The new recruit.

Well, that was pretty intense.

The mountain of drawings that appeared strewn across the studio floor in my previous post have at last been given a thorough digital seeing-to and delivered to the client in the form of around 120 separate illustrations. The process took about three weeks as far as the calendar was concerned, into which I think I managed to cram about five weeks-worth of work. Some of the hours I ended up working were just plain embarrassing. What’s more, that was just book 1 of a two-book project, with the second title getting underway more-or-less immediately (like – now) and certain to be just as all-consuming.

I’m not able to post any examples of the work I’ve just delivered prior to publication (not until early 2013) but here are the covers and a couple of spreads from the first editions of the same books, published by Oxford University Press, from 2005-6 to show the sort of thing we’re talking about. Generally speaking, I’m taking on far less educational publishing work these days although it was a constant  part of my workload in the early years. It’s perhaps unfairly but understandably considered by many illustrators to be the vanilla end of the work spectrum, often involving no more than very literal depictions of objects or situations that appear in the accompanying text, with little or no licence to go off-piste down more conceptual or imaginative routes. This type of work is, however, great for developing an ability to draw a wide variety of subject matter quickly and in a consistent style and I’m positive that the sheer quantity of it I’ve done over the years has been formative. I’m more than happy to continue working on this Passport series, however, having played a central role as sole illustrator since the first book in 1995. An English-language course specifically targeted at the Japanese market, the project has involved two memorable research trips out to Japan and any number of fascinating cultural insights. The latest two books will be the ninth and tenth in what has apparently grown into a very successful series.

The recent, somewhat brutal schedule did get me wondering if there might be any adjustments I could possibly make to my working method that might speed things up without sacrificing the quality of the end product. That, in effect, is a concise summary of the thinking that led me to bring forward a purchase that was already becoming inevitable at some stage, only perhaps not necessarily quite so soon.

The item in question? That would be the digital artist’s ultimate piece of studio kit, the mighty Wacom Cintiq 24HD.

I’ve only had this 29kg behemoth set up in my studio for a few days so far and am still in the ’adapting’ phase as drawing directly onto the screen represents quite a change after many years of using a conventional drawing slate (Intuos 2), so a full appraisal will probably have to wait. First impressions though, are overwhelmingly positive. The whole set-up feels perfectly intuitive and natural in a way that other tablets, even with regular use, never entirely did, and it’s hard to imagine how it could fail to enhance the efficiency of anyone working digitally. The only downside (unless you’re looking for something portable that is – it ain’t), and not to be underestimated, is the cost. This is a serious piece of equipment and it comes with a similarly serious price tag. Even so, I’m already starting to think I should maybe have bitten the bullet and bought one a lot sooner.

If you do decide to do likewise, then shop around on the Internet as the prices on top end items such as these can vary by literally hundreds of pounds. For what it’s worth, I got mine here. I was slightly nervous about the relatively low price and the fact that I’d not heard of the company before but the entire transaction was as smooth as silk. Recommended.

Here’s an iPad drawing of my rejigged studio set-up, featuring the new gizmo. Meta enough for you?

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