XPPen is gearing up to release its new state-of-the-art XPPen Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2) drawing tablet. The new model is also equipped with the X3 Pro Smart Chip Stylus – this allows for accurate tracking of pen tip movements for seamless use. The tech is battery free and doesn’t rely on charging which means more freedom and uninterrupted movements to let inspiration go wherever it takes you. Working in tandem with the X3 Pro Smart Chip Stylus is the Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2)’s 16K technology. This game-changing feature brings 16K pressure levels that enable users to deliver precise and smoother lines. For new and seasoned digital artists, this means having more tools to create the most nuanced art and leaving room for more experimentation to level up any drawing style.
To highlight the power of the new Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2), XPPen tapped renowned digital artist Jake Parker to highlight the new drawing tablet’s most awe-inspiring features, as well as judging XPPen’s 18th Anniversary Drawing Contest. Parker, whose style is futuristic, fun and colorful, also founded the art initiative Inktober – a 31-day drawing challenge that encourages artists all over the world to create ink illustrations for the global art community to see. With his own experience creating and galvanizing art professionals and art fans all over the world to come together, Parker was the prime choice for an XPPen partnership. Fittingly, we’ve asked the American comics creator, concept artist, illustrator, and animator about his career, his personal and professional projects and his work with XPPen. Parker is a true inspiration in the art world and uplifting the art community is at the heart of his storied career, not only in the digital realm but also in the real world.
How would you describe your artistic style and what projects have made you well-known?
It’s an American version of the Franco/Belgian ligne claire style. I go a little heavier and dirtier with my contour lines than you’ll see in a lot of the European styles. My influences are all over the place, but there’s a thread of strong linework in all of these artists. Here’s my main inspirations and what I take from them: Mike Mignola (proportion and composition), Yukito Kishiro (hard surface materials) Moebius (environments) and Bill Watterson (character and kinetic energy).
Early in my career it was being a part of the FLIGHT comic anthologies that first got my name out there. After that, I worked on a handful of comics projects (Missile Mouse and Rocket Raccoon) tha gave me further exposure. Most people, I think, found me through Inktober and know me as being the guy who started it.
How has your work with digital art changed now that you’ve gotten to use XPPen’s latest product?
The Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2)Drawing Display is phenomenal. I was not expecting that level of quality for the price. One thing I really liked was the frictionless set up. I just plugged it in and installed a driver, and was drawing right away. Between that, the smoothness of the pen, and the shortcut remote it’s just made everything more efficient, allowing more time creating, and less time dealing with equipment.
What do you think of XPPen’s latest 16K technology?
It’s exciting! I heard it just came out in May and I got to try it on the Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2) model they sent me. I’ve never drawn on something so smooth. I prefer it over my other tablets and even my iPad. I was reading about how ahead of the curve they are with tablet tech and it’s really impressive. It’s kind of like when I was a kid and I went from riding a tricycle, to getting on a two wheel bike. All of sudden I could go faster, I could cover more ground, I could see better because I was higher up. Think of that, but with drawing tablets.
How does your work connect with XPPen’s 18th Anniversary Drawing Contest and how does the world benefit from such a program?
Even though I’ve been drawing my whole life, and professionally for the last 25 years, I still find areas that I need to grow and improve. A contest like this makes me see areas of my art I could freshen up on and other areas I need to keep sharp. It also helps to push me out of my comfort zone and draw things I don’t normally draw.
There’s so much to be worried about in the world today, you can feel swallowed by negativity and anger. But this contest has such a positive message: Growth. That word implies an optimistic outlook on the future, and that problems will be solved and life can thrive. Artists exist at the intersections of society and culture, both influencing it and reacting to it. So if you have artists focused on something positive and uplifting, it’s going to not just impact the artist community, but impact every community that intersects with artists.
For those who are unfamiliar, can you tell us about Inktober and how it started?
Inktober is a 31 day drawing challenge with an emphasis on ink drawing or black and white drawing. I started it in 2009 as a way to get more comfortable drawing in ink, and to have a project I could finish by the end of one month.
How does the art world benefit from Inktober and where do you see its future heading?
Inktober’s three main goals are to help artists get better at drawing, to help them connect with other artists, and to help them grow an audience for their work. People who take on the challenge and do all 31 drawings will grow in these three areas. This is something I’ve experienced myself, and it’s something artists tell me they’ve experienced as well. I get so many messages from people saying Inktober changed their life, or pointed them in the right direction. Sometimes it’s a person rediscovering their love for drawing, and other times it’s a seasoned professional who was reminded how to take time to draw for themselves.
I don’t know where it’s going exactly, but I can tell you I’d love for it to become accessible for more people around the world, and also for a broader range of age and experience. There’s a problem in the US where a lot of schools are receiving less and less funding for the arts and as a consequence schools don’t have art programs anymore. This is the stupidest thing in my opinion because you’re essentially telling a generation of kids that art isn’t important, or worse that it isn’t accessible. I’m a firm believer that there’s an artist inside of everyone, it’s just waiting to be awakened. One of the most important reasons for a person to participate in art is that it wires your brain for creative problem solving. In art making you are faced with problem after problem that needs to be solved, and there’s no definitive, correct answer to the problems.
In a world with millions of real problems, we need people with creatively wired brains to solve those problems. And I just think removing art from curriculum is not doing our society any favors.
So, back to Inktober. My hope is that at least once a year people who would not normally consider themselves artists, find the challenge accessible to them, and in the process, tap into their creativity, and realize that they can create, and hopefully that spills over into other parts of their lives. Is that too much to hope for?
How do you see the future of art in your own style and in the style of others?
The last 20 years has been an explosion of digital tools and electronic workflows. I went from using colored pencils, paints, and an air brush, to making art on a tablet on my couch. I see the pendulum starting to swing back, looking for an equilibrium in between art that is created digitally and art that is created traditionally. I’m looking for that harmony in my work, and am really starting to see it on others work as well.
Are there any artists or cultural moments out there that you feel will disrupt the world of art?
I think we are going to see some wild and incredibly creative work coming from Gen Z artists as they start to come into their 20s and 30s. They’ve got this Post-Neodadaist thing going on that blurs the lines between what is a meme and what is art. They’ve grown up in the most unstable social and political climate since the 1960s and at the same time have access to the digital tools and audiences that were never in the hands of previous generations at those ages. I expect them to tear down everything that’s been built by Gen X and Millennials and piece it together into something.
You can find out more about XPPen’s new Artist Pro 16 (Gen 2) drawing tablet on its official brand website.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.