Santa loves milk and cookies. I painted him anticipating some milk and cookies. Here’s a sneak peek of a painting that I have in the Fountain Street Church Keeler Gallery Non-Christmas Christmas Show. The theme of the show is Anticipation. The show runs November 27, 2013 through January 2, 2014. This photo was taken during the process of the painting, so some things have changed. I’m pretty sure that I took several process photos, so stay tuned for more art!
It’s time for my long-awaited Monoprice tablet review.
In January of 2013, I unboxed the Monoprice tablet and showed you the photos. I also included some size comparisons. I encourage you to check out the unboxing post so you can see the size comparisons and what comes with the drawing tablet. Anyways, I said that I would review it and I try to stick to my word, so here’s my Monoprice tablet review.
For the money ($56.61 as of the time of writing this review) you will be hard pressed to find a better drawing tablet. The tablet is similar to Wacom’s Intuos3 line of tablets (Not necessarily in that it looks similar to the Intuos3 tablets, but that it functions similarly). The Intuos3 tablets cost HUNDREDS of dollars. The price of the Monoprice tablet isn’t even a triple digit number.
Wacom has been running a monopoly in the digital drawing tablet market and it’s time for that to change.
Slowly, manufacturers (Monoprice, Huion, Hanvon, Yiynova etc.) are starting to break into the tablet scene and give Wacom some competition. Wacom is similar to Apple in the way that they both overcharge for what they are selling. People still buy their products regardless of the monumental prices because of the status and design.
If you were to gut a Cintiq (Wacom’s pen display) you would probably find parts that when totaled together, do not cost the outrageous prices that Wacom charges. There are people who use Wacom’s existing tablets and they make their own pen displays like the Cintiq but for a fraction of the price–further proof that Wacom overcharges you for sleek design. I know that this is capitalism and Wacom needs to profit so that they can pay their employees, create new products, and much more, but making a profit is one thing–ripping off your customers is another.
Wacom, like Apple, also release “new” products that are simply just slight revisions on past versions. For example, Wacom’s Intuos5 is essentially the same product as the Intuos4 but with touch capabilities (only some models have the touch capabilities). To me, that doesn’t seem like enough of a difference to warrant a number change from 4 to 5.
Now don’t get me wrong, I like Apple (I have several Apple products), and Wacom makes nice hardware (I someday hope to own a pen display like the Cintiq, if they lose their premium price) but I think that competition would be good for Wacom and that is why I chose to buy my drawing tablet from Monoprice. Competition between businesses is a good thing.
Another reason I decided to use a Monoprice tablet instead of a Wacom tablet is because I heard about a horrid thing called the “shoelace effect” affecting the newer Wacom Intuos tablets. You can learn more about that in this conceptart.org thread.
Here’s how I test my equipment:
Now it’s time for the good, the bad, (the neutral) and the verdict:
- Inexpensive. The Monoprice tablet cost me about $56. Wacom wants hundreds of dollars for their products, although their newly revised (and re-named to Intuos) Bamboo tablet line is pretty impressive for the price.
- Bang for the buck. The tablet performs very well and for the price, you are getting a great tablet.
- Competition for Wacom. Wacom needs to be taken down a notch and some competition is healthy and good for the market. If Wacom suddenly feels threatened by the emergence of competitor’s tablets and pen displays, then they will improve their products (better hardware for less money) and value. The competition will then improve their products–rinse and repeat. This is
goodGREAT for the consumer. Maybe Wacom would stop releasing minor revisions as new tablets (see the intuos4 product line to the intuos5), and their products would be affordable.
- Pen weight. The pen isn’t overly heavy or too light. It’s just personal preference to me. I don’t have experience with other tablet pens so I can’t comment on how it compares in weight/size.
- Sturdy and affordable enough that you can throw it in your bag and not worry about it breaking. If it breaks you can just buy another one because it’s so affordable. Disclaimer: I wouldn’t encourage literally throwing it into your bag (or anywhere).
- Slick surface. The nib on your pen doesn’t wear down as quickly as on a paper-like surface (see Intuos4 surface)
- It’s not Wacom!
- AAA battery pen. Although the pen requires 1 AAA battery, I haven’t had to change the battery yet since I bought the tablet. You will quickly forget it even requires a battery.
- Hotkeys. I can’t say much about the hotkeys because I don’t use them.
- Transparent flap thing. You can place drawings or photos underneath the transparent drawing surface (for tracing?). I have never used that feature.
- Slick surface. Yes I know this was also a “pro”. Some people like drawing on slick surfaces (like the Intuos3) and some people don’t. I don’t really have an opinion on it, as I haven’t used the paper like surface of the Intuos4 and 5. I have a feeling that I would like a surface that’s not so slick. I know that a lot of people don’t like the paper-like surface of the Intuos4 and 5 because it wears the nibs/tips down quickly. Of course you can buy replacement tips for Wacom’s products but they charge you MUCH more than what the tips should cost. (By the way, if you have a Wacom tablet and you need to replace your nibs, just make your own)
- Pen requires a AAA battery. This isn’t really a big deal but a “con” nonetheless. Remember, I still haven’t had to replace the battery yet. Also, AAA batteries aren’t expensive.
- No eraser. There is no eraser on the rear of the pen. It doesn’t bother me. I just switch between the brush and eraser in Photoshop by clicking ‘b’ and ‘e’. Many of my Wacom-using-friends tell me that they don’t even use the eraser feature on the Wacom pens (Maybe I could count this as a “neutral” instead of a “con”).
- Cheap rubber grip on pen. The rubber grip around the pen slides if you have a tight grip. I might be too stressed and it’s hard for me to relax so maybe that’s just a problem with me (if you want to help me relax, I accept technology, art supply and monetary donations).
- Nib wear. The nib can sharpen into a chisel. I don’t have enough experience with Wacom tablets to know if they do that too.
- Not wireless. I don’t really mind that it’s wired (the cord is long enough for me) but it would be a definite plus if the tablet was wireless.
- Some slow almost 45 degree strokes will jitter. This may be the software I’m using, the operating system I have, the way I draw, the digitizer in the tablet, or many other things. I’m not sure if it’s the tablets fault. There are too many variables to narrow down what causes it. Most people don’t seem to notice.
Let’s take a look at the specs:
- Overall dimensions: 14.5” x 12” (I think it’s closer to 14” x 11”).
- Active drawing area: 10” x 6.25”.
- Pen is about 6.25” long and at it’s thickest spot it’s almost ½” thick.
- The cord is about 56” long
- Resolution (LPI): 4000
- Report Rate Speed (RPS): 200
- Pressure Sensitivity: 1024 levels
- It also comes with some software that’s probably horrible, and you probably wouldn’t ever use it anyways. I don’t even know if it’s mac compatible software.
Let’s take a look at the settings you can change in the driver for the tablet.
If the Huion H610 existed before I purchased the Monoprice tablet I may have purchased the H610 instead. I’m happy with my purchase and I don’t regret choosing the Monoprice tablet. I’ll probably buy the H610 some day and see if I like it more than the Monoprice tablet. The Monoprice tablet is a bit too large for my tastes. With digital painting it’s easiest to draw from the wrist. Smooth curving lines and stiff straight lines are difficult to paint/draw on a tablet. Having a smaller active area to draw on makes it easier to achieve smooth curving lines and stiff straight lines. After you install the drivers for the Monoprice tablet you can adjust the active area on the tablet. I never tried to change it. A smaller tablet would also take up less space and that’s always a bonus.
VERDICT: BUY THIS TABLET (on Amazon because after shipping from Monoprice it’s more expensive).
For less than $60 the Monoprice tablet is a great value and good competition for Wacom. If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a tablet, or you want to buy a tablet that isn’t made by Wacom, then this tablet is a solid choice.
Here’s part two of my two part post of early 2013 digital speed paintings. If you missed part one, you can view it here. In part one I mention that I had just gotten a drawing tablet at the beginning of 2013 so digitally painting has been a big learning experience. These are five other digital speed paintings that I made in early 2013 while learning the ropes of the digital world (still struggling).
Enough of my talking, here are the “paintings”:
Have a great day!
Drawing and Painting Fantasy Figures: From the Imagination to the Page
Here’s my quick review of Drawing and Painting Fantasy Figures by Finlay Cowan. I wrote this review a couple of months ago and forgot to post it. Don’t buy this book unless you have no idea that wizards are in the fantasy genre, or if you want to learn how to draw badly. I don’t have any personal grudges against Finlay Cowan (he has good ideas and his design work is nice but he definitely isn’t known for his draughtsmanship) but wow, this book is bad (Although it’s not so bad that it should be burned–it’s just a bad art book in my opinion). Most of the drawings seem amateurish (or maybe all of the twelve-year-olds that I see draw are trying to copy his style), and unless somebody can draw well, I don’t think they should teach anyone else how to draw. The 3d modeled images in this book are terrible. However, I have to remind myself that this book was published in 2003 (so the 3d modeling obviously won’t hold up to the 2013 3d standards).
I have to give Finlay Cowan kudos for including so many topics in one book (perspective, anatomy, painting, storyboarding etc.), but the reader would be better off if they learned perspective, anatomy, painting, and storyboarding from other books dedicated to those subjects.
One of the only things I found interesting in this book were the designs that Finlay Cowan drew for Pink Floyd album art (seen below).
If you really want this book, you can buy the book here. I don’t understand how, but at the time of writing this review, Drawing and Painting Fantasy Figures has an average 3.8 rating (out of 5 stars) on Amazon. Maybe the reviewers are much younger than me. Maybe they can’t draw very well or haven’t read very many art books. Whatever the case, some people enjoyed this book so you might too (though I hope you have higher standards for art books than those reviewers on Amazon).
Today you get the pleasure of seeing 5 digital speed paintings I made in early 2013 (and an animated GIF of one of the speed paintings, showing the different layers!). I had just gotten a drawing tablet so it was a big learning experience. I’m still not completely comfortable digitally painting but I’m much better now than I was then (of course). All of the digital speed paintings were made in Adobe Photoshop CS5.
Keep your eyes peeled for part two, featuring 5 more digital speed paintings from early 2013! This also marks the first time I split up a blog post into 2 parts! Everybody celebrate! Also on the topic of digital painting, I will have my long awaited review of the Monoprice Tablet ready in the very near future (meaning that I actually started writing it and I just need to revise it).
And my favorite of the batch (perfect for Halloween because it’s spooky):
It’s been a while since I’ve shown some process shots of my art so let’s take a look at an older gouache painting. The painting assignment restricted my palette to just black and white.
Here’s the painting:
Surtur (also known as Surtr) is a jötunn (aka a giant) from Norse mythology (aka Scandinavian mythology). He also has a fiery sword. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Amon Amarth is a band that doesn’t like to be labelled “viking metal”. They sing (or growl or whatever you want to call it) about vikings. They have viking themed albums. They love norse mythology. Whatever. They are a melodic death metal band. One of their albums is Surtur Rising.
Now onto the process:
Instead of doing a grisly and dark illustration that is typically associated with bands like Amon Amarth, I decided to do a “comicy” style illustration. Side note: this painting is probably the first gouache painting I did since I took the color theory class years ago.
To begin, here are the 50 thumbnails I did prior to deciding on a composition (each thumbnail is about 1.375″ x 1.875″). Because the illustration was going to be a poster I had to also think about text placement when designing my composition.
Sometimes I’m kind of undecided about things, maybe (see what I did there?). I chose some thumbnails that I especially liked from the 50 above and drew some larger refined thumbnail drawings. Each thumbnail is 2.25″ x 3″. I drew them on gray paper because I had some gray paper left over from when I operated an offset printer in high school and I figured “why not?” (don’t answer that).
I decided on the design and composition and drew up a larger drawing for the “pencils” stage. Not pictured are the reference photos I took for this illustration. The final pencil drawing is 7.5″ x 10″ (by the way, pretty much all of my art is for sale. If you want some original art, all you need to do is contact me). The pencil drawing is drawn on some horrible shiny paper. I don’t even know why this paper was manufactured. It’s very difficult to make revisions to the drawing because of the slick surface of the paper (also included are creases that I accidentally added to the paper).
To figure out how the ships would look I downloaded a Google SketchUp model and used that as reference. When I made this painting I hated SketchUp. That’s mainly because I was only using the trackpad on my laptop instead of a mouse. Tip for anyone using SketchUp: use a mouse (the computer peripheral not the rodent).
Next up I painted a value study for the painting. I find these to be more fun than the actual painting and often times I like them more than the final painting. They have a lot of energy and painterly marks. I scanned the drawing and printed it out on my B&W laser printer. I glued it to cardboard (probably the back of an oatmeal box because I recycle [you should recycle too]). This value study is 6″ x 8″.
I only remembered to take a couple of photos of the illustration in progress.
And that’s it for this episode of my creative process. What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment. Speaking of comments: It has come to my attention that some of the older less-computer-literate readers don’t know how to leave comments. If you are reading my blog on my homepage then you just simply click the gray word bubble next to the title of the blog post (see image below).
If you have clicked on the blog post title, or you are only seeing one blog post with no other posts on the page then you can probably just scroll down the page and you should see a comment box. Congratulations! You now know how to comment! If you want more John VanHouten in your life between blog posts you can follow me on Twitter.
Here’s a little Wolverine watercolor and gouache painting. It’s watercolor and gouache (and some watercolor pencils) on some cheap watercolor paper that I’m trying to use up (it’s very thin and flimsy). It’s about 4.5″ x 5″. If you want to commission something like this from me, you can! Contact me for pricing and more information.
I was messing around with pens, marker, and colored pencil. It’s the INCREDIBLE HULK (featuring Hulk Nipple). If you want a comic-con type sketch from me, it might look something like this (do you want a sketch of your favorite character? Contact me for details and pricing). This picture is about 3.875″ x 3.5″.
Here’s a sneak peak of me sketching a creepy dentist for an upcoming digital painting. Look at all of those tools in his evil teeth-cleaning hand (do you recognize any of those tools?). I posted this on Twitter (I encourage you to follow me on Twitter if you like art, or just crazy shenanigans–but mostly art) first but in case you missed it, here it is:
And yes, that’s how I hold my pencil. I never said I was normal.