A Tale of Two Tagtools

Today we are in České Budějovice in the south of the Czech Republic to make a live outdoor drawing performance as part of the town’s visual arts festival.We will be projecting on to this beautiful 14th Century building and for this performance I will be using my ‘old-school’ Tagtool. So this seems like a good time to explain why for this particular performance I have chosen to use my very large, heavy and cumbersome old D.I.Y. Tagtool all-in-one instead of the neat, light and portable iPad on which I have the Tagtool for iPad app.

Recently Tagtooler Benjamin Rabe posted this comment about the iPad app. on the Tagtool facebook page, ‘The way you interact with Tagtool (to me) is essentially different to all other painting apps out there. It doesn’t emulate any pick-a-brush and dip-it-into-color behaviour. It doesn’t resemble matter-based creation at all….’
I agree that this is indeed the very special thing about the Tagtool for iPad app.- and it is this same characteristic of the ‘old-school’ Tagtool that makes for a very special drawing experience too! However, there are some differences (other than size and convenience) between the two Tagtools that I would like to write about now.

Here is a photo of a multiplayer session that Maki and I did recently at a barbecue in the yard of Gerard’s studio. For this event the iPad was the obvious choice, and not just because it was so easy to carry to the location and quick to set up!As the collage of photos above shows, what we produced was in effect an animated mural, which also incorporated the shadows of objects and plants in the yard and the people at the barbecue into the visual mix. And although people at the barbecue were able to see our drawing and animation as the work progressed, rather it was this animated mural, the ‘end product’ rather than the process of making the drawing and the animation, that was the real focus of the session – the creation of a temporary animated mural to act as an ever moving backdrop to the evening’s entertainment.
Working collaboratively like this using the iPad app. is really magic! The process of looking down at the little image on your iPad and then seeing it projected so large on the wall, the (really great) feature of being able to ‘home in’ on this image to draw in detail and sharing your drawing with other players in the session, the possibility of multi-touch drawing using all your fingers, the ‘pinching and spreading’ movements to control colour, line size etc. and the exciting animation features – all these things make drawing with the Tagtool for iPad a very special experience – just as Benjamin Rabe says. Certainly, animation using the ‘old-school’ Tagtool (which really needs two people to operate properly, one drawing and the other animating with the gamepad) is quite primitive in comparison, so for visual storytelling and animated mural painting the Tagtool for iPad wins hands down!
However, despite being so cumbersome, heavy and awkward to transport I still love my ‘old-school’ D.I.Y. Tagtool all-in-one dearly and I don’t consider it to be just a big old dinosaur, fit only to be consigned to our heap of dead electronics in the basement……
Here’s why – the ‘old-school’ Tagtool has some really vital characteristics when used for drawing as a live performance art form. In this kind of performance (especially when accompanied by live improvised music) both the process and the progress of making the projected drawing visible in real time for the audience becomes as important or indeed, more important, than producing a ‘finished’ piece of artwork. (And in this kind of live performance drawing I rarely use any animation). For me, the most important thing then becomes the actual physical act of ‘drawing blind’ with the stylus on the pressure sensitive surface of the drawing tablet while directing the focus of my attention instead onto the projected image. (I find that I need only very occasionally to glance down at the Tagtool sliders to adjust colour, opacity etc.). As well as being able to release, instantly ‘kill’ an image and draw something new or to draw a new image over an existing one, with the ‘old-school’ Tagtool it is possible to release a drawing in progress, partially fade it, then continue to draw into the remaining ghostly image – or to draw over an existing image then use the fade slider to make the underlying drawing miraculously ‘reappear’ – some really great features of the ‘old-school’ Tagtool in a live drawing performance!

In conclusion – I think that both the Tagtool for iPad and the ‘old-school’ D.I.Y. Tagtool are really wonderful inventions that together have opened up a whole new world of drawing experiences – so do seek out an opportunity to try out both of them, if you are reading this and haven’t already joined the growing band of ‘Tagtoolistas’ worldwide!

1 Comment

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One response to “A Tale of Two Tagtools

  1. Hey Frances, I agree that the two Tagtools are very different instruments, and that the oldschool version enables a much more visceral way of working. And I agree that the DIY Tagtool does not belong in the basement, rather it needs to be modernised and integrated into the brave new world of multiplayer art, so you can use it in the same session as the iPad version. About the “animated mural” thing – I think this is just one way of using Tagtool for iPad, I love doing this kind of thing to create environments in more social situations. But when you go down the “improvised storytelling” road, the iPad version becomes a different beast altogether: very much about the process, and it forces you to be really fluid and economic with how you communicate visually. Also, I think it’s still early days for the multi-touch Tagtool style, and as tablets get more powerful and hopefully bigger in drawing area, I think we will see that the multi-touch Tagtool will get much more visceral punch. In any case, looking forward to seeing you guys in Prague for some oldschool and newschool sessions!

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