Saturday, February 14, 2015

Quick on the draw

I've been playing with a new toy this week.

In the course of writing, I tend to draw a lot of diagrams. I blogged about this years ago, so no need to repeat the details other than to say that I need to see the space my characters inhabit - in the form of copious maps and plans.

Now that I'm slowly developing my website, I want to share some of this background material online. The trouble is, these are all hand-sketched and largely incomplete. Good enough for writing purposes, where I only need enough to visualize the scene, but not good quality for publication.

I figured the best way to deal with this is to complete selected drawings electronically, using a suitable drawing tool.

The plans for the cruiser Merciless are my first foray into this experiment.
 Here's the original sketch for comparison.
To execute these plans I borrowed a laptop and used Visio. It was easy and satisfying to do and I'm pleased with the results, so I want to do more along the same lines which means investing in drawing software of my own. Because I use a Mac, after some research into Visio alternatives I settled on iDraw.

I use Visio a lot at work and I'm extremely comfortable with it, so switching to iDraw is a bit of a culture shock.

Many of the general concepts are similar to Visio, so it's not completely alien, but there are some basic differences in behavior that keep tripping me up. There's a lot to learn and it's all laid out differently which makes it difficult for someone used to the MS Office look and feel.

Overall, I like Visio, but I suspect iDraw will end up being more suited to my needs. Visio is a great business diagramming tool. iDraw is more of a drawing tool, and offers much greater flexibility to achieve results beyond boxes and lines.

It just takes time...


  1. It does a great job but I have to say that your hand drawings make the ship look sleeker.

  2. Not sure what's out there for the Mac (as I use a PC) but glad you found a program that works for you.

  3. I was a professional artist for many years and at the end of my professional career I toyed with a few computer art programs, but it just didn't feel right not getting paint of charcoal on my hands and feeling the paper beneath my touch.

  4. Delores, the hand drawings include profile views which I did separately. The electronic version posted here is just plan views, which might be giving that impression.

    Alex, it's a bit of a gamble and only time will tell, but it looks promising. I could have got Visio for the Mac, but at ten times the price.

    Stephen, I agree. I don't expect to move away from physical media for actual art, but I view these drawings differently. I see them as business documents to accompany my writing, and I am looking for a level of precision that I can't readily achieve by hand.

  5. I think it's amazing that you can approach it from two diametrically opposed directions: precision--and artistic creation. Or maybe it's just my brain that perceives it that way. In either case, the drawings are fantastic, Ian!

  6. Thanks Teresa. I guess it helps that I've always done both. Artistic, free-flowing on the one hand, and diagrammatic work - architectural, ship plans, circuit diagrams etc. - on the other. I see great beauty in the latter too, but approach them very differently.


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