The Paperless Cartoonist
I was invited to join this blog when I suggested a post about ergonomic and workflow issues while using drawing tablets—specifically pen monitor tablets, such as the Cintiq. Not long after I was joined the blog, K. Thor Jensen posted an article, Wacomics, on his recent tablet experiences. The post covers Mr. Jensen's initial loathing of tablets, through to his eventual conversion and endorsement.
I was an early enthusiast of the digital drawing tablet, asking for one for X-mas when I was 13 so I could draw animations on our Mac—I was such a geek. In university I got a second tablet, a standard middle-of-the-road Wacom Intuos. It worked great. I use illustrator and I liked the brush strokes I could achieve with it. I grew increasingly comfortable with it and used the tablet often for finished comics or illustrations. Eventually I developed the same problem as Scott McCloud—a tingling in my right wrist—and had to stop drawing for a while. It also forced me to think about health & ergonomic issues. In part due to a desire to stop working on paper entirely, along with having read McClouds and various other reviews, I decided to invest in a Wacom Cintiq, referred to as a pen monitor. Essentially it is a flat screen monitor with a drawing pen and thousands of levels of pressure sensitivity.
I spent the first four hours using it chuckling, and often outright laughing. I understood why animation studios are switching to them. There is a massive potential to increase workflow with this tool. And, for the first time in like, fifteen years of doing art on a computer, I actually felt that I was encountering something new. Along with the Cintiq there are already a few pen tablet laptops on the market. Apple is rumoured to be producing some sort of a tablet device. If technology continues to develop as it has, in a couple years from now we should have the potential to make pressure-sensitive sketches on something like an Apple iPod. I've never even used a handheld, but I'm sure they're starting to develop built-in sketching functions.
The pen monitor made me think more about the workflow of a cartoonist/illustrator. I began thinking about the workflow potential of it even more after reading The Pushman And Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi (D&Q 2005). This book lead me to read an interview between Tatsumi and Adrian Tomine. The interview is long, but extremely interesting, as it's two grand masters of comics talking in detail about their working methods. I just love this exchange:
AT: Yeah. That's always been a mystery to me. How the Japanese artists are able to produce so many pages. I'm sure my publisher would allow me to create thicker comics, but it would just take me two or three years or something like that.A few lines down, it gets even better when they discuss a weekly schedule:
YT: I've done 50 pages in one night.
AT: What? 50?! Five zero?
YT: I didn't sleep, and I had four assistants.
AT: So you were doing 12 pages a week? On your own?Far easier indeed. After reading this I began to wonder how much a cartoonist could potentially produce in a night, using a Cintiq or similar device. McCloud has noted that he produces about a page per day for his new book with his Cintiq. That's 6-7 pages a week. I've managed to do a couple 2-page nights recently as well. They were long nights, though—lots of tea.
AT: I just can't believe it!
YT: 2 pages, everyday. It's far easier than 50 pages in one night.
I still haven't found the ideal position for drawing on this monitor. I find I'm using the keyboard enough (in illustrator) to position it close to the monitor. I think I'd like the entire table it’s sitting on to be height-adjustable. I still find the best way to avoid getting sore is to regularly stretch, and walk away from the drawing board frequently. The Cintiq is a huge step up from the regular tablets simply in terms of ergonomics. You can lean over it like a traditional drafting table, or tilt it up and work as a painter would with an easel and canvas.
I haven't gotten rid of drawing on paper entirely, not by a long shot, but the Cintiq is a solid step towards the paperless cartoonist. When I have an iPod that I can scratch a few portraits on while sitting on the metro? Now that will make things interesting.