Unshelved comic strip for 12/29/2005

Storytime Squad

Here is the children's staff of the Glenwood Branch of Howard County Library, which I'm told was recently ranked first in the nation among the great public library systems by Hennen's American Public Library Ratings. Clearly this was due to their excellent taste in garb and reading matter.

Back row: Raul Gordon, Stacey Freedman, Jane Conlon.
Front row: Robin Kinney, Evelyn Greenberg, Heather Leonard

Cintiq Love

Over at PVP, Scott Kurtz is digging himself deeper into a weird hole regarding Wacom Cintiqs, those cool display tablets that let you draw right on the screen. Now I greatly admire and respect Mr. Kurtz and his fine cartooning products, so please understand that it is not a personal attack when I say that he is completely missing the point.

And the point is this. If you use a graphic tablet for touching up your art, he's right. A Cintiq is probably overkill. There's no doubt that moving the cursor by pointing right on the screen is cognitively easier than looking up at the screen while moving a pen on the tablet, but there's no way it's worth $2500 MSRP.

But that's not what I do. I draw on my Cintiq. I haven't put ink to paper in almost two years. I do layouts, roughs, final pencils, lettering, and inks in Photoshop. I don't know about you, but while using a tablet was fine for touching up I was never able to make the jump to actually drawing. My eye is too connected to my hand. The Cintiq is what makes this possible.

Now you can argue, quite rightly, that nothing beats a brush (or pen) for drawing. It's true. If my #1 goal were artistic quality I'd still be using a brush. But anyone who reads our strip (and especially my blog) knows I made a concious decision a while back to focus on productivity. Unshelved isn't the prettiest strip around, but I firmly believe the art effectively tells the story. It's good enough which, I believe, is good enough. And because I save time by drawing on the computer I am able to do the a strip every weekday and a big fat color strip every Sunday while maintaining a day job and doing a reasonable job as husband and father.

How productive is it? Well, it's a computer. So I have the virtual lightbox of multiple layers, one each for panel frames, lettering guides, pencils, inks, and tones/colors. When I do Sunday strips I go back and forth fluidly between lettering and art. I can cut, copy, paste, and change scale. I don't have to clean brushes, refill ink, clean spills, wash hands, sharpen pencils, brush away eraser schmutze, white-out errors, or buy art supplies. It's fast and it's easy.

Aside from the quality degradation compared to brush, the main downside to drawing on-computer is the lack of original art. It would be fun, and mildly lucrative, to sell my art to people. Dave Kellett gave my wife Sara a Sheldon strip for Christmas (thanks, Dave!), and it is too cool. The prints we sell, which really are very high-quality, just don't have the same gravitas. But I'm willing to live with these minuses for the reason I already stated. Without the Cintiq I simply couldn't live this dual (quadruple?) life.

It's not for everyone, but it has real value to a certain breed of cartoonist.

This Unshelved strip

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