Hamster Dance


I bought myself an Intuos tablet some time ago at work, on the grounds that I would use it for Big Serious Stuff like annotating screenshots or making screencapture videos. In theory, drawing with a mouse is hard and a pen interface should be easier. In practice, a tablet input is neither like a mouse or a pen (or a touchscreen) and it can be frustrating to get started.

And there it sat, gathering dust, taunting me to read the manual, pick software, practice, prove myself worthy.

Now might be a good time to point out that I describe my drawing talents as “maxed out at stick men.” So when it said I wasn’t worthy, I assumed it was right.

I brought it home a while back, thinking big thoughts about how I’d use it to think about the shape of stories, especially as they relate to the stories we tell when we do technology trainings. Sitting on the dining room table, it caught my son’s eye.

“Daddy, what’s that?”

“Oh, it’s for drawing on the computer.”

“Can I try?”

“I guess so… but I have to plug it in and find the software and all that.”

“OK. Well, can we do that?”

“Um… yeah. Yeah OK. Let me see.”

It’s hard to enter the Kingdom of Technology like a little child, after I’ve debugged and disinfected and documented professionally for so long. It’s a challenge to ask “why not?” But I got the drivers installed, and after dorking around looking for the “right” software,  I figured out that Microsoft Paint would work as well as anything for letting my kid play.

And it wasn’t simple, his learning to match up the pen to the screen. After a bit, he got it and started exploring Paint. An arrow became a house. Green squiggles became grass. A line was the horizon; the fill tool gave him purple grass and a yellow sky.

And he said it was my turn.

Bunny and Rhino (the Hamster)

How about a bunny? I think I can draw a bunny. (It’s like a dog with no neck and bunny ears, right?) Hey, maybe the spraypaint brush will make the fur look more furry. A bunny should be on grass. OK, painting that grass was kind of annoying, what if we do the sky with a fill tool?

Draw your stuffed hamster? Sure, why not. I can draw Hamster.

Oh, the hamster’s name is Rhino? Of course it is. I’ll draw Rhino.

Objectively, I know it’s … primitive. But the fact is, I made it, and making it was fun. And I pretty much killed the excuse that learning how to use the tablet would be too hard.

I’ve tried to get multiple faculty members to try out these tablets, and few of them are willing to put in the work. I wonder if the problem is that I haven’t asked them to just draw a happy little tree.

3 thoughts on “Hamster Dance”

  1. Timely post! I have been tossing the tablet purchase back and forth for couple of months. I have wanted one for a long time – but like you – ugh – configurations, alignments, getting used to the eye hand coordination. I have both the Intros and the Wacom bookmarked, but have not made the purchase yet. It is a good reminder that we do have to learn things, but the investment is usually ten fold once we get over the wall.

    I have to agree with you as well – getting faculty to take on new things is difficult. I always found to be using and modeling usually drew more interest than simple encouragement and planning on paper. Keep creating!

    1. For me, I’m finding that the extra space on a larger tablet provides an ease of use which well outweighs the space benefits of the smaller ones. YMMV, of course.

      Faculty are efficient beasts; they want to know when their effort will pay off. But yes – the more you can say “this is a real thing I really made”, the easier it is for them to envision it in their own lives. Keep creating!

  2. 🙂 I always enjoy your posts and this is not exception. I love the idea of objectively knowing something is ‘primitive’ yet feeling proud you made it! I feel that each time I have a go at sketching and yes I have a tablet and I keep telling myself I will improve once I get time to learn how to use it properly 🙂 How about I try to draw Rhino? Look forward to when you ask you little to draw dad and show him you published on the web! be well.

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