My Art Studio

My drawing board which hasn’t been getting as much use since moving to the Cintiq. (The typewriter on the desk is a 1921 Royal 10.)

I recently mentioned getting a Cintiq and one of my friends had commented whether I would show a photo of it in my studio, so I figured I’d do so for today’s post. This got me to thinking — I recall encountering a book devoted solely to documenting artist studios. While I’ve always been fascinated with commercial art studios, I’m more interested in private art studios and seeing how other artists surround themselves. Some artists have minimalist studios to avoid distractions while others have studios surrounded by clutter.

Frank Grau Studio Cintiq & Computer Area


If you look closely on the second level of the glass-paneled bookcase you can see an animator’s maquette of Christopher Robin which I used while designing for the Pooh & Friends figurine line. And for anyone possibly interested, the guitar on the wall is a 1989 Hamer USA Californian.

Because I’m essentially imprisoned in my little work space all day long, I need to surround myself with all the little things that inspire me throughout the day. I have quite the collection of art books, many children’s books, as well as some novels, academic books, and comics. I also have a couple of electric guitars with which to entertain myself when I need to take a break, so I’ll kick back on the window seat and make noise when I’m restless. When I want to work out ideas for something I’m writing, I’ll often rough out things on one of the several vintage typewriters I’ve acquired over the years. Anyway, since I don’t want to have to itemize everything in my studio, I’ll let you wade through the photos. I took a couple shots from different corners, as well as tried to stitch together a few panoramas (hopefully the panoramas are not too confusing, since the edges of each photo didn’t align perfectly when attaching them to one another. Plus the lens distorts things and makes them wonky, so excuse the warped, cartoon-like perspective).

Frank Grau Studio Panorama from Drawing Board

The little amp on the ground there is a 1974 Fender MusicMaster Bass amp, which, while stinky for bass is really cool for guitar, especially after running the guitar through a few pedals (for the amp nerds out there, it’s the earlier 6aq5 version, not the later one running 6v6 power tubes).

Frank Grau Studio Panorama from windowseat Frank Grau Studio_Panorama from doorway

As far as the Cintiq is concerned, you can check out the before-and-after photo and use the scanner on the top right of the desk as a reference to see what’s changed. The scanner has remained in the same spot, so you can see how the desk was routed out and another level added to accommodate the Cintiq. The iMac in the “after” shot is a newer computer and I got rid of the extra monitor and the printer underneath. The pull-out keyboard section also got dropped down. Overall, the whole thing is pretty ergonomic now. And I can see the entire iMac screen when the Cintiq is slanted down for drawing.

Cintiq computer station

As you can see, I have the required Iron Giant mascot required at every artist’s studio. The image on the Cintiq is a personal comic project on which I’m currently working in my nearly non-existent free time.


A Week With The Cintiq 24HD

Dinner Is Served

A disturbing doodle I did with the Cintiq.

So it’s been a week since the Cintiq 24HD arrived. Before I actually even placed the order for it, I had my computer work area retrofitted to accommodate the the large size of the Cintiq, while still being able to keep the 27″ iMac on the same desk. I had to give away my large Epson printer to make everything fit, but the cost of ink on that thing was too much anyway and I really wasn’t using it much, so it was time to get rid of it.

My reason for not getting the touch version of this is because (1) I don’t think it’s worth the extra 500 bucks, and I can do the same things just as easily without it. For example, rotating the screen is easy with a keyboard shortcut, so there’s no need to have touch control. And (2) I didn’t want to get my skin oils all over the screen.

The thing is, the screen has a coating that you want to protect, and for those of you who have ever applied a screen protector to a small device like an iPod, just imagine the struggle and frustration of trying to align an awkwardly large piece of clear film to this large display, all while dealing with dust-attracting static and air bubbles. I wanted no part of that. Instead, I opted to go the Michael Jackson route and wear a single white glove (with the thumb, first, and middle fingers cut out to better grip the pen). I also wear a cut-off sock below the glove so my forearm doesn’t sweat on the screen. Finally, my wife was awesome and created a cover for the display for when it’s not in use. She made it out of a light, breathable, lint-free fabric, and it works like a charm to keep it dust-free — I’m not worthy!

So the Cintiq is quite large with its frame containing all the touch button/switches. While those touch buttons are very handy, I never used them at all on my Wacom tablet, and I think I won’t be using them too much on this either. I’ve gotten used to keyboard shortcuts and it’s hard changing habits. Really, it’s just as easy for me to use my keyboard as it is using those buttons on the side of the monitor. It’s not that I will never use them, but It’s not my primary reason for using this display.

The quality of the display is good, but it’s not as bright as my 27″ iMac screen. That might be good, as being up against something too bright for too long might fatigue one’s eyes. Also, the cursor/brush is not exactly under the tip of the stylus pen because of the obvious glass layer between the two. However, you quickly get used to this, so it’s not problematic.

I originally wasn’t interested in a Cintiq because it just didn’t have the feel of pencil on paper. While I still prefer the feel of drawing on paper, the feel of working on this display is actually easy to get get used to. The base on this is also incredibly sturdy, so it doesn’t budge when you set it up at an angle like a drawing board and lean your drawing arm on it. This is a very solid piece of equipment.

The stylus pen comes with different tips stored in the pen’s base stand and the tips range from smooth to gritty. However, from what I gathered, the grittier tips may eventually harm the coating on the screen, so I’m sticking to the smooth tip. It’s an easy pen to grip and is comfortable, and the rocker switch on the side of it has programable functions. I personally kept the default settings on it. If you already use a tablet, this is pretty much the same thing.

So have I abandoned my drawing board and paper? Not quite yet. While most of my work-related commercial projects may be done entirely on the Cintiq, I still may be working traditionally on other things. The Cintiq definitely speeds up my workflow and I’ll probably use it to begin sketches that will eventually be done on paper, but I won’t abandon paper and pencil forever.

Should you get a Cintiq? Well, if you work professionally, it’s definitely worth the investment. I turned down work in the past because I was asked to work on a Cintiq and hadn’t had the experience of doing so. Now I realize that there’s really no difference between using this and using a regular tablet, other than the obvious fact that this allows you to work right over the drawing, but it really requires no extra skills or computer knowledge. If you already know how to use your graphics program of choice and if you have artistic skills, this is really a no-brainer. There’s no learning curve, unless you’re absolutely required to learn how to program the touch buttons and use them regularly (which also isn’t hard to learn if you had to do so). But if you want to ignore all of those features and go with the regular keyboard and menu shortcuts, then just turn the Cintiq on and start drawing. It’s that simple.