Instant Artist is a game that comes bundled with the uDraw game tablet, out now for the PS3 and 360. Part hardware showcase, part beginner’s art class, Instant Artist is an intriguing title that may have the potential to give a budding artist a nudge.
There are three main sections to the title (I’m hesitant to call it a game): Art School, Art Play, and Art Camp. Art School is what you’d expect: it provides some good tutorials on art theory as well as how to use the tablet to make your own artwork. There’s a good range of instruction here too, with everything from basic colour theory, to lessons on perspective, and even step-by-step instructions on how to draw specific objects.
When you draw, you can select from all sorts of different materials, like notebook paper, watercolour paper or even wood. Once that’s selected you choose your initial palette (based on certain themes), or create your own custom one. There are lots of different brush types to use as well – everything from chalk to acrylics, to pen or even fingerpainting. You also have the ability to modify the size of the brushstroke, as well as the opacity of the colour you’re laying down. While it’s no Photoshop, there are certainly enough options here to keep you busy for a good while.
Art Camp offers a range of different ‘colouring in’ options. You can try out dot drawings, something called alien splat, colour-by-numbers (which is strangely addictive), and even colour in using the tilt functionality of the tablet. Of course there is also regular colouring in, for the traditionalists. And while adults might wrinkle their noses at a ‘colouring in’ option for a game, I couldn’t help but remember the hours I used to spend colouring in those abstract geometric posters that were popular for a while (way back when).
And then there’s Art Play, which is uDraw-speak for free mode, which lets you draw as you please, without any objectives or lessons. This is potentially the area that will have the greatest appeal, and with options in the extras menu to paint from various ‘art starters’, as well as to change the background music if you want to change the mood a bit, there’s a lot of extra enjoyment to be had from Instant Artist once the tutorials have played themselves out.
While drawing with the stylus on a plastic drawing surface is never going to give people the same tactile feedback that, say, drawing with charcoal on textured paper can give, Instant Artist still manages to capture some of the good feelings associated with making art. Drawing with chalk gives a satisfying rasp, while you can play around with different watercolour wash effects, or toy with throwing paint on the canvas from different directions and with varying exuberance. Kids can get messy without getting messy, or try something new without worrying that a mistake will be permanent.
If you’re not used to drawing with a stylus, it can take a bit of getting used to. I found the stylus wasn’t always as responsive as I would have liked, and from time to time I’d get some ‘blind spots’ appearing on my art when, for whatever reason, the signal from my drawing just wasn’t getting through to the console. But just when I was thinking my poor art was all the stylus’s fault, I came across the gallery on the uDraw website that displays just what this peripheral can do in the hands of the experts.
Once you’ve completed your take on the Mona Lisa, you can upload to the uDraw website and broadcast your artwork to the world, or if you’re a bit more modest you can email it to your Mum so she can put it up on the fridge. (There’s also Facebook and printing options, though I didn’t think my oblong tomato deserved any such treatment.)
Whether the uDraw (and Instant Artist) becomes a necessary peripheral, spawns new art talent, or just winds up in the technology drawer with your pre-Bluetooth headphones, still remains to be seen. But in the meantime, it’s yet another fascinating look into the development of the integration between life and technology, and pretty fun to boot.