5 gadgets that make you seem artistic

Consider yourself a budding creative genius? Create something great with these tools.

"Everyone is an artist." Those are the words of the controversial German artist Joseph Beuys, and I happen to agree with him.

The statement is especially true in our modern age of techno toys. With off-the-shelf hardware and software breaking the world down into so many ones and zeroes, it's getting a lot easier to experiment with things that used to be expensive or time-consuming (digital photography eliminates the money and time required for film and processing, for instance), or to unleash brand-new creative ideas (hello, Pikapika).

If you're itching to create sublime, meaningful works of art--or at least something with a good beat you can dance to--consider the following five gadgets. Oh, and one disclaimer: Remember that no tool automatically makes you a good artist. Don't blame me if none of these items get you into MoMA.

1. Wanna See My Etchings?

It's been said that everyone has a few thousand bad drawings in them, and that the key to becoming a good artist is to get those out of your system as fast as possible.

I know from first-hand experience that working through all that awful art can make your house a fire hazard--and while paper is cheap, buying a steady supply of pens, pencils, paints, and other materials quickly adds up. Wacom's graphic tablets handily eliminate both problems.

Wacom tablets range from the budget-friendly Bamboo series (starting at US$79) to the more checkbook-breaking but drool-inducing Cintiq line (which tops out at US$2499).

They all operate on the same basic principle: Drawing with a stylus on the tablet translates directly to your pointer's movements on the screen, providing the most natural way to draw on a computer. (How natural? There's a working eraser on the end of the stylus that functions just the way you'd expect.) The stylus is pressure-sensitive, which can lead to thicker or thinner lines as you press down--or it can do whatever you customize it to do, depending on your software.

2. Move It Like Wallace and Gromit

Stop-motion animation is the art of animating using real-world objects instead of drawings. People often refer to it as claymation, but as fans of Robot Chicken and Oedipus the Movie know, anything and everything can be fair game for stop motion, from your collection of Smurfs to fresh produce.

The principle is easy: Take a picture of something, move it a little, take another picture, repeat. Play the still frames back, and your object comes to life. (Just for fun, you can use people instead of objects--the technique is called pixillation--as in the film Neighbours.)

That's the idea, anyway. If you're just starting out (or if you're doing ambitious Taras Bulba-like scenes), you quickly discover how hard it is to keep track of exactly how you moved something in the previous frame.

Nikon to the rescue: Many of the company's budget-friendly Coolpix digital cameras, as well as its feature-laden (but pricier, at US$749 with lens) D60 digital SLR, have a little-heralded stop-motion feature. Once activated, the camera overlays faint versions of the previous images on your LCD preview, allowing you to line up your next shot accurately.

Once you're done shooting your masterpiece, the camera will automatically assemble the images into a QuickTime file, but if you prefer more control over editing your shots, you can use the US$29 QuickTime Pro for the task.

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Emru Townsend

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