One Small Step For Art – One Giant Leap For Me

Those of you that know me know that I hate Mice. Not the little furry rodents but the ones connected to computers. While it was (and still is) one of the most revolutionary input devices ever created for a computer, I always found it clunky and unintuitive, but I made due and for the early years of my career it was better than a C> prompt.

Back in high school I banged away at my Atari 800, intrigued by the colors and the ability to create images with pixels when I discovered the Koala Pad.



Introduced in 1984, the pad was four inch square mounted on a slightly inclined base with the back of the pad higher than the front. At the top were two large buttons. The pad connected to the computer using the analog signals of the joystick ports, which meant that it had a fairly low resolution and tended to jostle the cursor if moved during use.

Instead of the drawing stylus, the pad could as easily be operated by the user’s fingers for less precision-demanding work, such as selecting between menu items (i.e. using the pad as a kind of  indirect “touch screen”).

The top-mounted buttons tended to be somewhat frustrating to use, as the user had to reach over the pad to push the buttons in order to start or stop drawing. However I managed to created some interesting 8-bit art with this little guy. Had I known 8-bit art would be back in vogue 35 years later, I might have saved those drawings…

Fast forward into the agency world. A fellow designer at one of the first agencies I worked showed me a new device she was testing out. A small 4×5 tablet. Now this was about 20 years before anyone even heard of an iPad. This was a flat pad connected to the computer with an accompanying stylus. Very similar to the Koala Pad but this was a professional device, not a toy.

I was blown away by it. I coveted it and as luck would have it my designer friend decided to go bigger and got the next size up. She passed her 4×5 tablet over to me.

I will say that there was certainly a bit of a learning curve transitioning from a mouse to a tablet. I struggled a bit as my mind relearned movements. But after a week, I was hooked and haven’t gone back to mice since. That was around 1994.


Since then I’ve upgraded several times. Wacom improved on the design, features and pressure sensitivity improving my workflow and making it a pleasure to use.

So fast forward a bit to around 2000. I discover, in a magazine ad, a new interactive tablet. The interactive part being that the table now is a screen.


Holy Cow! That’s Awesome! But too expensive at the time… However the lust for one never died and now in 2015 Wacom has a new device. The Cintiq Companion. This device can be tethered to my Mac and used as either a second screen or as a mirror of my primary screen allowing me to draw directly into my design applications such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

But wait! There’s more! If you want mobility, you can untether it and it becomes either a standalone Android device or Windows PC. I opted for the Windows version which allows me to run full versions of all the Adobe products (via my Creative Cloud subscription). Even though I find Windows to be as useful as the mouse I left behind, running full versions of these programs is a must for me (Apple hasn’t licensed it’s OS since the late 1990’s so doubtful we’ll ever see a Mac version of this device).



So now, after seeing a device like this 15 years earlier, I treated myself. And the verdict? Too early to tell. Yet another learning curve but one I am eager to embrace.

Here are a couple of early concepts created entirely on the Cintiq.

Screenshot 2015-04-28 20.33.2911140392_10204881872179977_2523750625703332706_n

Both are available over at Boom Boom Prints as prints, cards, etc.

Conclusion on the Cintiq? Yet to be written. However the original 4×5 ArtPad is still by my side.

I will admit that there is a downside of using a tablet and stylus as my primary means of interaction with my computer. I never let go of the stylus, even while typing which leads to a lot of tpyos in my writing. There are worst things, right?

But I can assure you that you will never see a mouse on my desk.



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