“I Want To Be A…”

Designer and developer!

Specifically, a user interface designer and a front-end web developer.

Yes, at the not-young age of 28, I can finally answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Prior to my 27th birthday – also my golden/royal one – I created a post about how I hadn’t yet been able to answer that question. I went through several phases, but I always came back to something that revolved around creativity. I feel like being a UI design and front-end web dev combine my two of my biggest loves: art and technology.

However, something disappointing I learned some time again is in professional environments, designers and developers spend very little of their time designing and coding, and the majority of the time doing meetings and paperwork. For that reason, I want to get into freelance. Sure, that will require paperwork too, but hopefully, not more than designing and coding. I also want to do freelance between it’s rare for a UI designer to code or a front-end web dev to design. In other words, I want to do both. I wouldn’t oppose to doing one in a traditional job and the other as freelance.

But first things first. Tomorrow, I begin an accelerated course for front-end web dev. I guess school isn’t as boring as I claimed it was as a kid. I certainly don’t avoid. Granted, I didn’t pay for this course, but I am still willingly attending. That probably makes it very easy to be excited about.

Call back: “What Do You Want To Be?”

When you grow up?

At the not young age of twenty-eight, I finally have the answer: a UI designer and front-end developer. I can’t say I’m surprised.

The problem is technology is very difficult to break into, especially without a degree in computer science. It’s not impossible, but so much harder. Add design on top of it, which is not exactly notorious for being an in-demand skill, and enough said. Coding itself is endless learning, and I can’t see the day I’m ready to make a project, let alone have a job, arriving in the near or far future. Doesn’t mean I won’t try, but like my previous attempts at any job outside of warehouse and customer service so far, it’ll likely prove fruitless. All my plans for the future are made with my current wage because it’s not a good idea to bet on an income you don’t have. And no, saying “I will have X” doesn’t make it happen. I would have an unbroken family, and be an only child, if that were the case.

Coding isn’t necessary to be a UI designer, but it is necessary to be a front-end developer. I have no interest in back-end or being full-stack, so I don’t care about that. Interesting thing about college graphic design programs is most require a portfolio, which is weird to me. If you can make a portfolio, a graphic design program is likely little more than a formality. I’m attending college because I don’t have the skills and am a poor self-learner. Speaking of which, I’m envious of people who can give themselves college-esque structure. Student debt is never a concern for anyone who can learn outside of academics. Yes, I can learn outside of it. School just does it better than I can. In short, I either devote more time or more money, and the latter has a specific number, so I prefer that. Easier to network when you pay for it too. Not a guarantee, but easier.

I don’t even have my certificate from my trade school anymore. I lost it at some point, but considering how the jobs from that turned out, it’s not something I want on my resume anyway. It’s still embarrassing to be ten years out of high school and have nothing to show for it, but it’s not like there’s a reunion, so who needs to know? In truth, I’ll probably be in a warehouse for the rest of my life, but it’s still better than retail, which is a much worse fate. No one is paid enough for that nonsense.

Sometimes, I feel I want degrees and courses only because I don’t know how else to move on. As I said, I am not a good self-teacher, so those are proof I’m capable of something. Granted, bachelor’s degrees are said to be the new high school diploma, and I’m getting an associate’s, so I’m still not on par. But that’s my life in a nutshell from birth, so what else is new?

Screen Vs Screenless

I mentioned in a previous post I opted to buy a new graphics tablet: XP-Pen’s Artist 12. I also purchased their Deco 02 tablet, which was the package I had trouble with via Amazon. There is a newer version of that tablet, one they call Deco 03, but I chose Deco 02 because it uses the same pen as the Artist 12.

So, why do I need two graphics tablets? I don’t. But the reason I bought the second tablet is I wanted to try my hand at working with a screenless tablet.

I love using a graphics tablet for, well, what I feel are obvious reasons. A pen is a lot easier to handle than a mouse, less strain for my hand, and overall feels nicer. Regular paper and pencil still rules, but if I don’t want to use paper, I can sketch on my tablet instead.

When it comes to a screen tablet versus a screenless one, everyone has their own preference. I personally prefer screen tablets. I consider them a little easier to use than a screenless tablet, and having my drawing form on two screens at once is fun. I know some people prefer screenless because it prevents their hand from getting in the way, but I’ve not had a problem with that, so I can’t list that as an advantage.

That said, I have come to enjoy my screenless tablet just as much, and it has its own advantages for me. For starters, it’s a little less set-up. Just one wire, configure the pen settings, and I can draw right away. Thinking about it, that does make sense. I don’t want to call it a complaint because it’s really not aggravating to set up my Artist 12. Just a little less hassle with my Deco 02. That also explains why it’s so much cheaper.

I also like that I’m, to my surprise, able to draw without looking down. There is something to be said for that skill. However, this is where it’s a little harder to use than my screen tablet. I struggle to be as precise and it’s more annoying to try to get those little areas. I struggle simply to draw a curved line exactly where I want it to go. Maybe that’ll change as I use it more, but as it stands now, it’s a little bit of a nuisance. I’ll probably stick to using my Deco 02 for simpler work and use my Artist 12 for stuff that’ll be more time-consuming.

I’m happy I have both tablets. Minor gripes aside, I have fun with both of them and I don’t think I could ever (willingly) return to using a mouse. That said, if you are a mouse user for your artwork, I admire you. While my own skill counts too, I feel like I may not have had such an on-and-off feeling with art if I’d been able to get a graphics tablet back when I first started since that’s when my interest was at its highest. Better late than never, I suppose, and I was able to buy them myself instead of needing to ask for money. There’s certainly that pride to uphold!

Knock-knock, knock-offs

I haven’t had much to do with anything art-related in a long time. A constant schedule of school, work, studying, and tiredness makes that difficult. Nevertheless, I managed to squeeze a little time in to start playing on my art tablet again. It’s a year old, but still works without issue. However, to some artists, casual and professional (probably especially professional), my graphics tablet has an ongoing problem that can never be fixed:

It’s not Wacom.

Let me explain. Wacom is considered by many artists, if not most, to be the best of graphics tablets, similar to how Apple is considered superior when it comes to mobile devices. It’s to the point any tablet that isn’t Wacom is seen as a “cheap, Chinese knock-off” (never mind many American products are manufactured in China…) that isn’t worth any real artist’s time. There are some artists who go so far as to say you shouldn’t bother with digital art if you don’t have a Wacom tablet.

There are two problems with this. First of all, a tablet, no matter what brand it is, does not make someone a good artist. A graphics tablet makes artwork easier, not better. Only skill does the latter. Using a top-of-the-line tablet will not turn a beginner into an expert. Insisting someone shouldn’t bother with art because they can’t attain a Wacom tablet, or any tablet, is absolute nonsense.

Second, being a “knock-off” doesn’t automatically make a product inferior. Many artists look into alternatives to Wacom for the price (much like Apple, Wacom’s tablets are very pricy) because, simply put, some people have a tight budget and a pricy tablet isn’t high on their list of priorities. In addition to that, every technology has its flaws. I’ve found as many complaints about Wacom as I have praise for it (mostly related to their customer service and to their tablets’ drivers), and the same can be said for any other brand of, well, anything. Using Apple again as an example, google “Apple versus Android” and get some popcorn. I wonder what side you’re on when you have Apple and Android (I have an Android phone and an Apple iPad Pro with the Apple pencil). My point is going for an inexpensive alternative does not always mean you’re sacrificing quality to save money.

Going back to art tablets, when I first began to look into getting one, I was dead set on getting Wacom’s Cintiq 13HD because of how much Wacom was praised as being the best. At the time, this tablet cost $800 and I actually did go for it. However, it did not go well and twice, I had to contact Amazon for a refund due to third-party sellers (the only way you can purchase it from Amazon). After that crashed, I got some advice from a very helpful user who taught me about Wacom alternatives and had even created a detailed list of them (and the list includes Wacom). In the end, I settled on the tablet I currently own, one called “Artist 10S 10.1” from XP-Pen. There is a second version of it released now, but as I said, it still works without issue and I have zero gripes with it. That said, I decided to purchase XP-Pen’s newest tablet, their Artist 12, while it’s on sale and my Artist 10S is going to my best friend when my Artist 12 arrives. I could afford a Wacom tablet, even their most expensive one (via credit cards) I linked to above, which is $3,300, but XP-Pen is cheaper, good quality, and satisfies me, so why should I switch (other than for the experience)?

Note I do not hate Wacom or fans of their products. That’s not what I take issue with. I take issue with the idea Wacom is the only good brand of tablets, or you’re not a real artist if your tablet didn’t come from Wacom. I confess to still wanting to try Wacom myself, if only for the sake of knowing if I would personally prefer it to XP-Pen (if my experience with Apple and Android is anything to go by, probably not; take a guess at my preference between those two, despite owning both). Plus, is it really a good idea to promote the concept that tools make the artist instead of the other way around?

(Side note: XP-Pen is a Japanese company, not Chinese. If it’s a knock-off, it’ll be a “cheap, Japanese knock-off”.)

Break It Down

I’ve got an art problem and it starts with “impatience”.

It’s much more fun look at your own than make it. At least, that’s how I feel when things start taking longer than I’d like. For the most part, I can reasonably assume how long something will take to finish because I’ve done it before. If it’s more than a day, the idea doesn’t leave my head. And I hate that.

The reason that happens is if something goes on for too long, I get bored of it, especially if I’m been working on it for several hours in a row. The longest I’ve ever worked on something was 14 hours and I still wasn’t finished. It’s not too hard to see why I didn’t want to open an art program again for a while.

I asked for advice on DeivantArt’s forum and I got two ideas I found useful. One was to take some time to make a bunch of rough drafts and sketches. It’s still practice and it’s hard to really get bored when they take about a half hour at most. That was a good idea to me because I do sketching. Can make everything messy and clean it up later. Besides, who says they all have to make it off the page? Some of my drawings never leave the sketchbook, which is probably good because some of them are really bad ideas.

The other idea was breaking down the process into smaller goals to achieve for the day instead of worrying about finishing the whole thing at once and getting it all done as soon as possible. Unless I don’t want to digitize it, my drawing process usually goes in this order: pencil sketch, transfer, outline, details, color, shade, background, sign and watermark, upload. Done. Depending on the size of what I’m trying to make, that can be a very long process, and it never looks like it took as long as it did. Something I spent three weeks on will often look like it only took half a day.

I feel like doing so makes me lazy, but I like the idea that I can just do one part at a time and decide I’m done of the day instead of trying to get it done as quickly as possible. That’s probably why they look so bad in the first place, in addition to the low skill I have. That’s not a new idea to me. Just one I always felt made me a lazy person because I’m making it easy on myself. Of course, if this is supposed to be fun, I probably should do that. I’m not exactly trying to make a career out of this. Having to rush, and still being unable to keep up, is why I never did well in art classes during high school.

I don’t know when I’m going to create or rework something again, but whenever I’ll do, I’ll give that idea a shot. Hopefully, it’s something I can manage to stick to.