Fears and Trepidations

Looking at a blank page can be intimidating, be it on the computer or on your desk. It signifies a new beginning, but also means that you are starting from 0. A blank page can strike terror into even the strongest of warriors. Every week when I sit down to start working on this blog, I usually stare at the blinking cursor for about five minutes when I realize that the entry is not going to write itself. But it still takes about another ten minutes and a cup of tea for me to realize that no, really I have to write this now because there are no writing fairies.

It’s even worse when I am working on a digital drawing.

I will freely admit that 100% digital illustration, from start to finish, is not my strongest suit. But while in Japan, I’m trying to cut art costs so I can have, you know, money for food. There’s also the concern of storage, that I don’t have, for paper; as well as scanning large paper, which I also can’t do unless I invest in a large scanner which seems silly if I am only staying for a short time. Working digitally seems the best choice to avoid spending hundreds, even thousands, trying to recreate the studio I have made for myself at home after several years of saving and buying a piece at a time. So I made it my goal at the end of last year to become more comfortable with doing everything digitally, which was a huge 180 from what I had been doing in the States, as I was trying to distance myself from digital as much as possible. Why? Because I am a perfectionist, and in the world of digital art, there is no end in sight when working on “perfecting” a piece. In traditional mediums, especially the ones I work in, there are happy accidents, when the medium does something that you didn’t intend, but took the piece in another direction that ended up being for the better. It happens rarely in digital when you can undo everything at the click of the button.

There was also the fact that I could not, no matter how hard I tried, create a piece from start to finish on the computer. My hand to eye coordination was not good enough to be separated by my tablet (I work on a WACOM Intous 3). While I have been working digitally for more than 10 years, I always started on paper. A sketch, inks, what have you, scanned, and then brought into a program where I would then color it. Digital was always the final step. There might be a line fix here and there, but anything more was asking too much of my patience.

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as evidenced in this comic

At school we worked on Cintiq tablets, which finally help me see a viable way to go 100% digital, but until I win that lottery, I can’t throw down $2000 for it (and believe me I really wish I could). I broke new ground last year when I edited the Avengers movie poster to have correct proportions, which was mostly just photo editing, but because just about everyone had been made smaller, I had to draw in details that would have been otherwise covered, all of which I did digitally.

Once I was settled in Japan, I decided to try the 30 day art challenge 100% on my tablet in an attempt to force myself to become confident in drawing on it from start to finish. It took 20 days for me to get used to it. Yeah it really took me that long. And I didn’t like anything I did until the last few days…

Now it’s not so bad. The last few illustrations I’ve done have been 100% digital. I’m still taking much longer than I would with pen and paper, but I’m at least not hating what I’m producing.

BUT that beginning blank screen is STILL the worst. I’ll play with settings for about 10 minutes, play with the color wheel, adjust the zoom, get up and make some kind of snack, sit, get back up and get something to drink, play with my music selection, ad naseum until I finally scold myself and once again remind myself that magic art elves won’t appear and draw whatever I need them to (but how great it would be if it were true!)

What is it about the digital blank screen that sparks terror into my soul? I don’t near have as much problem with a blank page in my hands. I usually start doodling right away, even if what I am working on is crap, my hand is moving and creating. I’m more comfortable that way. But waiting for the gap to close between real paper and digital paper has been a frustrating one. I can’t just play digitally yet. I look through other digital artists and see that a good majority of their works are sketches, doodles and experimenting all digitally and I am awed. When I grab my stylus, I’m prepped for battle with my computer and tablet. I can’t just play. And I’m wondering how to make this turn, to get it so I will be comfortable enough to just doodle and sketch digitally, or if it will forever be the final perfection step for me.

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