Above: the first (rejected) February layout illustration for "The Months"
Before I bought my Cintiq tablet, I had been working on a set-up that basically could not sustain me in my career as a children's illustrator in the 21st century. I was working on a Powerbook G4 and used a 3x5 Wacom Graphire tablet. It was my first lap top. When I bought it, I was under the impression that it would support doing heavyish graphics. Due to the portability factor, I went for it. Well, I was right, It did support graphic files, even really large ones. But what I did not anticipate was how hot the machine would get. That was something I discovered pretty quickly. But a more nervewracking problem with doing artwork on the machine was an issue of camouflage - the screen "trickery". The matte screen just did not show all the lumps and bumps in a working illustration. It read light yellow as white. It read light blue as white. Light grey? White again. And the sad part is that, half the time, I did not even realize it until WAY after the fact. I remember: I would make an update to my web site. Then, next day, I would go look at what I had done on a regular desktop computer monitor, live and online. I'd be absolutely horrified that the graphics had some blatant mistakes in them. Ugh!
I discovered that I hated using my lap top/tiny Wacom tablet for design work. I also discovered that I simply could not get used to illustrating with the small Wacom with the laptop screen. There was just something completely uncomfortable about the tiny tablet / lap top combo that eas pretty much unbearable. I'd used Wacom tablets (6x8 mostly) for years preceding this point, so it was not a "getting used to it" issue. It was just that the combo was not working, and it wasn't going to start working. If I was going to move forward in my career, I simply had to get the right tools—NO if's, ands or but's!
I had an experience which propelled me quickly to decide to make these major changes. It happened during my work on the book "The Months". Throughout the entire job, things on my end could have gone SO much easier had I had the proper tools and hardware. Not just the Wacom/lap top situation: I desperately needed a large-bed scanner, but I had only a little 8.5 x 11 one, and there was just no time to work on acquiring the larger-sized one that I needed during the working time frame of the job. I completed the project of course, and the book did see the light of day! But I learned some very valuable lessons. One of the most important was to suck it up and get the right tools to do the job right. After so many horrible scans and terrible time trying to retouch my watercolor paintings with the lap top / tiny Wacom Graphire combo, I decided, ENOUGH! I was a professional and I was going to buy the best tools I could. I was worth it, my work was worth it. I was not going to continue to compromise my goals and art career due to the lack of the equipment I needed to function in the present landscape.
Around that time, the Wacom Cintiq was the newest offering. I hemmed and hawed for months, but after chatting with Carlyn Beccia about the Cintiq, I was willing to jump in, sight unseen. I felt that, if I knew that Wacom tablets worked for me in general, then the Cintiq would be a great step up. I knew there would be a big learning curve, but there is a learning curve with everything. Honestly, if there's no learning curve with something new, then where's the challenge, and where's the reward? (A big thanks anain to Carlyn for kindly sharing her Cintiq insights with me when I was at that crossroads.)
Ok, I'm not implying that every artist needs a Cintiq, nor do I want you encourage you to go into major debt. I just think it is important for us to face the fact that, though our tools are expensive investments, they are not optional ones. Without the right tools, you can't compete AND you can't stretch yourself and your knowledge in the ways you NEED to be able to in this business. If you don't invest, you're basically putting up your own (very dense, very heavy) roadblocks to potential success.You're voting with silence, basically. Do what you can, within legal and moral means ;) , to get your workspace and tools as up to speed as possible.There are ways to cut corners: I bought my large-bed scanner refurbished. It was still very expensive, but it was a lot cheaper than buying new. The idea is, getting the tools that you NEED TO SUCCEED as an artist is a requirement, not an option.