I'm not fortunate enough to have a Cintiq of any description, but I do have a 6x11 Intuos3 from Wacom. It's worth it. The pen he uses is the same model I have, and it feels and reacts just like a real pencil or pen - you can vary strokes with pressure and tilt. I also have a touch-sensitive strip and programmable key combination on each side of the tablet surface.


Wacom makes really quality equipment. They all but own the market in digitizer tablets, and there's a very good reason. They even have a line of low-cost starter tables, the Bamboo line, that retail for under $100, so anyone who saves thier pennies can buy thier way into some Wacom goodness. And they have a major distriubution center across the river in VanWa. I don't know if that changes the service dynamic at all, but it is kind of cool.


Stan is correct in saying that it's droolworthy, but I advise caution; as detailed earlier, a bit of moisture can cause a couple hundred dollars in repair. But either way, it's worth it.


If there's one thing I'd ask Scott if I had the chance, though, it's still about Photoshop. He's apparently using CS, which is two versions back. Why not upgrade?


And thanks again to Stan for the ref.


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2 comments:

stan said...

It is interesting that a man of his financial means wouldn't upgrade to the latest and greatest. I use CS too, but I'd upgrade in a heartbeat if the Powerball numbers lined up for me. And the only reason I have CS and not PS7, or PS6 for that matter, is because a good friend of mine gave me his copy when he didn't need it anymore.

From what I understand, the creators of Homestar Runner are still using Flash 5, and deliberately so; they have said that they liked its relative simplicity, or something along those lines.

For what Adams is doing, his style really doesn't require much of the bells and whistles that later CSes offer. Just a few layers, a fixed brush width, gradient fills and a custom dot pattern are all you need. I had all of that in PS6.

Also, there's something to be said about creativity springing forth from within certain technical limitations. Witness the MS Paint Mona Lisa from a few posts back.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

It is interesting that a man of his financial means wouldn't upgrade to the latest and greatest. I use CS too, but I'd upgrade in a heartbeat if the Powerball numbers lined up for me. And the only reason I have CS and not PS7, or PS6 for that matter, is because a good friend of mine gave me his copy when he didn't need it anymore.

That's what I was thinking too. Of course, I also understand that being able to upgrade doesn't mean you gots to Do. It. Now, especially when you consider that his hardware is on the high end of hot-cha.

As far as Photoshop versions, I'd feel limited in anything less than CS1. PS7 was good for its time, but after I had gotten used to the CS series, I had a little brief job where I had to settle for PS7 and I just felt like I was sent to play in the little kid's sandbox. Turned out there were some features in CS (for instance, there is room for something like twice as many layers and alpha channels) that I liked having around. And the CS interface is just slick and I enjoy the integrated functionality.

From what I understand, the creators of Homestar Runner are still using Flash 5, and deliberately so; they have said that they liked its relative simplicity, or something along those lines.


That works in so many ways. Like Dilbert's art, the art in Free Country USA is very basic. I also imagine that, past a certain point, the addition of new features to the app is just kind of a "diminishing returns" situation: having powerful new features isn't compelling if you have no real need for them. Also, by keeping it with Flash 5, the Brothers Chaps are guaranteeing that their audience ... the vast majority of which are not professional designers or animators ... will be able to enjoy their content. And they continue to use a tool they know like the backs of thier hands.

That's part of where I think Staake and Adams are with their tools as well.

Also, there's something to be said about creativity springing forth from within certain technical limitations. Witness the MS Paint Mona Lisa from a few posts back.

That's the heart of it right there for me. I've explored art forms where the canon is very limited (medieval heraldry, and I've read about iconography) and I've found that hard limits really seem to cause extreme cleverness and creativity by giving the artist an obstacle to overcome, negotiate with, or even include in the art itself.

Having drawn a large number of proposed coats-of-arms for SCA acquaintances, I can tell you first hand that there is a real ineffable learning that goes on when you learn to develop a style inside the strictures of a tight canon ... or even when you learn to master the canon in cases where a personal style is irrelevant. It's quite a charge.