Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Returned from December tour of duty

The Blue Princess announces: Pyra is back. Back from my tour of duty in Massachusetts helping clear out the dismal house my parents lived in. By the time I and my helpers started unloading the hoarded clutter, the house was almost abandoned and infested with mice, spiders, insects, and mildew. The smell from mouse effluent and mildew was so bad it made me nauseated. With the help of a couple of tireless professional clearers, I started the job of cleaning this structure out so that it can be sold later next year. My mother's collected artworks remain in the house though I have given many of the smaller ones away. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts will take a few of them as donations. The rest need to find permanent homes. There are also shelves and shelves of books, only a few valuable, which need to be donated to library fund raising events or other charities. Weeks and weeks of work have still only cleared a couple of rooms, and there is more to come. Right now the work is on hold as my helpers are going to their winter residence in Florida next month until May. I don't have any sentimental or happy emotions about this house and I don't care what the next owners do to it, whether rebuilding or demolishing. 


I set up the Cintiq on the dining room table and poked away on it whenever I could. I must say that the "learning curve" (to use the biz-talk cliche for it) is quite difficult. It was harder than I thought. The drawing skills required by the stylus on screen are different from ink and pencil on paper. For instance, the cursor (the spot where the action on the screen is) is not directly under the stylus, but floats until you touch the stylus to the screen. And Windows draws a little circle round your stylus tip when you touch and press, which you need to do in your drawing. The circle blocks what is immediately at the point of drawing. Some of this is an advantage though as you can just press the "undo" button if you don't like what you drew. Other disadvantages come not from Cintiq or Windows but from Photoshop CC which is what I'm using here. Like so many big pieces of software upgrading, the designers never miss a chance to mess up what worked and add on what annoys. I looked for my usual "brush" controls for hours before finding that they had been re-named with inscrutable words and hidden behind panels and menus. The worst thing about Photoshop CC is the pop-up that appears when I am using the Brush Tools. Windows draws its little circle and then a large brush tool control pop-up shows, BLOCKING YOUR DRAWING. Grr is that annoying. I believe there is a way to disable this, or to draw around it. 

However the Cintiq is doing just what I bought it for, giving me a hand-to-screen instant image gratification in Photoshop not just a dinky iPad app. I get lots of drawing power with no delay, and I don't need to use any pencil or pen drawing to start an image. Once I figured out how to work Photoshop CC I just proceed using my previous experience. The Cintiq is lightweight though heavier than an iPad and I can set it up anywhere. The rubbery plastic stand provided for it, though, is unstable and you will want to get a portable desk easel for prolonged Cintiq use. I have one and it's just right. I expect to take the Cintiq out on the road for on-site work with my landscapes and wineries. It fits in my backpack. It can be used as a wi-fi connected laptop so you can read your gossip on Facebook, but you must switch in between web and art as there isn't enough room on the screen to show both.

The blue-clad princess you see above is my first character portrait done entirely on the Cintiq. I borrowed her image from a stock photograph which I imported to the Cintiq before I left for Massachusetts. Don't look too closely, it isn't that good and it's only a practice image but I finished it anyway. The lovely blonde Princess is based on a real person, a stunning young lady I met while she was working at the front desk of a hotel I stayed at on my previous journey north. I have the artist's vice, I look at everyone as if they were a model, or could be, with a beautiful fantasy costume and identity. 

So back to making art and art by-products, with and without the Cintiq. I am considering adding another program, the big-time "Painter 2016," for images that look more like "traditional" media, though it's wicked expensive as we say in Boston. I also will try to install my 2002 vintage CorelDraw though it may not run on the modern Windows. I don't know whether this machine will support Windows 10. There's a lot more to do.

"Blue Princess" is Photoshop on Cintiq, December 2015. Click for sort-of-larger view.

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