Review: Clip Studio Paint Pro / Manga Studio vs. Artrage 5 vs. Sketchbook Pro

For 2018 I resolved to draw every day. I’ve missed some days, but am definitely drawing a lot more, and enjoying the process. This sketch is a step along that path, a step that may represent a fork in the path actually, toward digital media rather than pencil on paper:

Steve Eichenberger, artist

(Would you have known it was drawn using a stylus instead of on paper if I hadn’t said anything?)

It’s frankensteined together from three separate sketches: one for each eye, and one for nose/mouth:

180325 face play annotated

I found it more relaxing — more right brain less left brain — to do it that way. I didn’t set out with the intention of compositing them together…or any intention, really, I was just trying to figure out how to use new software (Clip Studio Paint, aka Manga Studio, Mac desktop version, using Intuous4 PTK-440 Wacom tablet), settle on what resolution to use, try out the various pencil tools, and so on. It was fun! I feel a little sad that I enjoyed it more than conventional pencil on paper, but I’m also excited by the fresh possibilities of going digital.

What I liked:
— natural/realistic look and feel of the various pencil tools
— ability to undo
— ability to place various parts on different layers
— darken/lighten individual strokes, a section, or entire drawing easily (using vector layers)
— clean erasing
— ability to zoom in for detailing
— can work large without smudging from hand on paper
— ability to reposition/resize without erasing then re-drawing (one of the things that was off-putting when I used to paint portraits; if a perfectly good eye was a smidge out of place, there was no choice but to paint it out and re-do it!)
— more relaxing since everything I did was an “experiment” which wouldn’t mess up what I’d done so far if I decided I didn’t like it
— can handle high resolution drawing/painting for gallery quality prints up to 17 x 22 (biggest we can print ourselves)
— can rotate the drawing this way and that (for easier cross-hatching, for example)
— no scanning or photography required; lossless full resolution, ready to print

I also downloaded and tested ArtRage 5 and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro, but ultimately chose Clip Studio Paint for its depth of features…such as finer control of taper on both ends of strokes, and amazing vector capabilities, without it looking like vector work:

180327 100 percent nose

Most importantly, Clip Studio can keep up with rapid sketching at high resolution without lagging. Lagginess was a deal breaker for me on both ArtRage and Sketchbook — I did testing with all three on a 3300 x 4200 pixel canvas size (11″ x 14″ at 300 dpi resolution). Overall, Clip Studio just feels more professional to me…the other two seem stripped down by comparison. I may change my mind, or discover something better, but for now I’m just happy 😉

Addendum: I just watched, and recommend, this excellent review/tutorial on Clip Studio Paint (aka Manga Studio) by an artist who has been working digitally for 20 years: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xhvr1JUEwdo&ab_channel=ReubenLara

 

Working at the “Speed of Life”

I use a to-do list (Google Keep) where you can drag list items up or down the list in order of priority. When I scan down the list, I often see something (i.e., “update blog”) that I really need/want to do, so I drag it up to the top. But then I continue to drag other items (get groceries to eat, do taxes, fulfill crow/raven orders) above it until it is so far down it looks impossible to ever get to it. Right now as I type this, it’s first thing on a Sunday morning and I’m purposely not looking to see where “update blog” falls on my to-do list while I try to steal enough time to jot these quick notes! (An analogy of trying to stack a couple dozen croquet balls onto a dinner plate springs to mind when thinking  of prioritizing my to-do list…)

A LOT has been happening since my last entry…I’ve been crazy busy, but have gotten a lot done! (I’ve come to the conclusion that if I weren’t this busy, I’d probably just keep adding more things until I was!)

My last entry was in early November 2017. From then through mid January was frantic crow/raven production & sales…definitely a new record! The Real Mother Goose Gallery’s downtown location has for years topped my crow/raven sales chart, but they had to close that location (city closed the building for year-long repairs) and don’t plan to re-open it, so they had a huge sale — and it was a challenge to keep up with the demand for my crows/ravens…one last blast.

I also revamped this entire site, steveeichenberger.com, with a new look, much more content, and upgraded my plan to include basic e-commerce capability (see “Available Work“).

A major reason I haven’t written here for awhile is because I finally took the plunge and opened an Instagram account in November. I begrudge the extra time it takes to post to it, especially since they do not allow you to post from a desktop computer, forcing me to dink with my phone (grr) to upload photos, type descriptions, and type in hashtags. Bleh. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve found it inspiring to follow other artists’ IG feeds…a virtually endless flow of curated (by me) artwork…more than I have time to look at. A DIY art magazine. It inspires me to up my game.

The sculpture in my last post is already finished and sold. I also sold a couple rockets, and a couple or three “Murder of Crows” 11-piece collections.

Time is yelling at me…so I’m going to just upload a bunch of photos and get back to the top to-do for today: casting crows/ravens. I’m trying to fill up my crow boxes (a “should”) so I can feel okay about taking time to “play” with drawing…digital and/or traditional…because a new venue, Boys Fort in downtown Portland, has racks of small posters/quotes/maps etc where I can place some 2D work if I want…a nice opportunity! Now to claw out some time to do so…

Jasper

“Jasper” (sold)

32 b sq

Completed a bigger size rocket, 32″

Eichenberger rocket 6911

To show size of 32″ version compared to the two previous sizes

Screen Shot 2017-11-10 at 11.28.42 AM

Larger fuselage was a challenge, but I like challenges…chosen ones, anyway!

IMG_6748 copy 2

Pencil sketch on scratch paper (result of resolution to “draw more” in 2018)

Steve Eichenberger 3 alskjdl

Finished wall sculpture from “Cosmic Zoo” series

Steve Eichenberger 180223c

Another finished wall sculpture from my “Cosmic Zoo” series…I could write several more paragraphs explaining the series (to do with time, space and infinity), but time’s up for today!

Two…

A second wall sculpture done today — WIP — wet clay stage. Got the other one hollowed out and drying.

Steve Eichenberger sculpture WIP

Steve Eichenberger sculpture WIP2

Admittedly kind of strange…no rational explanation for the shape of the face…it’s just what my hands roughed in without me thinking about it.

………………………………………………….

Ran across this quote today on the web: “Serov believed that the artist ought to be adept in every available medium because nature itself is infinitely diverse and inimitable, just as the artist’s mood and feelings differ from one day to another: today he wants to work in one way, tomorrow in another.” I like it! I identify with it. It’s not a trait conducive to creating a marketable “body of work” but it serves to keep my inner artist engaged. Just today I was reviewing past projects, in disparate media, and a part of me wishes I could incorporate ALL those media into my current repertoire. I guess there’s nothing stopping me from becoming a “mixed media artist” but I’d need to amalgamate them in such a way that the resulting body of work has a coherence about it…a signature look and feel.

Hammer formed metal is my most recent media addition, and I think it’s a keeper. I’m happy with its versatility, the patination process I’ve come up with, its look & feel, its permanence, and I enjoy the processes involved in forming it. Today I was wishing I could try yet another medium: gouache. Another one I’d like to add is mache; I wish I could find a suitable use for it in my work — where it would seem to “fit” the work, and not “cheapen” it… A major problem with 2D work, for my constitution anyway, is that it’s sedentary. Standing or sitting at an easel for hours on end is not good for me. I get to feeling “toxic” from the inactivity. Small scale clay sculpture (like I’m working on now) is pretty sedentary too…I stand in one place to sculpt them, then sit to hollow them out. At least with metal work I’m hammering, moving around the studio from anvil to buck to bench shear to vises and so on…the process of distressing the metal preparatory to patination is good exercise…overall it’s about right: not too taxing to the point of potential injury yet not too sedentary either.

I realize I could schedule constitutionals every hour or so during lengthy 2D sessions, but the paints would dry out, and I’d lose the “flow.”

Overarching all these “wishes” is the need to make a living from the way I spend my time!

So enough rambling for now…gotta go put ears on another proto-human head before the clay dries too much.

Back to Clay

Steve Eichenberger wall sculpture in progress

Jackie just decided to have a studio sale later this month, so I irrationally decided to try to make a sculpture or two in time for it. There’s virtually no chance of getting any ceramic sculpture done by then due to the necessary drying times and the pesky laws of physics…but I’ll ride the motivation wave anyway and see how far I get. This guy will hang on the wall, and he’ll have a funny pointy hat made from ………. riveted aluminum, of course!

He looks like he does because I have a thing about looking waaaaay back into our collective past(s?) to when we were proto-humans…with occasional blips of intelligence and understanding rising briefly above the baseline of animalistic inner and outer experience — as our knuckle dragging forebears gradually evolved brains capable of self awareness, reasoning, complex language, the arts, and a voracious curiosity to make sense of their surroundings…and of their very existence. With them began the mystery of how I know I’m “me” and you know you’re “you.” It’s that mystery that each and every human animal, all around the world, shares in common. And that commonality is so much greater than any “differences” we think we have! “The ghost in the machine” is the most amazing phenomenon in the known universe. I’m grateful for the privilege of experiencing it firsthand! I wish we could all focus on *that* for our eyeblink lives…

Eggs

Steve Eichenberger aluminum egg sculpture

8″ x 5-1/2″

Egg sculpture made from hand-hammered aluminum with baked-on patina, ~300 rivets. It’s alive! It can keep its balance due to “shake weights” I put inside…by shaking it gently to adjust the internal weights, you can get it to stand upright by itself on any flat surface, as seen in the photos. The internal weights also help it to stay put so it won’t roll around.

This is one of the most challenging art objects I’ve ever made! First I made a full size version in wood, to which I carefully shaped each aluminum section to fit the contours of the wooden form (aka buck). Each one is unique, because I cut the sections freehand, with no pattern or plan. Ditto for the patina — hand applied and manipulated — never the same twice. I used hardened steel alphabet punches to hand stamp letters into the corners of each plate, to help me put all the pieces back together again after the hot patina and burnishing stages. Constructed with care to last for generations. Check availability on my Etsy Store.

Steve Eichenberger aluminum egg sculpture

Steve Eichenberger aluminum egg sculpture

Steve Eichenberger aluminum egg sculpture

Steve Eichenberger aluminum egg sculpture

Steve Eichenberger aluminum egg sculpture

Rocket Sculpture!

Space is BACK!!

rocket sculpture Steve Eichenberger
I made this hammer-formed aluminum rocket sculpture in exuberant response to Elon Musk’s recent announcement that SpaceX plans to send two wealthy tourists on a joyride around the moon! Wow! He is also seriously planning to put humans on Mars…not just to visit, but to live there. We are a space-faring civilization on the cusp of colonizing our solar system.

Size: 18.5″ tall x 7.5″ at its base

rocket Steve Eichenberger

$750 plus $50 shipping, available on Etsy

Lightweight, sturdy riveted construction, natural aluminum finish. Made from repurposed aluminum pans from estate sales.

Sci-fi, iconic retro, atomic age style…innocence, optimism, adventure, science, curiosity, audacity. Aiming for the perfect idealized nexus of form and function for a rocketship.

It’s my original design: beginning with a pencil sketch > scanned into computer > did some geometry for truncated cones to help figure out what shape & size to cut each section > hand-hammered each piece to stretch and form it into the compound curves needed > entirely hand-riveted.

rocket Steve Eichenberger aluminum

It’s been very gratifying to see my vision for the perfect rocket appear in metal before my eyes! It makes me happy when I look at it…recalls a long-dormant boyhood earnest eagerness to see the future unfold.

One of my Paintings on a Book Cover!

Out of the blue the other day I got get an email from a German publisher offering a respectable fee for rights to use one of my paintings on a book cover!

” Büchergilde Gutenberg asks for your permission to use the painting named above for the cover (hardcover) of the book club edition of Sapphia Azzeddine, “Mein Vater ist Putzfrau”Print run: 2,000 copies. Retail price: EUR 14.95. Publication date: 2nd quarter 2017 (April 2017).”

The title translates something like “My Father is a Cleaning Lady,” written from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy whose dad cleans a library at night.

The concept draft they sent for the front/back/spine design:

steve-eichenberger-book-cover

I responded: “After reading about Buechergilde Gutenberg on your website, I would be truly honored for my artwork to adorn one of your special Buechergilde editions! Your historic book club sounds like a wonderful grass roots organization of people who value not just the words and chapters in a book, but also the aesthetics…the presentation…the sensory satisfaction of holding and reading a beautifully crafted book.” (They then requested and I granted permission to quote my response in their marketing.)

I painted the portrait as a class demo when I was teaching a portrait painting class a few years ago. It’s one of my faves from my portrait painting period, so I’m glad it will receive a wider audience.

All in all, this has been a wonderful, serendipitous surprise! I look forward to receiving a few copies of the final hardbound book around May 2017.