Before we begin
I know this is a long article so if you want to skip to the exercises you can do so here
My own troubles
One of the things I encountered when flipping from real life mediums to digital mediums, is the frustration I felt when I first used a graphics tablet.
That’s why I setup this graphics tablet tutorial, so I could train myself to use the tablet well.
I share this here in the hope that this will help others as it has helped me.
I first used a graphics tablet when I was 24 years old. It was a cheap one I bought from a superstore and when I took it home I had high expectations about what I was going to achieve with it. As many first time users find, I was quickly frustrated.
It was almost like I had gone back to school and was drawing like a 6 year old. I tried to draw straight lines and they came out like squiggles. I tried to draw a circle and it came looking like a cartoon rock. I drew a square and it looked like a cardboard box that had been left out in the rain. With vast disappointment I put the pen down and gave up. I rather bitterly continued to draw with pencil and paper, though I still love this medium today.
Some weeks later I came across a review for the Wacom Intuos3 graphics tablet and I thought “Maybe it was the cheap graphics tablet that was the problem!”
So I pulled together the money to buy the A6 version of the Intous3 and waited in anticipation for it to arrive. When it finally arrived I excitedly plugged it into my system and with great excitement started to draw. My excitement was short lived however.
Although the tablet was more accurate then my budget version and had many better features (such as tilt and pitch), I was still not drawing much better! With bitter disappointment I walked away from the PC for a while.
It was 2 hours or so later before I decided to give it another go. This time though I thought about what I was actually trying to do.
For starters, I was not even looking at my hand while I was drawing. Where I was used to looking at the very tip of my pencil I was now looking at a pointer on the screen.
I was also not working on paper and the surface of the tablet was quite shiny so I had a lot of slipping happening.
My posture was also in question. Before I was leaning over my work, now I am looking almost straight ahead.
Then, the problem was made all the more clearer. While I was used to drawing on paper, my body used muscle memory and habit to do most of my art work. I had trained my entire posture, hand eye coordination, and skill to draw in this fashion. Now, I was trying to get the same results by changing nearly the entire way I was working.
I began to smile again.
What was the solution? Simple, retrain my body and mind to work with a tablet, to the same level as I have done on paper.
And so I went back to basics. Instead of diving straight into trying to draw a new sci-fi scene, portrait, fantasy monster or the like, I simply went back to the exercises I used when I first started to sketch properly in my early teens.
I rummaged around and found a series of exercises I had put together to help train my body and mind to draw. I had originally used these exercises to repeatedly draw shapes, lines, patterns and shades. In doing so, my mind and muscles slowly learnt to relax and over time I needed to think about the exercises less and less. Ultimately I developed some good habits and when it came to drawing I was thinking less about the technique and more about the sketch it’s self.
And so I started to use these exercises to re-learn and re-train my body and mind. With much glee I realised, not only could I start to draw using a graphics tablet, but I could end up becoming quite good at it!
And now? I use the tablet as often as I am able. When I am at home I rarely use pencil and paper any more. I find the computer a far more flexible medium that still requires a lot of skill to use. When I am out and about I still sketch the old fashioned way but am happy with to use either method.
So, here is a selection of exercises hints and tips for the aspiring digital artist. I hope you find them useful, and I wish you every success in your new venture!
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