My New Light-Box!!!

One of the tools that would have made things easier when I was working in traditional media (before completely digitizing my workflow with a Cintiq) is a good light-box, which would have allowed me to use any paper I like rather than relying on graphic paper or vellum to clean up my rough drawings. While I like graphic paper, it can be too thin for wet media, including ink when applied liberally with a brush.

I’ve decided recently that I’d like to get back into using traditional media, if only for my own projects which have no deadline and don’t require the efficiency of a fully digital workflow (though I do plan on utilizing the Cintiq where it still makes sense to do so). This time around I’d like to use a light-box so I can work with a thicker paper, like bristol board or even watercolor paper.

In the past, commercial light-boxes tended to be expensive for anything larger than 9×12 inches. I figured I could save money by building it myself, which, given my ineptitude at crafting and building, would have looked something like this:

And then I realized I didn’t have to use old bulb technology, given the ubiquitous availability of LED lighting. Still, my lightbox would have turned out looking like the above design, minus the giant Edison bulb perched on top. That was till too clunky.

And then I figured that if I thought of using LED technology for a light-box, and since many artists use the light from their iPad or other tablet as a light-box, then surely a company out there has started manufacturing LED light-boxes. After mentioning this to my lovely bride, she does a quick search and sends me a link for a light-box large enough for my desired use. And it’s flat to boot, which makes it perfect for laying on my drawing board without bulking things up.

Well, it arrived yesterday, so here are a few pics I thought I’d share. I didn’t place anything next to it to give you the sense of its scale, but it’s “Yuuuge” and can accommodate something like professional comic art boards (I bought this on Amazon which advertised the size as 21 x 2 x 29.8 inches, though it looks a lot thinner than 2″. Heck, it doesn’t even look like it’s an inch thick). As you can see below, it sits nice and flat on the drawing board.

The power button is one of those surface-flat, touch-sensitive power buttons on which you don’t even have to push. It’s pretty sensitive, because I’ve accidentally turned it on while reaching for the power cord near it. When it’s powered on or off, the light comes on and turns off very gradually. It’s not like flipping on a lamp.

My wife made me a cover for my Cintiq so it doesn’t collect dust while not in use, and I asked if she’d make one for this as well. She immediately dug out some fabric and made a cover to keep this clean and neat. What an awesome wife — I’M NOT WORTHY!

This thing is so flat and slim that it’s actually difficult to wrap the edges of the cover around it. That’s not a complaint. It’s actually nice that it lays so flat.

So there’s the quick reveal. Since it just arrived, I didn’t have time or an opportunity to try it out or to take a picture showing it in use. Maybe I’ll get to that in a future post if/when I do an actual review of this.

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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.