Nestled in a fifth floor suite of a historic building in downtown Portland, OR, is Periscope Studio, a freelance collective of 24 of the world‚Äôs top comic artists. Their work spans the gamut of contemporary comic art, from underground comics and graphic novels to more mainstream Marvel and DC titles. Along the way, the artists also find time to collaborate on a steady stream of bigger projects from corporate clients.
Founded in 2002 by eight illustrators, Periscope is a compelling alternative to the usual isolation of freelance work. It gives the artists ample opportunity to exchange ideas and technical tips while enjoying the camaraderie. Their work areas are designed to express the artists‚Äô individuality and fit their workflow, and amid superhero figurines and stuffed frogs, almost every artist has a Wacom interactive drawing tool in their space.
Steve Lieber, one of Periscope‚Äôs founders, uses a Wacom¬ģ Cintiq¬ģ 21UX display, which he says ‚Äúhas saved me time and time again.‚ÄĚ Best known as the artist of the graphic novel Whiteout (now a Warner movie), Lieber‚Äôs work has been published by DC Comics, Marvel, Scholastic, Dark Horse, Image, Carus Publishing, Dupuis and many others.
Like most artists, Lieber began with pen and paper. Now, drawing directly on the Cintiq‚Äôs 21-in. screen with the pressure-sensitive pen, he has the best of both traditional and modern approaches with a digital workflow that enables him to be much more productive. Like nearly all the artists at Periscope, his principal application is Adobe¬ģ Photoshop¬ģ, which interacts intuitively with the Cintiq.
‚ÄúYou cannot beat the Cintiq 21UX as an artistic tool,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúThe interactive pen provides the same feel and feedback as traditional media, with the added benefit that you never have to worry about making a mistake. You can simply erase something and try again.‚ÄĚ
As far as return on investment, Lieber adds, the Cintiq is a slam-dunk. ‚ÄúIt pays for itself in one freelance gig with astounding efficiency and productivity gains,‚ÄĚ he says.
Among these efficiencies is much faster sharing of concepts and storyboards with clients. Not only does this save valuable time and money, it greatly improves communication throughout the production pipeline.
‚ÄúThe Cintiq is especially handy when ‚Äėconcepting‚Äô with clients,‚ÄĚ explains artist David Hahn, whose work includes Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, The Fantastic Four, Bite Club and Red Herring, as well as his own comic series, Private Beach.
‚ÄúOur trips to Kinko‚Äôs and FedEx to copy and ship scans have virtually disappeared,‚ÄĚ Hahn continues. ‚ÄúRevisions are much faster as a result, which streamlines the client approval process.‚ÄĚ
Also drawing praise from Periscope artists are the Cintiq‚Äôs built-in ergonomic features, such as the adjustable stand, non-dominant hand shortcut keys and intuitive interactive pen response.
‚ÄúThe Cintiq plays a huge role in reducing body fatigue as you work,‚ÄĚ notes Dylan Meconis, creator of the graphic novels Bite Me! and Family Man. ‚ÄúThe workflow is neat and uncluttered, and I can work for hours and hours with no pain.‚ÄĚ
The Cintiq's ergonomic flexibility is highlighted by the way different users set up their work areas. Some of the artists use the included Cintiq stand -- which allows the display to be rotated 180 degrees in either direction for natural movement -- while others have made their own ‚ÄúCinteasel‚ÄĚ (Cintiq + easel).
Periscope bills itself as ‚Äúthe grandest collection of comics creators in the Western World,‚ÄĚ and it is hard to argue with that characterization. The collective concept fosters creativity and collaboration, and the Cintiq‚Äôs artist-friendly approach fits right into this environment. As Steve Lieber says, ‚ÄúThe Cintiq is my secret collaborator.‚ÄĚ
Note: For a look at the outstanding work by Periscope‚Äôs artists, go here and click on the individual names on the right hand side of the page:
Also, for a video tour of Periscope, watch this segment from Oregon Public Broadcasting‚Äôs ‚ÄúArt Beat‚ÄĚ program:
Periscope Studios Draws Raves for Comic Art with Wacom Interactive Technology
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