27 May 2013

Monoprice drawing tablet

I decided it might be a good idea to have a portable drawing tablet to take with me and use with my 13" MacBook Pro. The obvious choose was one of the Bamboo Wacom tablets. They are small, elegant and I already have an Intous 5 for the tower which I  use all the time. The price of Wacom tablets is fairly high so I looked into alternatives after a friend turned me on to some other brands to check out. In the end I decided to take a chance on the Monoprice tablet. 

It took a little,while to arrive but at less than half the price of a bamboo, it's more than equal to one in most respects. It's slightly larger than my laptop and the screen is almost a one to one ratio with the MacBook Pro screen. It is light but sturdy and easily fits in the bag with the computer. The pen is larger than a Wacom pen and needs a battery but, unlike some reviews on amazon.ca, I didn't really notice a comfort difference. Then sensitivity of the drawing surface is the same as a Bamboo, but half that of the other tablet I use. Even so, the differences were subtle and I think what you might lack in fine detail control can be made up just by working slightly larger.  There is period of adapting to the less sensitive pen while drawing but it's workable. 

The device has a line of preset and programmable buttons on the top of the drawing surface, which is quite useful but it lacks a wheel control for rotating the canvas while drawing like the larger Wacom does. This is sorely missed but not a deal killer. All in all, the small discomforts I had using it were more a result of drawing on the laptop, not the tablet itself. I actually,like the feel of the pen on the tablet more than the Wacom and this tablet lets you slide paper under the plastic for easy tracing if you need to do that.  

I'd say for the money, this easily beats out Wacom for a portable drawing choice. 

My first test image made with sketchbook, some photoshop but all on the new tablet and with the laptop. 

23 May 2013


I had done a large drawing of this many years ago. My cousin was married in this place, whose name and location I have completely forgotten. I haven't seen the drawing since I gave it to her and when I found one of the original reference photos, I decided to make a drawing for myself from it. I really worked on making the building stand out from the trees all around it and look 3 dimensional. If you look to the right side you can see the multi-storey birdhouse next to the front tree.

19 May 2013

Wringing Blood from the Cloud

Cloud services of various types are getting more and more common but not all that popular as the news that Adobe will offer its software only in the creative cloud option from now on. 

A few years ago, cinema 4d began offering a subscription service allowing customers to pay a fee per year or month to keep constantly up to date as updates came up,without having to buy each update as a new purchase. No one was talking about this as any sort of cloud service but its pretty much what Adobe and soon Microsoft (for Office Suite) are offering with some differences.  The Adobe plan does give you access to all their software and updates but you must pay your monthly fee or the software is disabled. The C4D  set up stops your updates but the program still functions. Apparently the Microsoft plan will be similar to the C4D one. 

The creative cloud is, in my assessment, a terrible way to treat your customers and those customers are already looking for replacement software. You are paying quite a bit, more than most do buying upgrades when they need them but only renting the programs on a monthly basis losing the ability to keep working if you stop the subscription. Many pro printers don't update their software often and Indesign, for example, is not very backwards compatible so your constantly updated software makes it impossible to actually get work out. Adobe doesn't seem to know the old 80s model,where companies bought software and most designers/artists who used them worked for companies is almost gone, replaced by a system where companies hire contractors (like me) who don't want, need or can afford to be paying them ungodly amounts of cash to rent the software they need every day. This cloud plan will bleed us dry and make keeping our heads above water harder, not easier. And if there is a server issue at Adobe, and there have already been quite a few, you suddenly can't work.... at all

Using the cloud to share data among a team, or even software within a company can be a very useful thing but companies should not be forcing their customers to fulfill their accountants wet dreams of steady cash flow. Nothing, especially software, is really irreplaceable or indispensable. This  could be a short term money grab that leads to all those other smaller competing developers to take away Adobes dominance and actual choice. I imagine if Apple decided to come up with a full featured photoshop alternative on both platforms at a decent price even Photoshop... the unstoppable flagship of Adobe would quickly fade from view.

So while Adobe may think it has us all trapped in the cloud bleeding us dry, in the end you can't really squeeze blood out of a cloud. 

13 May 2013

Ray Harryhausen 1920-2013

The innovative puppet animator Ray harryhausen dies this week, it's a huge loss to classic film effects fans and marks the end of an era of physical effects artists that started with Willis O'Brien in the silent film era. 

On personal level, Mr. Harryhausen was a hero of my childhood. While other kids wanted to be fireman and later astronauts... I wanted to work in a small room alone animating puppets to life for films. Films like "The beast from 20 000 Fathoms" are still in my list of top ten films to watch over and over for not just entertainment, but inspiration. 

Right up until his death, this pioneer was still working on new projects. These varied from new puppet animations based on Poe's works to colourizing his earlier films for a new audience.. something I normally would abject to but after meeting him a couple years ago and hearing his reasons for doing, I was convinced he was doing the right thing. They were, after his films to decide what was best for their continued enjoyment by fans. 

Ray never wanted to go the computer route with animation, he liked the physical models and the not so real quality of mixing them with real actors and sets. He did develop techniques used by others, including a way to move the models while clicking the shutter each frame to give them a motion blur.. making them look hyper real. He never used this in any of his films, however, thinking it would take away from the fantasy look. 

No one ever made films like him... and likely never will. he was a genre of film making unto himself. Luckily his monster films, Sinbad series and others are still around to remind us of his greatness and still give that spark of creativity to future artists.