Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pen and Touch Inspiration

Wacom is a lot more than just Bamboo Paper and a cool Stylus in funky colours. I was invited to a recent product launch by Wacom Australia. I was interested because I wanted to see if these products could be utilised within a school setting. The launch was really about the new CintiQ 24HD - a beautifully designed interactive pen display on a massive 24" widescreen workspace. This is the flagship of their product range and sets a new standard for professionals working in 3D design, animation, game development, industrial design and visual effects.

The launch did however also re-introduce the full range of Wacom products - CintiQ, Interactive Pen Displays, intuos tablets and of course their Stylus and Bamboo Paper app. The most impressive of these from a educational point of view was probably the Bamboo Tablet range. These tablets and the ultra responsive pens are a far cry from the original tablet devices. The Wacom tablet and pen combinations come in 4 models, all moderately priced and well within the budget constraints of most schools.

One of the most impressive things about the Wacom products are the institutions that have aligned themselves with Wacom products. The Enmore Design Centre - Sydney Institute is a design school that Ikea has bought designs straight from the students. Wacom have also been involved in some innovative projects - the best is probably the Advanced Teaching Concept Space at the University of Queensland. 

By coincidence I had a number of students at my school who happened to be using Wacom tablets to produce artworks for their Higher School Certificate Body of Work. The students were the ones that sold me on the quality and features of the Wacom tablets.

The tablet works directly with the image manipulation software that you are using and is simply connected via USB. The pens are wireless. These tablets are a great example of why iPads may not be your only choice of device within a school or department. 

The beauty of the pen is the balanced and responsive feel of it whilst in the drawing process. Many students were more comfortable achieving their effects using the pens as opposed to a mouse. The pen made them feel more like they were actually drawing and they were able to create a better nuance in the use of line and depiction of colour. The nib is touch sensitive - the more you press the wider the line or more intense the colour. The pen allowed the students to create a quick and productive workflow that meant that some of these illustrations were created within relatively sort period of time.

So, this is the challenge. A challenge not to discount other devices simply because they are not iPads. These tablets are certainly one of those devices that fall into the category of non-traditional teaching aids but I know people who now exclusively use tablets and have totally given up using a mouse at all.

The young man who produced these works is exceptional, rarely have I seen works of this quality from a 17 year old student. Having said that I have also seen some absolutely wonderful artworks produced on the iPad. There is no reason why you could not attempt this style of portraiture using any number of iPad apps but there are other devices for creating artwork within the digital format. We need to keep an open mind.

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