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Season’s Greetings – A Video

 

Every so often, I like to record a high speed ‘how it’s made’ video for a cartoon or a painting. I’d love to do more of these, but they’re time consuming.

With the over-the-shoulder view, the kind most people want to see, I used my Canon DSLR on a tripod for the best result. The challenge is that it needs to be close enough to capture the pen on the display, but back far enough so that I don’t bump into it with my shoulder or chair.

I’ve been drawing on Wacom tablets and displays for almost twenty years, so a lot of it is muscle memory. I go through the motions without thinking about the technology. As any artist in any medium can attest, once you’ve been using them for any length of time, the tools become extensions of your hands and arms. You think about the image you’re creating, not about the tools you’re using.

When I record the process, however, the tools are front of mind, which means the cartoon or painting takes longer. There’s really no flow to it and the process feels clunky.

When I’m painting, I can go for an hour without thinking about much else. When recording, I have to stop the camera after about ten minutes. Software is hardly perfect and by recording multiple short segments, it wouldn’t matter too much if I lost one. If I recorded all of it at once, however, that one file becomes a lot more precious.

I don’t record every brush stroke because it would be incredibly boring. I record ten minutes, shut the camera off, draw or paint for ten or twenty more minutes, then record again. There needs to be a big enough change between segments to keep the viewer’s interest.

Once I have enough from the camera, then I’ll often record some screen capture.  It’s no longer the display itself, but software in my computer recording what is happening on the screen. This doesn’t work all that well for painting detailed hair and fur because the cursor, brush and detail is so small, that it’s barely discernible to the viewer.

And again, incredibly boring.

Once I have all of the files recorded, from the camera and computer, I’ll bring them into my video editing software.

How I decided on the length of the video was the music I used as accompaniment. That isn’t always the case, but usual for cartoon videos. I can shorten visual segments, change the playback speed, and more easily mess with the footage than I can with the audio. This Christmas tune is around two minutes, which is a good length for a Youtube video, since our attention spans keep getting shorter.

I didn’t record the whole sketching process because I knew I’d have to mess about with the poses to get all three characters in, plus the talk bubbles.  That’s why you can see my tracing over my own sketch. While that would no doubt be of interest to the beginner or student, not so much for the average viewer.

These videos, it’s all about compromise for content.

For those interested in the tech part, I draw almost exclusively in Photoshop on a Wacom Cintiq 24HD. This recording, however, was done on a Wacom Cintiq 16 display, as they sent me one in August. I put it through its paces while painting my White/Amur Tiger video.

It’s a nice display and I enjoy drawing with it, so that’s why I chose it again for this video.

For recording and editing, I use Camtasia Studio 8. It’s a simple interface that gives me what I need without complicating things. I’ve been using this software for many years and it gets the job done.

While this video added an extra few unpaid work hours to my Sunday morning, I created it to give my newspaper clients some added bonus content for their websites and social media feeds. In any business, you’ll rarely go wrong by offering added value from time to time.

As always, feel free to share it, along with any of my other work.

Cheers,
Patrick

@LaMontagneArt
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Wacom and Happy Accidents

My friend Pam, who is the Database Marketing Manager at Wacom, posted a very nice blog post on the Wacom Community Page, featuring the video they had me do for them. She also  shared the story of my tiger painting that went awry.

Funny, but Pam and I talked after the fact and both of us agreed that the strange twist with that painting actually made for a better story to tell in the video. Something I’ve learned over the years is that the stories behind the art are as interesting to folks as the art itself. That’s nice because not only are the stories about why I paint some of these critters important to me, but I enjoy telling them.

There’s a common term among creative types, that describes how sometimes your art or experience delivers a better result than what you had initially planned, from being forced to adapt to the unexpected. We call them happy accidents. I’ve had them happen while creating brushes, trying new painting techniques, program crashes that required creating handy shortcuts to deliver on deadline, and just like hindsight, you never quite realize what happened until you’ve had time to reflect. Some of those happy accidents became part of my process.

I’ve heard from a number of people this week who not only appreciated learning about the controversy surrounding white tigers, but also preferred the second painting over the first. Who knew?

Here’s the blog post on the Wacom Community Site.

Cheers,
Patrick

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Working with Wacom

In the late nineties, when I first started to create art professionally, I had primarily drawn in pencil or pen on paper. Up until my first editorial cartoons for a local newspaper, I had never considered art as anything more than a hobby.

I had played around with some art on a computer from time to time, but only using a mouse. If you’ve never done that, it can be a rather frustrating experience, especially when you try to include any detail.

Digital drawing tablets were in their infancy, but I knew I wanted one. My ever-supportive parents bought me my first one as a gift. It was the first generation Wacom Intuos tablet, quite small, with a working surface of just 4 X 5 inches.

I thought it was one of the coolest things I ever owned. I’ve been drawing and painting on a computer ever since.

The technology was so new then, that you had to explain it to people. The worst part was that as soon as you said you worked on the computer, people figured that the computer was doing all of the work. It certainly didn’t help that one of the most popular and widespread pieces of art software on the planet was (and still is) Adobe Photoshop.

So not only was the computer doing all of the work, but all a digital artist was doing was changing a photo. I can’t count how many times I heard that stated with authority.

I’ve spent over half of my career explaining to people that digital drawing and painting is just as much of an art medium as oil, acrylic or watercolour. These days, the stigma surrounding digital art is largely gone and people realize that it’s more than just pushing a button or applying a filter. There are countless skilled artists around the world now creating digitally, each an ambassador for the medium.

One of the pillars of my two decade career has been that I’ve always worked on a Wacom tablet or display. They were the only name in digital art tools when I first started and they’ve remained the industry standard for quality and innovation. Whenever I’ve replaced one, it has been to take advantage of something new they’ve come up with that would make my work more enjoyable or efficient, never because it broke or stopped working.

 I still have a backup Intuos 5 tablet in my closet; ready as a substitute should my Cintiq 24HD display ever stop working. It’s like an insurance policy, but one I never really expect to use. I would never want to be without a Wacom device.

Even today, with advances in mobile drawing technology, I only use my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for practice pieces and sketches. All of my finished work is done on my Wacom Cintiq.

In 2010 at the Photoshop World Conference, my funny looking animal paintings were still pretty new and I was thrilled to win the Guru Award for the Illustration category AND the Best in Show Award. In a strange twist of fate that would change the course of my career, the emcee of the event, Larry Becker, misspoke and said that the top prize was a Wacom Cintiq 12wx display.

I was pretty excited about that since it was Wacom’s first crack at a portable drawing display on an actual screen.

When I went to the Wacom booth at the Expo to claim my prizes, I was told that the 12WX wasn’t actually one of them. I was disappointed but I understood that mistakes happen and wasn’t going to hold them to it. But Wacom being who they are and Larry Becker being a class act, they made good on the slip and sent me the display shortly after the conference.

As great as that was, however, the best part was that I met Pam Park.

In every career, there are people who show up to mentor, encourage and give you the right push or connections when you need it. I’ve been fortunate to have some great support over the years from some special people, without whom I believe my work and life would be significantly diminished.

I loathe the phrase, “it’s not personal, it’s just business,” because it’s most often a cop-out people use for bad behaviour.

We don’t really have relationships with companies; we have them with people, so it’s always personal.

From that first meeting with Pam at Photoshop World in 2010, I then became acquainted with two others at Wacom, Joe and Wes. Over the next five years, the three of them hired me to do webinars for them, inspirational videos for new products, blog posts and I even represented the company at a training seminar in Calgary in 2011.For one demo I did for them, the subject of the painting was Pam’s dog, Brisby, seen above.

On one visit to the Banff High School in 2014, to talk about and demonstrate digital art, Wacom generously donated a number of tablets to their new media program that I was thrilled to deliver personally.
At Photoshop World, I would give presentations at their booth; one of those rare cases where doing it for the exposure was well worth my time. Being associated with Wacom has always been good for my career and professional credibility.
As the saying goes, however, all good things must come to an end. At one point, they had wanted to hire me to come down to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and work at their booth. Being Canadian, I realized I couldn’t go without a work visa and there just wasn’t time to get one. A few years ago, as my friends at Wacom moved to other positions and one left the company, the opportunities for me to work with them fell off.

A new person in marketing took things in a different direction and I had resigned myself to the fact that I’d had a great experience for quite a few years with Wacom, but that it had run its course with no hard feelings. It sure was fun while it lasted. The only regret was that I lost touch with those people who made it happen and who had such a positive impact on my career.

Then out of the blue a couple of weeks ago, I got a personal email from Pam, checking in to say Hi. It was great to hear from her and in the course of catching up, she mentioned that she was back in a marketing and promotional position with Wacom and if I ever wanted to work with them again, they’d be happy to have me.

I had to give that some serious thought, for about a millisecond.

Considering the wealth of talent they have representing their products these days, it was a real honour to be asked once again to add my voice to the chorus.

After some back and forth catching up, Pam told me she was sending me the new Wacom Cintiq 16. I’ll be putting it through its paces, doing some painting on it and recording some videos for Wacom, the first of who knows how many in the near future. It’ll be a nice replacement for my Cintiq 13HD, which for the record, still works just fine.

The Cintiq 16 arrived by UPS before I was finished writing this post, and I realized that the feeling of receiving a new piece of Wacom tech, it just never gets old. In fact, I’m probably more excited about this display than I was at receiving my very first tablet twenty years ago.

Because now I know what I can do with it.

Cheers,
Patrick

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Liftoff for LaMontagne Art


My first website came to life almost two decades ago in 2000, built with a piece of Adobe software called Dreamweaver. It was clunky, frustrating, images would end up where I didn’t want them, text would be misaligned and I hated website design.

A few redesigns of my own followed, but in 2011, I hired a professional to create something new for me and he did a very nice job. Erik at Bernskiold Media introduced me to WordPress, dealt with all of the coding issues on a poorly designed theme I’d bought, and for the past seven years, my website has done its job well.

But just as a new car is great when you get it, technology changes, little things you once tolerated become inconvenient distractions, that rattle near the rear right fender gets louder (what the hell IS that?!) and you start thinking trade-in.

When I first started Cartoon Ink, my business was editorial cartooning, custom caricatures, and illustration. I didn’t have the foresight to see twenty years down the road to the work I’m doing now. My last name is sometimes difficult for people to say (La-Mon-Tang), and like a number of people around that time, I thought I was being kind of clever and unique by the play on words of Ink vs. Inc.

As time wore on, my work became better known and more people now associate my name with my work, rather than Cartoon Ink. I’m still a nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist and draw those every day, but my painted work is just as important, so I figured it was time to own that.

Six years ago, I bought patricklamontagne.com and a few years later, I bought lamontagneart.com. But cartoonink.com has been in use for a very long time and most of my clients, friends and family contact me through email tied to that name. There’s a lot of material out there in the world with that web address on it. Business cards, prints, magnets and plenty of other products direct people to find me through cartoonink.com. So, it will still live on, both in email and as a web address. If you type in cartoonink.com into your web browser, you’ll still end up here. In fact, all three of my domain names will bring you to this new website.

When I first decided I needed a new site, I considered doing it myself. I know a couple of friends who have had great success with that. But I also knew the work involved and even with some really good drag-and-drop options out there, I wanted it professionally done. I didn’t see the benefit in banging my head against the screen when there are plenty of skilled web designers who can design a better site than I in a fraction of the time. I hire professionals to do what they do best so that I can spend my time doing the same.

Erik did a great job for me for quite a few years, but we don’t travel in the same circles anymore. He lives in Sweden so the time change can be challenging in the design phase, and I wanted a new perspective, even though it’s not as big of a change as one might think.

I also wanted to buy Canadian.

At the recommendation of a long-time friend, Ken, who used to build my computers and host my site, I hired Dustin at Robb Networks and we really got along well, both personally and professionally. I’ll just give him a ringing endorsement right off the bat, without reservation. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with him again or refer his services to anyone looking to improve their web presence.

Coding stuff that confuses the hell out of me is simply a second language to him. I had told Dustin I wasn’t in a rush and I meant it. He already had a full plate of work which is always a good sign and I was willing to wait. When he told me earlier this month that he was ready to get it done, I didn’t expect it to go as quickly, or as smoothly as it did. Seemed like one day we’re choosing a WordPress theme and the next we’re talking about launching it.

This wasn’t a complete redesign, just the introduction of a new theme, getting rid of things I didn’t like, adding a few I wanted, but when you go behind the curtain, it has very much the same content as before. It was like replacing the body of a car but keeping the rolling chassis.

So, other than the name, what’s changed?

On my last site, I chose a black background to make the images really pop. What I didn’t think about, however, was the blog. There’s over ten years’ worth of writing in there and it was less than a year into that last site that somebody sent me a private message saying the white text on the black background was tough to read.

That has stuck in my head for years, because she was absolutely right. That was the first thing I wanted to change.

I wanted a clean, minimalist look. No motion graphics, no floating panels when you scroll down, no extraneous bells and whistles. I wanted the images to speak for themselves, front and center.

There is a new logo, to go with the new name. On the site, there is text below the logo to identify where you are, but the text isn’t actually part of the logo. For those of you who read the story of the tattoo I got last year, you’ll recognize it. It was never intended to be my logo when I designed that. After living with it for almost a year, however, it fits.

The portfolios are now divided into Creature, Character and Companion, to showcase the three different types of paintings I do. I’m keeping the number in each to twenty or less. Since I’ve painted more than fifty animals for prints and a lot more than that in different stages of detail, it was tough to choose.

The store looks much better and I’ve added an additional close-up image to each print page so you can see the detail I put into these paintings. A lot of the current prints are on sale and will be retired when that stock is depleted. I’ve got plenty of animals I want to paint and need to make room for them.

I haven’t written anything in the blog since November as I toyed with the idea of phasing it out in favour of the newsletter, which I’ve been sending out regularly. Now that I have the new site, I’ll be reviving the blog. Instead of the entire article or post being in the newsletter, you’ll get a preview of the first paragraph or so and then if you’d like to read more, a link will take you to the full post. After all, the whole reason I have a newsletter is to attract more interest and eyes on the work. The best place to see that work is here.

This was a big deal, rebranding my business, and I’m pleased with the decision and the new site.

Thanks for taking the time to be here, especially if you got here via the newsletter. Your support is greatly appreciated. If you’re new to my work and want to come along for the ride, you can sign up for my newsletter here.

Now that this site is up and running, I’m off to paint some more funny looking animals.

Cheers,
Patrick

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Dabbling in Something New

Before I became self-employed full-time, I was the admin assistant for a physical therapy office here in Canmore. For a lot of the time, it was just my boss Shane (the physiotherapist) and occasionally a massage therapist working there in the small clinic. If I recall, Shane and I are close to the same age, both into technology, and he was well aware of my eventual plans to work for myself, as my business was thriving part-time on the side. I only worked for him for a little over two years, I think, and I often tell people that it was the best last job to have. That was more than ten years ago. I left on good terms and when I run into Shane on the street once in a while, I’m always happy to see him.

Because we talked about our mutual interests a fair bit when it was slow, he knew that I had been looking into 3D modeling. I had no designs on getting into it hard-core, but just enough so that I could occasionally add some 3D to my editorial cartoon work. At the time, I wasn’t painting more than the occasional caricature for a client and definitely no animals. I was still exploring my options, however, dabbling in Flash animation, trying new things to see where my career might take me.
boardgameMy first year working for Shane, he ended up buying me one of the earlier versions of Carrara by Daz3D as a Christmas bonus. He and I had talked about the software earlier and I remember thinking that was quite thoughtful. Instead of just a cash bonus, he bought me something I wanted but really couldn’t prioritize as a valid expense as I was still very much a struggling artist and it wasn’t cheap.

Shane now has a much larger clinic in another location, with a number of physiotherapists, massage therapists and staff working for him and I’m glad his business is such a success. Both Shonna and I have gone there for physiotherapy since.

I loved working with Carrara and bought a supplement for it called Hexagon, which was a basic modeller. Stuff I created in those programs ended up being part of a number of editorial cartoons. Rather than search for reference or work out difficult perspective on some things, I just built basic models of what I was envisioning, brought them into Photoshop, traced over the bones and moved on from there.

Sometimes, I just built the whole cartoon in 3D, like the chess pieces below. It was a real time saver. It also allowed me to move models around to get better angles, more interesting perspectives and revealed possibilities I might not have considered. Four of those cartoons you can see in this post, all built in 3D, with some drawing in Photoshop after the fact. A few of these were way more complicated than they needed to be, but I was also experimenting.
checkmateThis Checkmate cartoon was for the Alberta PC Leadership race. Not knowing the outcome, I was able to create three different versions, with the names changed to reflect all three possible winners. When the result was in, I just sent out the correct one you see here.

Over time, I stopped using 3D because I wasn’t interested in doing more than I was doing with it, every new release of the software involved learning new things I didn’t need, and a simple process I enjoyed became a complicated mess as they often fixed software that wasn’t broken. Eventually, the software wasn’t being supported anymore and I just let it go. I had also moved on to doing a lot of painting and the animal work that is now such a big part of my life.

Every so often, however, I’ll start drawing an editorial cartoon and think, “this would be so much easier if I just built a 3D model first.”

That’s been popping up in my head more often the last couple of years. I’ve also thought that it might be fun to build some 3D caricatures of both people and animals. To be honest, it’s been some time since I’ve yearned to learn something new, even though this would actually be revisiting an old interest with new tools and a new perspective.

I’ve investigated other 3D software here and there and it’s often too expensive to justify and too complicated for my needs. It would be like learning to fly a Boeing 747 when all I need is to drive to the grocery store. I have limited time to learn new things and keep up with everything else I do. I also knew that I would lose interest in it fast if I had to essentially follow stereo instructions just to create a flower pot.
blocksOne of the best programs out there, however, is one called ZBrush. A lot of professionals use it in conjunction with other software and some of the results I’ve seen are incredibly impressive. But for the cost and learning curve, it looked like the same story. Too big.

In recent months, however, I’ve been hearing a lot about the recently released ZBrushCore, which is a trimmed down version of ZBrush. I’ve watched a number of videos and it reminds me a great deal of Hexagon and Carrara, those early pieces of software I enjoyed so much. The difference is that it’s more sophisticated, streamlined and offers more functionality without being a complicated mess. Few artists are programmers and when it goes so far toward the tech that it no longer feels like creating, then I’m lost.

After watching a number of tutorials the past couple of days, I bought ZBrushCore this morning for $200 Canadian, which I consider very affordable.

I’m a little excited about this, and while the challenge will still be to make the time to learn it, use it, and have fun with it, I’m optimistic. Learning something new this winter might also be a partial antidote to my usual seasonal doldrums. So, it’s likely I’ll be adding some 3D elements to my editorial cartoons in the coming year, and might even try out a funny looking animal or two. If nothing else, I hope to have a little fun sculpting.

My animal Totems started as an experiment, painting a funny looking grizzly bear. Who knows where this might lead?
electionbox

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You Don’t Say

eaglecrop
Things People Said to Me at Calgary Expo Holiday Market

with real (and not so real) responses.


You should draw children’s books!”

I hear this a lot from people, along with other ‘suggestions’ from out of the blue.

I could draw children’s books and I’ve had many offers to do so over the past 15 years or so. One of those ended up being very successful for the author and the illustrator to whom I introduced her. They were a good match and the books they’ve done turned out great.

So why didn’t I draw them? I don’t like being around children. I’m not a parent, never wanted kids, and you won’t find me attending the birthday parties that friends have for their kids. Shonna is the same way. We’re monsters. We know. We’re OK with it.

When you create a children’s book, you have to promote it. That means doing readings for children, attending events for children, going to schools where there are children and pretending you want to be there. If I produced a children’s book, there would be a large crowd of people who know me well, shouting, “Hypocrite!”

And they’d be right to do so.

Occasionally I will speak to school classes. I even mentored at the school for a couple of years some time ago, a worthwhile program for kids who showed aptitude in the arts. Once a week, I would go to the school, meet my student in a room near the office and spend an hour on drawing exercises. We’d come up with a project that they’d then present to their class at the end of the program.

I did it because it’s something I would have enjoyed at that age and out of a sense of community guilt, felt I should contribute in some way. There were some good kids, I did my best for them, but it wasn’t personally rewarding and felt like another obligation. Because of that flawed perspective, I won’t do that again. But I will still speak to classes from time to time.

I could have been more politically correct here in my explanation, but I erred on the side of honesty. Feel free to judge me harshly. It’s what makes the internet go ‘round.


“Is this digital? Ohhhh.”

That “Ohhhh” is usually incredibly condescending. What it really says is, “You must have a really good program that changed a photo into whatever this is.”

If I tell them I did it with Photoshop, then they’re even more certain that I’m a fraud.

There are still those who figure if you do your work on a computer, then you’re not really a skilled artist, you’re more like a programmer who just knows how to press all the right buttons.

I could explain at great length about the countless hours I’ve spent working to improve my art skills, through practice, study, and a ton of happy accidents, but I usually just smile and let them have their illusions. As I heard Katey Couric say on a podcast recently, “People aren’t looking for information these days, they’re looking for affirmation.”

You think the computer creates my artwork? Give it a shot.

I’ll wait here.


“Are these photos?”

No. They’re not photos. I use photos for reference, but no photo is ever part of my work.


“So what do you do for your real job?”

This is it. Drawing, colouring and answering stupid…

Sorry. I’ll be nice.


“You should draw an Elephant, Hippo, Badger, Horse, Ocelot, Orangutan, Marmoset, Jellyfish, Narwhal, Praying Mantis, Spider, Kangaroo, Duckbilled Platypus, Anemone, Sloth, Barracuda, Goldfish, Parakeet, Boa Constrictor…
(it’s an endless list)

And will you buying one of those when I do? Just checking.


“They’re all smiling!

“I just love your work!”
“We bought a print of yours last year and it hangs in our hallway.”
“Is that new? I’ll take it!”

Thank you. Thank you very much.

Cheers,
Patrick

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Painting a Lion on the iPad

LioniPad
At one time, I experimented quite a bit with painting on the original iPad. When it would no longer support new updates, I replaced it with the iPad Mini with Retina Display, which is a horrible name, so it’s now just referred to as the iPad Mini 2.

Having tried a number of apps over the years and more than a few styli, I finally settled on the combo I liked best, which was the procreate app and the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus 2, another unwieldy moniker. So, let’s just call it the ICS2.

While you’d be hard pressed to hear me say anything negative about Wacom’s Intuos tablets or Cintiq displays, the ICS2 has had some issues. Complaints of poor tracking and cursor alignment aren’t hard to find. It works well with some apps, not with others. I’ll simply say that there are plenty of people unhappy with the stylus, especially if they have the full-sized iPad 2.

I haven’t done much iPad painting lately because I’ve been busy working. In my home office, I have Wacom’s Cintiq 24HD display and when I want to draw elsewhere in the house, I have the more portable 13HD display. With these two professional options and my constant deadlines, drawing on the iPad hasn’t been a priority.

Recently, however, I stopped by the Apple store in Calgary and took the new iPad Pro and Apple Pencil for a test drive. A little later, I found myself in the Microsoft store comparing it to the Surface Pro 4.

I quite liked the iPad Pro and Pencil, easily the best stylus I’ve ever used on a device. It felt fine in my hand, had a contact feel I liked, was flawless in its accuracy and I wanted to use it more. While I didn’t get to try it with procreate on the store model, the sketch program they had on the tablet was good enough. I didn’t really like the Surface Pro drawing experience, but many people do.

My desktop computer is robust, I’ve got a powerful laptop, the Wacom displays I mentioned and an iPad Mini 2. I currently can’t justify buying an iPad Pro. It’s quite expensive and so is the pencil. It’s a want, not a need.

Playing around with it, though, got me itching to try some more iPad painting with the device and stylus I do have. This lion is the result.

At first, having not used procreate in quite some time; I was still having some issues with accuracy. I had to paint while holding the iPad in portrait mode. Whenever I tried to paint in landscape mode, the registration would be off. The same thing happens with Autodesk’s Sketchbook Mobile, another impressive app. From what I’ve read, it seems to be a flaw in the ICS2 software or hardware, not playing nice with third party apps. It’s frustrating.

Not one to easily give up, I started going through the settings again and found the Writing Style options. By trying different ones, I found the right setting for me and the accuracy came back! Painting this lion suddenly became a lot more fun when I didn’t have to fight the technology.
SettingsThe procreate app not only comes with an excellent selection of brushes for many different art styles, but their brush engine is quite good. I’ve always been one to design my own brushes, especially for hair, and procreate allows me to do that. It involves just as much trial and error experimentation as Photoshop brush design does, but by continually tweaking, I managed some pretty impressive results.

The downside of painting on the iPad…

Palm rejection does not seem to be flawless on any device with any stylus. I rest my hand on the screen when I draw and paint. Had I gone to art school or been professionally trained, they would have broken me of that, no doubt. The problem is that the device registers the palm/heel touch as an intentional brush stroke on many devices/apps so you end up with digital smudges and poor pen strokes from the stylus because the app is trying to interpret two points of contact.

My workaround is that I bought a pair of glove inserts, cut the index, middle, and thumb from it. This allows me to still use the touch features, but rest my hand on the screen without a problem. Fair warning, a very thin costume glove won’t work. The iPad will still sense the contact of your palm or heel of your hand.

Here’s a photo. Disregard the blown-out screen image as that’s not how it actually looks when I’m painting.
iPadHand

The second thing is that whenever I paint on the iPad, I have the display brightness set in the middle of the slider or lower. My Cintiq displays are set quite low as well, both the display brightness and backlight. It’s just easier on my eyes, especially since I can spend many hours in a day in front of a screen.

As a consequence, I usually have to do some colour and light adjustments to anything I paint on the iPad, or it will look far too dark when it’s done. For this, I use Snapseed and the relatively new Photoshop Fix, which are both quality image editing apps.

Even still, when this was as close to done as I could get it; I opened it in Photoshop on my desktop and did a couple more small lighting adjustments. All of the painting, however, was done on the iPad.

So, what’s the verdict?

It’s unlikely I’m going to be doing a lot more iPad painting with the tools I’ve got. It took longer to paint this than it would have on my professional displays and the result is not as nice or detailed as that which would have been achieved had I painted it all on my desktop or laptop.

Would that change if I bought an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil? I don’t know, but honestly, I kind of doubt it, even with the larger surface area to work with. I would still like to spend more time with it, though. In all things, however, it pays to experiment, especially with art. You never know until you try and this was worth doing, just for the experience.

Cheers,
Patrick

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An Opportunity to Give

TalkToonA couple of weeks ago, I was asked by the Banff Community High School to speak to their digital media and art classes about the type of work I do.

In the past, these presentations have been more about editorial cartooning, especially when students are studying politics and current events. It provides a window into the difference between journalism and opinion, satire and commentary. There is value there, and I think those talks are important, too, but my passion lies with the other artwork I do, so I was really looking forward to this one, as it was about the art, not the politics.  To paraphrase the teacher who contacted me, it was basically an opportunity for students to be exposed to yet another creative medium of expression, one they might not have considered.

I’ve had plenty of folks give me a leg up in my relatively short career as an artist and whenever an opportunity like this comes up, I realize it’s my responsibility to pay that forward.  So, if I’ve got the time, I’m happy to help if I can.

I was scheduled to do two presentations to two different age groups. A slide show of my work, a little background on how I got into it, the type of work I do, plus a glimpse into how the actual drawing and painting is done.

In the back and forth emails leading up to the presentations, I became aware that the Banff Community High School didn’t yet have any drawing tablets. School budgets being what they are, students often don’t get all that we would like them to have. I thought that showing them how to draw and paint digitally and then denying them the means to do so would be a little cruel on my part. Hey, look at this delicious candy I’m eating…you can’t have any.

Over the past decade, I’ve been fortunate to have made some valuable contacts in this industry, and some even better friends. While I’ve used their products since 1997, it wasn’t until 2010 that I started getting to know a few people at Wacom quite well. Over the past four years, I’ve done webinars, tutorials and hangouts with them; written blog posts, recorded videos, done demos at their booth at Photoshop World, and even ran a booth on my own for them in Calgary at a Kelby Training Seminar. I’d hardly want to give the impression that this relationship is one-sided , however, so without getting into specifics, let’s just say that Wacom has been very good to me in return. It’s a very symbiotic relationship.

Needless to say, I’m lucky to call a few of them friends. With that in mind, without shame, I requested a discount on a couple of tablets, so that I could give them to the school. I figured I could afford it and two tablets are much better than none.

TabletsMuch to my delight, my friend (who is choosing to remain anonymous, dammit!) donated five Intuos 5 Medium tablets to the school, free of charge. For those unfamiliar with these devices, I could do all of the work I do on one of these tablets. These kids aren’t being asked to settle for inferior hardware, mostly because in my experience, Wacom doesn’t make inferior hardware. While I’m currently using their 13HD and 24HD displays (seen on screen in photo below), I have had an Intuos 5 Medium tablet for quite a while and if you went to my portfolio, a lot of it has been done with that device.

I was pretty thrilled at the donation, and it would have been more than enough.

But then I realized that because they don’t yet have the Adobe CC software, the students had something to draw and paint on, now they needed a program to do it with. Lately, I’ve been using Autodesk Sketchbook quite a bit and thoroughly enjoying it. Their app for iPhone and iPad are the best I’ve seen for mobile art and those are only outshone by their desktop version. I’ve been doing a lot of sketching for my editorial cartoons with that lately, so I knew the students would benefit from it.

Even though I haven’t had a long relationship with Autodesk, Wacom works closely with them and had recently introduced me to some of the folks in charge, a direct result of the work I’ve been doing with their software. Since I was already on a roll, I sent an email to their Product Marketing Manager, told him about Wacom’s generosity with the tablets and asked if I could get some licenses for software to go with them. He simply asked how many I needed, and then made it happen.

Then, while mentioning all of this privately to an industry author friend of mine, (who also wants to remain anonymous), he asked if they could use any books. I told him they couldn’t be software specific as they’d be wasted if the students didn’t have those tools. So he asked his publisher Peachpit what they could do and sure enough they donated half a dozen books on design and photography, titles that the students will benefit from no matter what software they’re using.

While bragging about this on my Facebook page, a few people made references to these being great Christmas presents and ironic that this here often-Scrooge gets to play Santa. In truth, it really is just a coincidence of timing that I was asked to speak to the students this close to Christmas. I’ve no doubt that had I asked these wonderful folks for their assistance in September, they would have come through in the same fashion. I’ve made a point of thanking all of these people individually, and I know the school has as well.

CintiqBut, I wanted to write about it for a couple of reasons. One, these companies and people deserve a little positive PR for helping out, even though that isn’t why any of them did it. Trust me on that.

Secondly, I would encourage you to consider how easy it is to give of your time and resources, no matter what it is that you do. You can’t always say yes to these requests, and over the years, I’ve had to decline these presentations almost as often as I’ve accepted them. Everybody has obligations and responsibilities, we’re all busy, we can’t give as often as we’d like. But it sure feels good when you can.

I would also encourage you to realize that when you need somebody’s help, especially to benefit someone else, don’t be afraid to ask. You’d be surprised how often people will say Yes when you need them to give a little, especially when it involves kids and education. If they say No, that’s OK, too, and don’t hold it against them.

It’s true that I was the one who got to stand up at the front of the room to reveal all of these great gifts from perfect strangers on Tuesday, and I got to do it twice.  I wanted you to know that I was just the messenger. The real thanks go to my friends and colleagues, the ones who said Yes when they were granted an opportunity to give to complete strangers.

Thanks again, folks. You know who you are.

 

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An Editorial Cartoon in Two Minutes

This is just over an hour of sketching, drawing, and painting, condensed down to two minutes.  From sketch to finished work created digitally using a Wacom Cintiq 24HD display and Photoshop CC.  While the majority of my editorial cartoons are sketched on paper first and then scanned, this is pretty much the whole process I go through for each cartoon.  This is best viewed at full screen in HD.   To learn how this is done, you can purchase my cartooning DVD at PhotoshopCAFE.

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iPad Painting with the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus

RatiPadFBAs anyone who creates digital art for a living will tell you, it’s difficult to do without a Wacom tablet or display.  Beginning with the Graphire and the first generation Intuos tablets in the late nineties, I’ve used almost all versions and evolutions of Wacom products.   Currently, the one I use on a daily basis is the Cintiq 24HD display.  When I want to get out of the office, which usually just means moving to other parts of the house, I’m drawing and painting on the Cintiq 13HD.

Many people have asked me if I’ll be getting one of the new Cintiq Companion displays, but having just purchased a top of the line laptop to supplement my desktop PC, I don’t need another computer.  I make my living with my artwork and have daily editorial cartoon deadlines.  I can’t afford any downtime, so having another full system that I can work on if my main computer needs repair is very important to me.  As I work at home and spend 90 percent of my time here, a fully functional portable Cintiq Companion would be wasted on me, so the 13HD and a laptop suits me just fine.

From time to time, however, I do enjoy the portability of drawing and painting on my iPad.  I bought my first gen iPad about three months after it came out in 2010 and I used it almost every day.  I began with finger painting, and then I probably spent a couple of hundred dollars in the first year, trying to find a stylus that would work well for drawing and painting.  Eventually, I settled on the Wacom Bamboo Stylus and it worked very well for its intended use.  Having tried many different drawing apps, I found that the ProCreate app suited my drawing style best and it’s the one I use above all others to this day.

I like to rest my hand on the screen, so I cut the thumb, index, and middle fingers from a light glove and wear that while drawing and painting on the iPad.  I worked around the lack of pressure sensitivity by manually varying the opacity in the app.  A similar method is to add a new layer and vary the opacity of that as well.  A little awkward, but I managed to create some iPad drawings and paintings that I was pleased with, even if they took longer than they would have on my PC with a drawing tablet or display.

IntuosCreativeStylusRecently, Wacom introduced their Intuos Creative Stylus for the iPad and I was intrigued.  It connects via Bluetooth, has pressure sensitivity, programmable buttons like their other tablet and display pens, and palm rejection capability, which means you can rest your hand on the screen without your palm creating any digital pen marks.  The key word here is ‘capability.’

As my first gen iPad had been proving unreliable and twitchy over the last year, I finally retired it and bought the new iPad Mini with Retina display, preferring the smaller size to the iPad Air.  The Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus arrived last week and I was eager to put it through its paces.

The first thing I was impressed with is that it comes in a very nice case.  With space for five spare nibs (it comes with two spares) and battery included, you feel you’ve purchased quality.  My Cintiq 13HD came with a very nice case for the stylus as well and it gives me peace of mind that these portable styli are well protected while they’re being carted around.

IntuosCreativeStylusCaseThrough trial and error and a little research, I found out some important technical info that will make your life a lot easier when using this pen.

First, the stylus takes an AAAA battery (that’s 4 As).  It comes with one of them, so it’s ready to use.  But I happened to be out running errands the day mine arrived so I wanted to see how hard it was to find replacements.  Fortunately I found a set of two at The Source, a small franchised electronics store.  A package of two batteries set me back $12.  Our grocery store battery display didn’t have AAAA batteries, so you might have to look to find them.  The Wacom site says a battery will last you 150 hours.  I spent a few hours painting with the stylus and the battery still reads 100% in the ProCreate app, so I’ve no reason to doubt the claim.

Second, I have a wireless keyboard that connects to my iPad via Bluetooth and you connect it in the iOS settings.  You can’t do that with the Intuos Creative Stylus, since it doesn’t even show up there.  The stylus connects to your iPad inside of the supported apps (click here and scroll down for the list).  In ProCreate for example, there’s a dropdown menu that shows a device option and sure enough, the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus is one of the choices.  The connection was very stable and putting it away in the case seems to shut the pen off so it doesn’t waste the battery.

AppsI didn’t bother to try any of the other drawing apps, so let’s just talk about ProCreate and this stylus.  I haven’t done any iPad painting in a while so I was very impressed with the recent updates ProCreate has made to their app.  They’ve got great blend mode options for layers, adjustments for color, sharpness, blur, multiple transformation tools and their brush engine allows for a LOT of customization.  ProCreate is a very robust app and I see no reason to change my preference.  It didn’t crash once while painting my funny looking rat, so it’s very stable.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t get the palm rejection to work well in ProCreate, so I ended up wearing the makeshift glove again which doesn’t really bug me.  It was only later that I found out that it isn’t the stylus that doesn’t support palm rejection, it’s the app.  Again, refer to the list of which features work with which apps.

The pressure sensitivity on this stylus works like a dream!  With the programmable buttons, ProCreate allows you to choose which task you want each button to perform.  I set one button to activate the color picker, and the other button to Undo.  You don’t even need to have the pen in contact with the tablet to get these to work, either.

AppandiPadBottom line, this stylus works as advertised.  While the price may seem steep to some ($99.95 from Wacom), I’m a big believer that you get what you pay for and my experience with Wacom devices is that they last and work well for a long time.  I’m being careful not to drop this stylus, though, as it’s still a precise electronic device.

A couple of final thoughts.  It would be unreasonable to expect this stylus to perform as well as a Cintiq display.  I can make quicker brush strokes, enjoy much more precise pressure sensitivity and paint with larger documents with higher resolution on my professional displays than I would expect to on the iPad.  This stylus does not turn your iPad into a Cintiq Companion display.  Also, keep in mind that Wacom created the stylus, not the apps with which it is used, so if there’s something that doesn’t work the way you might expect it to, it’s likely the app, not the pen.

I’m very pleased with the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus and I expect to use it often for sketching and rougher paintings.  Beginning the rat painting you see at the top on the iPad was quite enjoyable and the image will eventually become a much larger, much more detailed rendering using Photoshop and my Cintiq 24HD display.

I would recommend both the Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus and the ProCreate app without reservation, but as always, the tools are only as good as the artist using them.  For best results with your artwork, keep learning, follow the work of other artists, and draw and paint as often as you can.