Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Digital Artist in a Digital World

Terry took of for a weekend to shop with her friend Elaine Pasekoff in Miami.While she was gone, I spent my Sunday trying to figure out a new digital paint program called SAI. The program is pretty intuitive and it allows for quick spontaneous mixing of colors right on the sketch. Several times last week I was sketching in theaters where the house lights were out for the duration of the show. That meant sketching and painting in the dark. On one occasion I used my cell phone as a light source but that meant I had to hold the cell phone with my left hand which made it impossible to hold the palette. I'm coming up with a simple clamp, lamp stand device which could hold the cell phone but haven't figured out the design yet. It would have to fold up to be put back in the art back once the sketch is done.

SAI Paint Program could be an alternative for dark theaters as well. The tablet obviously generated its own light. It would however likely be considered intrusive however if there were other audience members in the theater. You might recall that someone was shot and killed for using their cell phone in a movie theater down here in Florida. SAI offers me the ability to apply saturated colors behind the line sketch and a quick way to paint gradations and highlights. As a paint program it is superior to Sketchbook Pro which doesn't allow for mixing colors.

There is a major problem however in that SAI doesn't have pressure sensitivity on my Motion Computing tablet. This means that lines don't start out thin and then grow thicker as pressure is applied to the stylus. It is a major drawback. Sketchbook Pro does have pressure sensitivity so putting down lines is intuitive and fun. I spent the whole day trying to figure out how to switch drivers and or turn on the sensitivity. After a solid eight hours or so of research online, I was no closer to an answer.

When Terry got home and started to watch a movie, I decided to do a sketch using Sketchbook Pro and then I imported that sketch into SAI and started to paint. Bold brush strokes don't necessarily always need pressure sensitivity but because of that, I spent far too much time switching brush sizes to go back and forth between thick and thin.

Wacom has a new Cintiqu Companion that is just like my tablet in that it can be used as a digital sketchbook. I looked up several videos that show it using SAI with all it's sensitive features in use. My Motion tablet was designed for field technicians and nurses so it wasn't designed with the artist in mind. For now I'll continue to use the Motion tablet with this two program workaround. If I keep doing digital sketches I might be able to speed up the process so that it can be used every day. It basically makes it possible to have rich color quickly and apply light opaque paint over a dark base. I might start using gouache paint in my sketchbook to get a feel for a similar effect using real paint. If I switch to doing digital sketches, then there is no longer any original sketch to sell. The original would only be a computer file and I would have to sell prints. It is a catch 22, I love the look that is possible digitally, but there is a definite advantage to having an original sketchbook which can be stored away on a book shelf. I've had computers and tables die before and when that happens all the digital sketches disappear on the lost hard drive. I would have to get much better at creating and backing up a digital bookcase. Technology keeps changing which makes archiving work a constant challenge. When I first started this blog, my intention was to switch back and and forth between traditional and digital sketches. I might be bringing that experiment back again.

After two days of endless research online, I finally found an article that helped me resolve the issue of no pressure sensitivity. I deleted the Wacom driver and downloaded and installed  the latest European version of the Wacom driver. Since SAI was written by a Japanese company, it makes sense that a European driver would work.  I was amazed and elated that it finally worked.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: