Saturday, April 19, 2014

Refining scribble dude - breaking and remaking my stylus

I redrew the arm and the outer line on the leg on the left side. You can distinctly see the difference for a couple of reasons - I used a pen this time, so the line is far more responsive than the pencil lines, and it's also blacker. Plus I went for a more formal feathering type of shading, though it's ugly and the lines run in all the wrong directions. Clearly I need to draw like this a lot and eventually develop a technique or rather a collection of techniques, though I do prefer a loose sketchy style over a tight meticulous one. Experience will help a lot but I think I also need to apply conscious strategy - study the work of artists I admire and emulate them.

In order to do this I further developed my layering strategy from yesterday. I started with just the line on the leg, which looked terrible in the original. I had made 3 separate lines all beginning and ending at the right points but looping wildly, each in a different way, in between. It's a case of drawing spasmodically, something I need to get over. I guess I have this notion that loose sketchy drawing needs to be done with quick rapid movements - and really I know better. It's a bad habit I keep falling back on that I need to break.

At this point I"m considering doing my final drawing with a pencil tool rather than the pen tools. Or maybe just using a less responsive pen tool, or adjusting the G pen (the one I used here) so it doesn't vary quite so much between thin and thick. In fact, I even kind of like the fact that the pencil tool lines are dark grey rather than black - I didn't know that until I put pen marks next to them today and saw the difference. There's something about drawing with such a calligraphic pen that makes you draw differently - maybe a little more formally? The lines tend to look a little too self-conscious to me. Maybe it's because I feel the need to always put rat tails on every stroke when using this kind of a pen? Heck, in fact I believe the pen tool is set up to automatically do that come to think of it - I guess I could switch that off or turn it down.

Something I want to try, but I think it will be difficult - turning the tablet so I can make groups of feathered lines at the most comfortable angle, the way I automatically do with paper. It's easy with paper, because you get that tactile feedback constantly, you touch the pen or pencil to the paper and you know exactly where it will go when you move it. But with the tablet there's a disconnect - if it isn't sitting perfectly aligned with the monitor then the line will be angled a little bit - very disorienting. I have a weird but possibly workable idea for this though, short of getting a Cintiq - how about taping a piece of paper on the tablet and swapping the nylon tip in the stylus for the appropriate sized drawing lead? The poor man's cintiq! I don't see why it wouldn't work, though many things obviously fail to work even when we don't see why they wouldn't. It occurred to me today when for the first time I had to replace the tip in my stylus. Though I just realized you can't advance the lead like in a mechanical pencil, so you'd throw away a lot of little pieces of lead after drawing with them for a few minutes.

Update - drawing on the tablet through paper totally works. I also broke off a piece of 2mm lead, which looked like the right size, but it's slightly too big to go inside the stylus. Damn - the next smaller size I know of is more than a millimeter smaller - way too small! It's hard to see laboriously shaving down a piece of 2mm lead for this. 

Oh yeah, I was going to explain how I re-drew the arm and leg. Simple, just a variation on the way I did several layered pencil variations, each successively more refined than the last. I turned the entire pencil layer blue (so I can easily differentiate between the pencil lines and ink marks I'm making over them), drew in the new lines, then erased the underlying blue pencil marks, turned the pencil layer black again, and merged the layers. Working similarly to this you could conceivably do multiple different inks over the same pencil drawing - interesting idea.

Update #2 - stupidest thing I've done in along time. And I saw it coming just before it happened. "Wow - wouldn't it be terrible if this piece of lead I just shaved down on the sanding block broke off inside the stylus?" - I was actually smiling like an idiot as I thought it, but then I sobered up fast and realized - how the well was I going to get it out? Considering how frequently they break in the lead holder.. and sure enough, the instant I tried, SNAP!! The stylus still projects the target disc on the screen, but it won't draw now - I guess it needs the feedback of the nib pressing into it even slightly. Or maybe if I put the button back on the side I can make it draw using that. But yeah, ordering a new stylus now. Hey, at least the part I screwed up is the cheap part!
I love working like this - building up form gradually by laying down skeins of linework in an almost automatic way. It's like it allows me to think as the form takes shape. I go into a sort of trance and unfocus my mind and watch as the drawing builds itself. Using the small point of a pencil rather than a broad brush, as is recommended in painting (digital or otherwise). I don;t seem to be good yet at thinking in fast planar terms to build form that way, but when I scribble it out in pencil (not using the edge of the lead but the paint, and best if it's a very sharp pencil) the magic happens. I had really forgotten about this, and this is the first time it's happened since long ago. I need to keep nurturing this and develop it in the digital realm - maybe I can translate it into painting and bring it through into the broad planar approach.

Update 3 - found this thread on disassembling the intuos 3 stylus and quickly canceled the one I had just ordered. One little falsehood in the post - he says twist and the pen will come apart - it will feel like you're going to break it but you won't. I did. There was no way in hell it was coming apart without breaking. But I did get it apart, found a super thin steel rod I had bought long ago for making armatures, and it actually fit through that tiny hole and was long enough to push the lead out. Amazing!! I even found a tube of superglue that was still liquid (after 2 solid tubes of epoxy and 2 crunchy tubes of superglue) and it's setting up now. It should work, even though it didn't go back together quite perfectly. It's really just a question now of if the superglue joint will actually hold - it's never ever ever worked for me in the past, but I think it's because I always thought it was supposed to be fully cured in 5 minutes, and didn't realize you still needed to let it sit overnight before using. Time will tell.

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