Anatomy of a slug.

One of my fab students drew a slug while we were at Surrey Opps Fair…

…and the idea sort of… um… hmm. Stuck? Is that the right word?

So on the minibus returning from the show I drew most of this on my trusty and very much loved Hudl (first gen):

Depressed Slug. Hudl, Adobe Photoshop Touch, eBay stylus.

Then, on my walk about leaves yesterday I used my HUdl 2 to take a couple of texture photos which I thought would suit the picture. When I got home I emailed them to myself (not having any better idea to transfer the files, Android is still a mystery to me in some ways) and added them to the picture which gave me this:


…which is miles better (although not for the slug obviously).

Then, overnight (while I was semi-successfully sleeping) I realised I should have moved the mouth and added a small outline to the slug. Which gave me this:

And so on. I might change the outlines in the foot imprint but for the most part will stick with it where it is. Mmmm sluggy.

 

Hudl 2 camera walk.

I’m very lucky to have a lovely walk just outside of my door which allows me to test out the tablet and phone cameras in a picturesque and leafy setting.

The Hudl 1, let’s be honest, had a pretty dismal camera. I’ve read in a number of reviews that the camera on the Hudl 2 is a step up, but not necessarily a huge one… It’s not a deal breaker for me but I thought I’d pop out and give it a test drive anyhow.

First off.. The Android operating system has never been speedy for me when it comes to picture taking so I was a bit surprised when the pictures came out quite snappily (ho ho). The pictures are all at a pretty high resolution and pixel depth and, for the most part, I found very few mis-fires and blurred pictures (which has more often than not been the case for me with Android devices in the past).

The negative is that the images taken do seem to have a number of filters applied at source which I can’t seem to turn off or get rid of. Less good, that aspect is. I’ll keep looking for some toggle switches.

However the panorama and pano sphere settings are fab. I like them loads…

(as aways click on the image for a larger version. This one exported at a not small 6400 x 1000 pixel count).

…and then, at the end of the walk, there was a nice sit down so I could go through the pictures and chat with friends…

All in all? Far more impressed with the camera on the Hudl 2 than I had anticipated at all. It’s not a full on camera replacement of course (nor is it as good as some of the phone/cameras which boast far higher specs for far higher prices) but the best camera is the one  you have one you and, in this case, it’s not bad at all…

(Some of these pictures had a smidge of auto colour adjust applied in Snapseed. That said it was all still in tablet and, for the most part, was one or two simple filters applied… Nothing huge in terms of image editing).

Dell Solutions Tour 2014.

Latest on the list of ‘Blimey it’s busy this year’ screen drawing sessions is the Dell Solutions tour 2014.

It’s a three day/three city event which I get the chance to join in with the London leg. This year it was in Olympia – a venue I’ve not been in since the old ECTS days – and as always it’s delightful to be able to draw on new screens, chat to people I’ve met at other events and big up the students and the College course. (Last year it was at Stamford Bridge which I thoroughly enjoyed for the Autostitch wonderfulness).

I only had three hours to join them this year as I was due to be drawing burgers and having meetings for the rest of the day (more to say, some very cool stuff to come) and that led to these pictures:

 


Drawn on a Dell 18, Venue 8 and 11 mostly using Paint app (although I did get one stand to install the Fresh Paint app for me to have a test out on their screen…) Paint is OK, not my favourite app to demo and work with as the icons aren’t exactly set up for touch screen… but it’s more capable than some might remember and not painful to use… Fresh Paint is one of my favourite apps so it’s always a shame to see demo machines not have it as an automatic option.

Apologies for the photos. The lighting of the room played havoc with my camera… Regardless: Stylus T. Frog had a good run out, which is always nice. Thanks for the invite Dell :)

One unexpected bonus of the day was the picking up of two new promo styli. One from Qualcomm – a wrist slap band stylus that works miles better than one I picked up from them last year… But the star of the show was a luxury Intel pen/stylus that’s lovely to write and draw with. Hurrah. Hence the picture which opens this blog. I drew it on my trusty new Hudl 2 in the q for lunch (must be a limerick in there somewhere) because no-one would lend me a Dell tablet to draw on while I was waiting…. But I did use the styli that I’d picked up to draw each of the styli in the picture, so that sort of counts as being helpful, right?

On the machine side I do like the Dell tablets and I look forward to the update of the Venue tablets with the new pen/drivers and refreshed innards in November. All good stuff, and I REALLY like their LED projector. That’s an utter mini-star :)

Surrey Opportunities Fair.

We are getting rather good at this.

This being juggling a bunch of students and one dog tired teacher going to a venue (this time: Epsom Racecourse) and demonstrating tablet art techniques to potential new students (and, more often than not, teachers and teaching assistants).

So yesterday the students and I got a bus at way too early to get to the racecourse ten minutes late via a horribly foggy and disgusting drive. Safety (always) first, so late was the better of the options.

One quick set up later and the school kids started piling in. And in. And in. It was fairly busy:

(as always).

One of the nicest things for me was that the students who went started drawing on the bus and didn’t stop working until we finished at 3.15.

Which is nice for me as their teacher… They’re a good bunch I have this year. Which is good as my student intake has almost trebled.

All in all? Not a bad way to spend a day. Dog tired at the end of it though. I’d say roll on half term but I’m doing tablet art at the ‘Leccy then…. Good to be busy I suppose :)

Return of the Hudl.

A year ago I had just come back from Eurogamer. Following a breathless week of tablet and screen art in London’s Earl’s Court arena (ring a bell?) the following morning the Hudl 1 was released and I went to the local Tesco to buy 7 of the 12 they had in stock.

Sounds excessive? Well. I was about to start leading a young people’s tablet art workshop in the Lightbox, Woking, and I urgently needed more tablets. Buying Hudls was a risk but one I needed to take.

Turns out it wasn’t a risk or, if it was, it was one that paid off beautifully. The Hudl (first generation) is a fabulous machine and they’ve served me well since I bought them. A huge range of kids and adults have used the tablets in all sorts of venues and all seven of the machines have held up to the prodding and poking and general art duties with aplomb. And, more tellingly, if I’m heading out with some draw time but nothing planned the Hudl is more often than not the tablet I pick up first.

Fast forward the clock to today which (sort of) saw the launch of the Hudl 2.

I’d phoned my local store and was told that all colours would be in stock (they weren’t. Some were web only. More on that later). I was also told they’d be on sale at 8am. Which is when my son’s school bus leaves so, logistically, the earliest I could get there was 9.30 am. I was slightly nervous that the one I wanted most (the orange Hudl) would be gone by the time I arrived.

As it was I needn’t have worried. Not because the Guildford Tesco megastore had orange ones in stock, but all of their stock was still locked in a cupboard behind the Customer services desk. Twenty boxes of black or white bezel Hudl 2s sat, blissfully hidden from the customers who might want to buy one.

Bearing in mind it was the highly trumpted launch day: a little perplexing. Thinking back on it that’s almost exactly what happened last year.

Unlike last year I had two choices of colour frame and I bought the white one (which I find keeps the eyes on the artwork when you’re making pictures on a screen. Black allows your eyes to drift out on occasion). Which is a vague shame (I also bought a slightly off orange stylus to soften the blow) but I was very keen to spend the day drawing on it so it was a trade off. They had no screen protectors or cases so onwards it was (I was in London drawing at Shake Shack today :) Yum and fun).

Regardless. Review time!

First off. A tiny thing but the box is slightly less good than last time. Silly I know but I thought the packaging for the Hudl 1 was excellent and this time it’s merely very, very good. I like the box, but last years felt just that little bit more like the box of a premier league product. The front flap was attached by magnets and lifted away in a beautifully clean fashion, the cardboard was thick and covered fully in glossy pack shot images.

It was probably a complete pain to make so I can imagine why it might have been simplified this time…

Secondly the screen comes with a matte screen protector/menu to the buttons around the screen. For a split second I thought that they had gone with a matte screen finish (not my favourite) but, again, not a worry. Once the sticker was removed there lay the glossy, glassy goodness, all waiting to be drawn on.

After a short while of inputting email addresses, choosing wifi, updating apps and so on I was ready to go. The setup was pretty smooth and painless and took, roughly, 1.25 coffees.


And then, all of a sudden, I was off :) The remains of the coffee was drained and I was heading towards a train to London, ready to draw.


The first pic was painted in Sketchbook Pro by Autodesk using a Dagi 501 stylus and a Pogo Sketch Pro, both of which worked beautifully on the screen. I’d first tried my go-to fabric stylus (the New Trent Arcadia) which inexplicably didn’t work. This, I think, is a first… That stylus has worked on every screen I’ve ever tried it on. I’ll carry on test driving styli on the screen soon and come back with a report on what does and doesn’t work but, for the moment, the rubber tip (Pogo Sketch Pro, Wacom Bamboo, eBay styli) and the plastic tips (Dagi 501, Jot Classic) work well.

I painted a couple of pictures in Adobe Photoshop (but I can’t share them yet, they’ll be done for next week though) and had a lot of fun while doing so. Photoshop’s a bit of a processor hog on a tablet and, as it does on nearly all tablets, it lagged a little when the brush was enlarged on a low opacity. But if the brush was full opacity I felt no speed problems and was happy enough using the app.

By 3.30pm I was needing to get the train back so I put the tablet away and headed for home. On the train I finished off the Marmite picture:


…and, once back in Guildford I sat on an almost stationary bus (the peril of living near one of the worst junctions in Surrey – hallo A3 turnoff) and drew this:

(both drawn in Autodesk Sketchbook Pro app).

Any other comments? Well after a full on six hours of drawing the battery had drained from 90% to just under 30% which is pretty good. Nothing pushes a tablet or phone as much as a tablet art session.

The screen ratio is somewhere between an inflated iPhone 5S/c, a Samsung Galaxy 8.9 and a Microsoft Surface 1 or 2 (if you’re looking for precise maths look away now. That ain’t me). It reminds me of the finish of a iPhone 5c, a Lumia phone or tablet – although the plastic is matte rather than glossy (whereas the original Hudl reminded me of a 3GS with it’s shiny plastic back and rounded edges). It feels like a premium device, not too heavy but good to hold. The power button is to the right of the volume controls which strained at the muscle memory all day when I expected the volume up and down to be the other way round. I’ll get used to it I’m sure. Interestingly the Hudl 2 is designed to be thought of as a portrait orientated device (whereas the original was landscape which is how I see most tablets). Again it’s not a problem… Bemusing maybe (I would have though the majority use a tablet in landscape orientation – yet phones are more often portrait).

WIth the original Hudl the camera was the negative and, having had a quick play around with this one I’d say that’s possibly still the case. It’s an improvement at least and it’s hard to tell what lets the side down: the hardware or Android which I’ve never found focuses quickly on any device I’ve used it on.

The viewing angle is extraordinary. I found it impossible to hold the screen at an angle where the picture wasn’t clear and precise. It may not be retina quality but I found my eyes couldn’t focus on the screen at a distance where I might see the pixels. The colours are a smidge over saturated although we’re certainly not talking anything like Samsung phone and tablet levels of Las Vegas style neon subtlety. I’ve yet to find a screen contrast option in Android but with luck there will be something I can tweak. It’s not massively off-putting though but I could imagine a purist finding it verging on the tail edge of gaudy.

I’ve never used Spotify (or similar streaming service) but, since it was there, I thought I’d test drive Blinkbox Music and it worked simply and well. I’ll probably keep using it I think. The box comes with a small clutch of vouchers which I’ll try and make use of this time (last time I forgot and they all went out of date on me).

I like the fact that Tesco are putting an emphasis on child safety and parental controls. As a growing number of increasingly younger kids are being given their own tablet it’s something that I appreciate the effort to implement. I’m not overly keen on small children being given tablets (it strikes me as something that can’t help long term eyesight for a start and I think there are many more age appropriate toys to grow up with) but it’s going to happen so the internet safety options are a valuable choice.

Anything else? Well. To put the boot in, just before I started to write this, I had a check up on the manual included in the box and all… ALL… of the images used to demonstrate the Hudl options and choices are the Orange Hudl option. So I think they knew it was the best colour too.

Grr.

But hey ho. It’s been a lovely day drawing and the Hudl 2 hasn’t disappointed. A fab tablet. Definitely recommended. A few websites have proclaimed it an excellent budget tablet but I think the ‘b’ word isn’t necessarily needed. It’s an excellent tablet (which also happens to be cheap).

Surfacing…

It’s been a very interesting few weeks. I loved being a part of EGX (and am happily snuggled up in my EGX hoodie at the moment as I type this with a smile on my face). And now I’m artist in residence (back there tomorrow in fact) at Shake Shack in Covent Garden which is very cool.

Tomorrow the Hudl 2 is released and I really hope I find one in stock and I REALLY hope it’s the right colour (orange machines are, generally, the best machines). If so I’ll be taking it to the shack to give it a run through. I’m a total sucker for the Hudl and hope the sequel is all that is promised.

Tonight there’s also an HTC One M8 announcement which I hope to catch up on. I think, pound for pound, it’s my favourite phone. Certainly the shell is beautiful and the screen is the only one which accepted input from all of the styli I use (wood, brush, rubber tip, plastic tip and so on).

 Which leads me to this. A couple of threads of my life weaving together nicely.

Just over a year ago things went a bit wrong and I couldn’t see the good in anything. I was still teaching well enough, the kids enjoyed the year and all came out with good grades and retention was up from the prior year… But I didn’t take much in the way of joy from things that were, in retrospect, pretty good. Now I can, and I thoroughly enjoyed Eurogamer Expo where, last year, I’d failed to enjoy it as much as I should have.

This morning I had a very happy, gentle argument with Ewen Rankin of the British Tech Network on Twitter today also. My argument was that Apple is an extraordinary company (which I believe it is) but that that doesn’t make me a fanboy.

My favourite phone(s) are from HTC and Samsung (mainly for the S-Pen). My favourite tablets are from Microsoft and Tesco. I don’t have a Samsung Ativ but always thought that it looks (looked) like a fabulous laptop and my prior favourite laptop was a Sony Vaio slider.

Apple is extraordinary in the devotion it inspires, for the ability it has in making the whole widget work (if you discount software where they are – debatably – troubled at times) and, basically for having that much money in the bank safe in the knowledge that it’ll have that much but a lot more tomorrow. Any company which employs Jony Ive, Knight of the Realm (and an equally brilliant design team) is automatically that much more awesome than any company which does not.

I’ve not got a special place in my heart for them: it’s not like they’ve ever replied to the emails I’ve sent about the tablet art things we do at the college and apart from occasionally saying nice things about the pictures I do (in store) that’s the sum total of our togetherness but you can’t argue that Apple isn’t an extraordinary company (I think).

That said none of the machines I look forward to are Apple’s. The tablet I’ve got my eye on next is the Surface Pro 3. I’m thoroughly enjoying drawing on that when I’m able to escape work for a lunchtime and head off to my local PC World.

… and, yesterday, I showed the students how to feather images together and came up with this on the board:

So I think it’s fair to say that the Surface is a machine on my mind… As is the Hudl 2. As is the One.

Ironically the only machine that interests me from Apple – which I still think is an extraordinary company – is one which hasn’t been announced and exists only as pure speculation: the iPad Pro. That said there’s an Apple keynote now announced for Oct 16th and regardless of the other companies pushing the tech boundaries as they are I’m sure I’ll tune in to see what they announce.

…but that’s the fab thing about tablets and tech. I tend to enjoy drawing on whichever screen is placed in front of me. No matter the app, input device or OS it’s always fun to see what’s next and to draw on what’s now.

Shake those Saucy Screens…

How do you follow something as excellent and fun to be a part of as EGX 14?

Well, in my case you start up the next art residency in London. Nothing like a break in proceedings :) I was back teaching the following day after the 6 day marathon of EGX and back in London for my first day painting on Thursday :)

Anyhow: once a week, I’ll be very happily sitting in Shake Shack, Covent Garden, soaking up the atmosphere and trying to limit myself to only a couple of things on the menu, whichever day I’m there. The problem is it all looks so tasty :)

This week, it being their Shack-Toberfest special week, I limited myself to… well… maybe more than a couple of things which related to their specials of the week. A fabulous burger, a very medicinal cup of half and half (lemonade and iced tea. Manna for a throat which had accompanied me through the 100 hour week which was Eurogamer Expo):

50/50. Drawn on Tesco Hudl using Adobe Photoshop Touch app and a New Trent Arcadia stylus.

 …and a Stein of Shack beer:

Happy ShackToberFest. Drawn on Microsoft Surface RT using Fresh Paint app and Dagi 501.

All in all it was spectacularly tasty and I’m delighted to be joining them between now and Christmas.

Of course, me being me, you know that there will be some interactive sessions and, I hope, the students might well be involved at some point (towards the end or possibly at the start of the coming year, still working on a college calendar of events and happenings at the moment). I’m intending to test drive the Hudl 2 while there next week and so on and so forth.

It’s a strange thing to say but if you’ve ever wanted to work out which stylus works best with which screen, or if you’d like a quick demo of an art app on your phone or tablet, then Shake Shack, generally on a Wednesday, might be the best place to be! I’ll happily run through which app is best on which device or which stylus might be worth a test drive… but I’ll be just ask happy to sit and paint a burger, drink or lovely, yummy, cup of Concrete. I could explain but I think it’s the sort of thing you should experience.

More, much more, artwork to come. Exciting stuff. Thanks Shake Shack for liking my digital artwork enough to want me to take up a table on a regular basis and I look forward to seeing what comes from the partnership.

The Three MuskArteers.


Without wanting to sound ridiculously immodest I think I’m fairly OK at my day job (which is as a  College Graphics and Creative Media teacher).

I’m not your average teacher and I don’t teach in an average way. Which is good, just don’t tell the Government because it’s not about being good any more it’s about standards and compliance. You’re not good unless you’re outstanding and you’re not outstanding unless you toe the party line.

I don’t. But all the students stay and they all pass with grades they weren’t expecting and, along the way, we tend to do huge trade shows and events as we go.

And now I’m ridiculously lucky to be joined by a Photography and Fine Art teacher who are equally good and equally mad. It made EGX an absolute joy and when we all decided to be Muskarteers on the final day, well that’s a perfectly rational decision for us, really. It’s going to be a fab year in the School of Art. Unless they make us comply too often in which case it was be an above average, semi-soulless, standardised sort of year.

We even took over the Cosplay stage for the final hour of the day, dressed as Muskarteers and with anyone with a sword joining us. It was as excellent as that sounds.


As was drawing on tablets dressed in Cosplay :) As was EGX as a whole in fact…

…but, true to form, I was finishing off the Cosplay on the train up to day four of the show. While I lauded the two newish teachers at the College – and it is excellent to be part of an A-Team – I’m always supported by my excellent wife who made the tabard and boots and so on. She left a space on the front for me to draw the crest which I did on the train.

…and which she, being the long suffering and excellent wife that she is, filmed for me…

First Cosplay. Definitely (hopefully) not the last.

Post Mortem vs The Next Event…

It’s not post show blues, just a realisation that sometimes things don’t go to plan or my mind is putting more plates on sticks that can realistically be spun.

The Chill Out And Art stand was run by a bone tired teacher, assisted by a second teacher – equally tired (because there’s no let up from enrolment to classes and no we don’t get the whole summer off we get the same amount of days holiday you likely get just fewer places to use them and thank you Mr Gove for your parting present of everyone having to change all of their paperwork, again). It was set up by three dog tired teachers, one daughter, one boyfriend of the daughter and a brilliant friend of the college who’s always been there to help when needed.

And for an hour each day we were running the sixth largest stand at EGX14 with only Ubisoft, Nintendo, Microsoft, Activision and Sony having larger floor footprints.

So basically? We did OK and the students did brilliantly.

Generally I go on gut feelings. I knew the wallpaper would work and OH BOY did it. I knew we could rock the Cosplay stage and it was fab :) I thought the Graph’It pens would go down well and holy heck they certainly did…

All told? It was a heck of a week.

The problem was it was the best show we’ve ever done.

Actually the problem was it was around £2k and a few bits swapped around from being the PERFECT show.

Post show the marvellous Nick Thatcher and I sit and cogitate (cogitate being Latin for chat over a beer) and discuss  what we should have done differently. And the list this year was so small it was frustrating to be so close to where I could have dreamt it to be.

The things that would have made it perfect were a little out of our control but still grate. The stand looked awesome – we had loads of compliments and it’ll be interesting to see how many people wallpaper their stands next time. The Graph’It pens worked a treat and we ran out of paper at the end of the third day as it was such a popular addition to the stand. Bearing in mind the total budget – if I put everything together -comes out at less than  £2k that was a HELL of an achievement in and of itself. All in all? Not a bad three weeks planning/one week of solid work :)

My main sadness is that we didn’t have the  IWBs  (beyond the budget) or a cool new projector which allows you to draw directly onto a wall. I still want to do a console art corner (Art Academy on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS + Colors and PaintPark Plus on Sony PS Vita). We’ve not cracked 3d scanning and printing yet but we know exactly how to do it and were tantalisingly close this time. I just need a couple more jigsaw puzzle pieces in place for that one.

REALLY want to do a tablet and stylus bench where people can walk up and try as large a range of styli against as large a range of tablets as possible. As an example we (finally) got the demo Surface RT units working and I ran off to my pencil case of styli to use for a picture…. but because I’ve used most of the styli I know, for example, that the Surface RT works best with the Dagi range of styli in terms of connection but unless you meet a complete nitwit that tries all styli against all screens (ahem) you’re not going to find that useful nugget of information out.

And the main miss of the show, of every show since World Skills, is that the app that would work with and around the event has never been quite there. World Skills Fest would have worked so perfectly with the app I had in mind, as would Gadget Show Live. We’ve always been close but never lit the cigar, let alone removed it from the cool cigar tin that taunts me from the shelf it’s placed on, a smidge out of reach. One day I might get there… but I suspect I may never get to doing the show and the app together. It’s the thing which feels most beyond anything I can plan or budget for.

That’s what drives me on to do the next show and then the one after that. There’s always something new and cool that we could get onto.

The biggest negative point was that, for the second year in a row, Eurogamer fell on my son’s birthday… Both years we bought him to the show on the final day and, both years, he’s met his favourite character (Sonic) which was great. Hats off to the Nintendo booth who, as soon as they heard that there was an autistic child who desperately wanted to meet Sonic, rearranged some of the times of their character walk arounds and got it sorted for Sonic to meet son and vice versa. Was hugely touched by their kindness and thoughtfulness. Next years EGX dates – and venue – have already been announced and they don’t fall on the birthday but they do happen in Birmingham NEC which, budget wise, might preclude us from participating. I hope not as EGX has been a brilliant show to be a part of for the past two years. We’ll see what happens when that conversation comes up.

I’d say when’s the next event, although I know. Sort of. There’s a couple of smaller events to come but I’ve got high hopes on the next biggie.

The main thing is that the kids come through the year thinking they’ve been a part of something amazing and, more importantly for the college and my year on year stats, that they all succeed in their relevant courses – especially graphics. last year we did 20 shows and most came out with As and Bs. But this year I have three times as many students to think on so it’s all that much more stress and work. If I were sane I’d batten down the hatches, teach the basics, standardise the sketchpads, do one event at most (most teachers take their kids to a couple of exhibitions and that’s that).

Good job I’m not sane then.