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Idea Recording Gear: Analog Versus Digital, The Smackdown

Once, my friend and Ronnie Dunn’s production manager Mike Adams happened upon me drawing in my little black notebook in which I record my set design ideas, doodles, and concepts, he exclaimed “Time to get an iPad, Analog Kenny!” I do own an iPad, and I do use it, and it got me to wondering: why don’t I use digital drawing applications more to record my thoughts? I don’t dislike sketching on an iPad, and in fact I’ve tried to get into it several times. The question I’ve asked myself is, why do I keep drifting back to using the old analog method of using a pen and notebook? (My old was a Moleskine, I’ve upgraded to a Strathmore notebook with much nicer paper now that I’ve filled the first one.) My general procedure for the process of turning a little idea into a full-fledged design goes like this: Idea, initial sketches are in the notebook, I flesh it out over a few pages, and then if I like it enough, it eventually makes it way into SketchUp and perhaps Kerkythea. But why couldn’t I do this using just my iPad and stylus? With this question in mind, I sat down to make a pro / con table, and this is what I came up with:

Pros and Cons of Digital Drawings:

  • Instantly shareable with anybody
  • “Undo” makes digital a much easier medium to correct mistakes in
  • Flipping through drawings is awkward and slow at best, even the slightest slowdown for processing time or caching is incredibly annoying
  • If I want to color the drawing, I don’t need to go searching for inks or paint
  • Having a variety of digital painting tools makes drawing applications very versatile
  • I can copy and paste other media into a digital drawing very easily
  • Digital as a medium lacks any tactile response
  • Batteries are always a concern
  • No palm rejection on my version of iPad, necessitating awkward stylus holding positions
  • Pros and Cons of Pen and Paper Drawings:

  • No batteries, just pull out pen and go
  • Easily go back and forth throughout library of drawings by flipping pages
  • Hipster appeal goes up approximately 500% using a notebook and paper
  • Drawing with a pen, paper, ink and paint is a much slower process, which for some people might be more amenable to their thought process, allowing time to assimilate and synthesize new ideas whilst drawing
  • No worries about holding one’s pen awkwardly, though being a lefty, I tend to drag my hand through the ink anyway
  • No satisfaction from entirely filling up a notebook
  • No worries about a crashed device and losing all your work
  • Fairly evenly divided, it seems. I think that the main reason I stick with pen and paper is the slowness of the process; in having no choice but to slow down to take out a pen, post the cap, find the correct page in my notebook, and, if I’m coloring the drawing, take out bottles of ink and carefully dropper out a bit of color gives me time to consider what I’m doing, allows new ideas to percolate and rumble around in my synapses. The palm-rejection issue is probably the second-biggest issue, having to hover my hand above the screen to keep from making mistakes is very annoying, and while the technology exists in my drawing app of choice (Paper by 53), it doesn’t work with the 2nd generation iPad, which is the one that I have.

    So for now, I stick with good old analog paper, though I’d definitely be willing to change to purely digital when and if I get a newer iPad that supports resting my hand on the screen while drawing, which would make for a much more natural experience.

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