Digital vs. Ink — Why Must We Choose?

If you’ve read my previous blogpost, you’ll know that I am now drawing Tina’s Groove (and my Wednesday Six Chix cartoon) on a drawing tablet. Since blogging about it, I’ve gotten a lot of support and praise from readers congratulating me on “making the switch to digital.” Thank you, everyone. Even the nice folks at Wacom— the company that makes the Cintiq Companion tablet— sent me a personal tweet to say, “Nice work!” I got a thrill from that. I love my Cintiq, and I don’t plan on reverting back to paper and ink for the drawing of Tina’s Groove, or Six Chix.



A Surprising Result From Drawing Digitally One late afternoon, after several days of fiddling around with my new drawing toy, I got the biggest craving to do something with ink and paper. I mean, it was the biggest craving. I get cravings to pick up a pen every single day, but rarely a craving this big. I guess that when you’re always drawing with ink and paper, you never have occasion to miss it.

On this one day, I was working away on the tablet when I heard the cries. My real brush, the tub of ink in the corner of my desk, and a sheet of Strathmore paper, were calling out to me, “Rina,” they said, “Who’s this new kid in town? Don’t you wanna play with us anymore?”

I felt bad for them.

Truth is, I did want to play with them; but I was distracted by wanting to get to know the “new kid.”

As it happened, after a day of “inking” on the tablet, I grabbed a good brush, settled in with some good podcasts, and inked a six panel comic I had pencilled for the book I’m working on. It felt good. Like seeing a close friend I’d been away from for too long.

I’ve heard cartoonist friends of mine say that, sometimes, they just want the feel of paper. I know– me, too. But why do we look at that as a problem?

So I ask Why must we choose? Why do I get the sense that people think that an artist must be “digital”, or “old fashioned” — either one, or the other? Why can’t we choose to do our best work with the finest tools available out there— regardless of whether they’re digital, or not?

To Sum Up I am married to India ink, but I’m having an affair with a tablet. And guess what— they’re both okay with it, and so am I.

Thoughts? Cartoonists, illustrators, what do you think? Do you switch mediums for different jobs? Tell me what your experience has been in the comments section below!



Tina Goes Digital!

Hey, readers— have you noticed anything different about this week’s Tina’s Groove? Well, for me, the strips were noticeably different— drawing them, I mean. You see, I drew this week’s six dailies (and the last two Six Chix cartoons) on a drawing tablet— the Cintiq Companion.


What, Me? Switch To Digital? I once insisted that I would never draw on a tablet. I love ink way too much. And I still do —I love ink enough to want to drink the stuff! Okay, maybe not quite that much. But seriously, if I could continue drawing Tina’s Groove and Six Chix on paper, I would. In fact, I continue to use real brushes, pencils, and ink for my other work. The old tools still have their hold on me.

So why a tablet for Tina’s Groove and Six Chix? Two reasons. 1) My eyes 2) Storage space.

My eyes Countless times have I wanted to zoom in on Tina’s face and couldn’t. The characters in Tina’s Groove are so tightly designed that a loose line just doesn’t cut it. I’m far-sighted, and need readers to work, and read, and I really need to zoom in to keep from getting sloppy. You don’t want me to get sloppy, do you?

Often after spending the day pencilling and inking six dailies, I would feel a terrible strain in my eyes and neck. With Six Chix cartoons I fared better. The characters I draw for Six Chix aren’t as structured as Tina and her friends, and so I’m a lot freer in drawing them.

*Message to past-me: (if there is a way to send messages back in time to my 35 year old self) Don’t make the characters so structured, idiot. Do you think your eyes are made of magic?

Storage Space I have thousands of originals, and nowhere to store them. What contributes  most to this conundrum are the strips for Tina’s Groove And Six Chix. These are my ongoing syndicated strips, and so there are bins full of them. Still more are created and added to the stacks every week, every month, year, forever and forever without end.(Okay, almost end.)

My options? Rent a self-storage locker for ninety bucks a month forever, or… get a Cintiq drawing tablet!

After a few weeks of practice, I’ve finally taught myself how to draw naturally digitally. The bonus here is that the tablet is completely portable, and it saves me a lot of time as there is no scanning, and that means more time spent for the actual creative work.

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d find anything special in drawing on a tablet. I really am, at heart, a paper-and-ink girl. But I have to say, I am thrilled at how smoothly the pen nib moves across the “page”— it feels like a liquid line; a wet brush that you never have to stop and dip. The Companion is the best that technology can offer the professional illustrator, painter, or cartoonist. The touch screen is pressure sensitive and it can be treated like a piece of paper: I draw with my right hand, and with my left I can move the page around, pinch to zoom out, spread open to work close. It feels good. I can pencil and ink six Tina’s Groove dailies and feel no physical strain, only fun.  In fact, I’m faster, more efficient, less tired. Which means I have time left over for more drawing!

Next week: How drawing on a tablet made me crave a bath in India ink.


I’m Rhyming With Orange

I’m a big fan of a lot of King Features’ comics. If I had to choose my top five favs it would be hard, but I’d have no problem including Hilary Price’s Rhymes With Orange. It has always been both fun to read, and an inspiration to my own gag cartoon work.

So how happy was I when Hilary asked if I’d like to contribute gag ideas for Rhymes With Orange?

Extremely happy.

To be honest, at first I was concerned about my workload. The fact that I’m working on a humongous science book right now had a lot to do with it. However, I’m always writing new material— whether to feed the book, Tina’s Groove, or Six Chix— and so its likely that I’ll have a few extras every week or so. Plus — I really wanted to be part of such a great comic!

To be a contributor means that I write the idea, and Hilary draws it. At times I’ll do a very rough sketch if visuals help the delivery of the gag — and other times I just write it out without visuals. If an idea is chosen, she will sometimes revise the writing so that it’s in her own voice. It’s strange to see the final result: It feels like I’m staring at my idea through Hilary’s eyes.

Often, she’ll run the idea pretty much how I’ve presented it. As gag writers, I think Hilary and I have the same sensibilities. We do, however, have vastly different drawing styles. What I love about Hilary’s drawing style is the whimsy in it — her line is so unhindered; so understated and free-looking. Oh, and funny, too!

Although I’ve done some ghostwriting in the past, what I’m doing for RWO is not ghostwriting. (If it was I wouldn’t be writing about it!) Hilary gives me credit. If you look at the bottom of the comic, my name appears alongside hers. Thanks, Hilary!

Here are some that have already run…there are more in the pipeline!