Happy birthday Surface Pro 3…

Today (and yesterday) have been interesting. New student enrolment, as always, saw a swathe of young faces waltz past my desk. Some exuded hope and confidence and others were already crushed by silly letters that say little about their true worth and, in all cases, I gave the best news I could.

I actively look forward to the students I’m teaching next academic year but, to be honest, I always say that. And, fortunately so far, I’ve always been right. Next year will be a challenge – but a very exciting one where the kids are concerned. The Government sanctioned destruction of the education system remains a concern but I do what I can, where I can. Sometimes I am not able to say yes to a student who I’m sure would be an asset, because the rules say so… but I always bend the rules as far as I can as often as I can. My managers have learnt to tolerate the way I do things –  last year one student out of all of my intake left and all passed. So maybe I do know something about the kids I take on, who knows? I’m told I take too many risks, and that’s certainly true.

Post one day of compliance meetings and two days of constant waiting for/talking to kids prompted me to take an hour long diversion on the slow and frog tired walk home. I was determined to make it an hour or less as this week has seen me more away from my family than with them but I needed some time away from noise and I needed to draw. Sometimes there’s so much need than I have to stop and try not to think of it. As it is I’m taking on a fair few kids who I shouldn’t, according to the ruleset, and who I can’t wait to spend a year with.

Today is the launch of the Surface Pro 3. I like the machine, from the RT original (which I spent some time with and liked loads) to the newest iteration, released as I fretted over grades and funding applications and big eyed kids, trying to sound confident and desperately trying not to cry.  The issues I had with the Surface 1 (the integration of screen and stylus) and Surface 2 (lingering issues with the screen ratio in portrait format) have all been addressed and here we are with the Surface Pro 3. The kick stand works in all angles, the N Trig pen works beautifully and Fresh Paint remains one of the most wonderful gateway drugs to tablet and touch screen artwork.

Two Surface 3 demo units greeted me in the shop (no, I didn’t buy one. I’m a 3 day a week teacher with a 5 day a week workload. If I spend that sort of money I’m going to have to juggle and haggle and it’s not an immediate decision). A balloon arch drew my eye from the get go (I wasn’t entirely sure they’d have units to play with, the Microsoft online shop being sold out on day 1) but I knew which part of the shop to walk to :) Once I’d said hallo to the staff I knew (pretty much all of them by now I think) I had the styli out and was painting.

Excuse the photos. My phone was completely out of juice, as was my tablet (as was I) so I relied on my third choice camera. Better pics to come.

Captain Antarctica:

painted on demo Surface Pro 3 unit 1 using finger, Nomad Compose brush and Fresh Paint app (mainly the oil paint brush).

Painted on the second Surface Pro 3 demo unit, Fresh Paint again (mainly the watercolour brush).

I had a few people watching me (probably half of the people in the store at one point :) ) and it was lovely and therapeutic to just draw and not have to make decisions about the next year for kids who all wanted to hear good news where they might have lived the past few weeks without. Fresh Paint is a fab application, lovely to use and completely at home on a Surface, the hour was marvellous and wonderful and very much needed.

So happy birthday Surface Pro 3 and those who bought one I hope you enjoy and I’m a little envious. Have fun, because in EVERYTHING, that’s the most important  thing.




Give me a minute, we’ll get back to the above picture later.

I do like, as has been mentioned before, the Microsoft Surface tablet. Especially with Fresh Paint, an app which suits it down to the ground.

A short while ago the hashtag #MeetSurfacePro3 popped up on Twitter to cover a Microsoft tour of UK Currys/PC World stores (and Harrods) showing off the Surface Pro 3 before launch next week. Sounded like a nice plan so I checked the interactive map and found that my two local stores weren’t being visited which was a bit of a boo :(

So it wasn’t in my mind when I popped into my local PC World this morning to buy a fridge for my dad (long story). While there the staff noticed I was in and sent a Microsoft rep to me to say they had a Surface 3 in store and asked if I want to play? The original plan had been to buy the fridge and skidaddle but my long suffering wife raised her eyes to the heavens and said that I could walk back and she’d go and get the shopping on her own.

Hence the picture above. (That said I it last on a Surface Pro 2. I’ll get onto that later. Again).

The first picture I painted:

No prizes for guessing why… :) I love both Daleks and Fresh Paint’s signature pink colour.

Once done I walked home… But it was so much fun I decided to pop back later (when we’d measured the space for the fridge). While I walked to the shop I worked out what I wanted to draw, hence this:

(although in retrospect I wish I’d added a green glow to the love hearts :) ).

And then, as I walked home for the last time, I popped into Argos (PC World not having a fridge in stock) and found myself drawing on their demo Surface Pro 2.

All in all a lovely Surface drawing day. Thoughts on the 3? I like the screen aspect ratio (although I liked the widescreen one too), the kick stand works well (although I couldn’t test how it stands up to a longer drawing time as the first pic took 20 mins and the second took 40).

The pen? Well, bearing in mind there  was a lot of hoo hah about the 512 steps of sensitivity I found it perfectly fine to use, better than most of the BT pressure styli I use on other tablets. It reminded me of the Sony pen which worked on the Vaio sliders which is high praise – that’s still one of my favourites.

All told an excellent tablet and I can’t wait to play with it some more…



Screen Sharing (and so on and on and on :) )

Results day at college today which is always a little emotional for good and bad reasons. All of my students passed, which was good, but they didn’t always pass all courses, which is less so.

So come 3.30 it was time to escape and draw something so off to PC World I went to do 70 minutes of drawing. Which I have been known to do off and on (and on)… (and on). (As well as at the Gadget Show and so on).

I started off with a LG G3, which I’ve wanted to draw on for a while:

Which I liked loads. VERY nice screen and built in art (and notes) app which worked very smoothly. Drawn with a Jot Script stylus (as were all of the pictures below as well).

Once I’d drawn on that my eye went to an Asus hybrid laptop. I’ve wanted to draw on an Asus Vivotab 8 for a few weeks now and this was as close as they got. No idea what to draw and a brief trawl through the sludge of my memory  came up with a Cyberman so that’s what I drew using the very wonderful Fresh Paint app:

(which I also liked loads and makes me more interested than even to draw on a Vivotab 8).

And then, as I still had a few minutes left of the hour I’d allotted myself, I drew on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 2014 edition. I’d been told that side of the shop had a Samsung Galaxy Pro to hand but that proved not to be the case but, while that side of the shop, I decided to draw on the more recent version of the tablet instead:

All in all a lovely hour (well, 70 minutes) of drawing… Enjoyed doing the Cybermen too, so may come back to them in the future.

Odd views of the world. A bit more on phone photography.

The iPhone is more than a phone for me… In fact I rarely use it as such. Instead it has, for a long while, been my primary method of creating images, initially drawn and now photographed.

The iPad (and a range of tablets including the Hudl, Surface, Galaxy Tab, a variety of Dell, Lenovo and Asus tablets and so on) is currently my go-to painting and drawing device because of the increased screen real estate – something that I remember not being convinced about when I imported my very first iPad. But then, somehow, the larger screens became the ones I picked up most to do a painting and the Phone… well, it didn’t languish, but the drawn images became fewer and further between. I still draw on the small screen but those pictures are rarer.

Stylus T says Ribbet, for example, was drawn on my phone a couple of days after I’d come back from a lovely holiday while I was going through my pics.

And therein lies the rub: what I love about the iPhone is the camera. The Lumia‘s might have better glass but the iPhone, currently, has the better apps and the quicker pedal to metal. The Galaxy S4 was awful in this respect and I took far more blurry photo than I would have liked with that phone which, apart from that one pitfall, I liked loads. All of the pics in this blog and this blog were taken with the iPhone… Its my go to photography device 99% of the time and with the addition of an Olloclip it becomes even more fun:

Pink Marshmallow.

White Marshmallow

Chin Chin and Green Grass.

As you can probably guess I’m extremely fond of Autostitch, Boinx’ You Gotta See This app (which, while brilliant, is VERY MUCH in need of an update) and Olloclip’s in general. I’ve mentioned it before but I was utterly heartbroken when one of my two Ollo’s bit the dust :(

’nuff said.

I’ve written about Phoneography before, and no doubt will again ((although you’d be far better served by checking out the work of the very wonderful Nettie ‘Lumilyon’ Edwards who takes mobile phone photography very much to a higher level)). My mind is already moving towards the likely September 6th announcement of a new iPhone (although I will have an eye very firmly pointed to the keynote at IFA for the Samsung Note 4 – which is a fabulous phone. I love the S-Pen integration very much) but, with both announcements, it’ll be the camera that I’ll be most interested in seeing the evolution to come…


We’re all fully signed up Dr Who fans in the Kercal household…. So we were determined to catch the Who Exhibition before it closes and regenerates (and then we’ll probably catch it all over again).

Anyhow, that led to this:

…and I bought (and swapped a gold Dalek) for this:

(which takes pride of place on my table of skulls):

…. and I photographed the waistcoat from Paul McGann’s costume because I liked it (and for no real plan in mind). Yesterday I turned it into this (on my trusty ArtRage/iPhone combination :) )

(which makes me wish I’d taken more photos of the costumes to do various regenerations of Stylus T. Frog… :) Ah well, hope the costumes are still there for the next time the Experience is open :) )

And I also stole a couple of minutes to draw a Marlek in PC World in Cardiff :)

…and the good wife also found herself creatively inspired by the idea of being at the Dr Who Experience so made some felt toys to go along with us…

 ….and she also made me a felt Stylus T. Frog for our 21st Wedding Anniversary which was the day before we did the Dr Experience :)


Lovely week in Wales…

August means holiday and this year it was Wales. Partially that was to catch the Dr Who exhibition prior to the close and rejig as a Capaldi thing and partially that was just to relax on rocky beaches. Lovely time in lovely place.


On a recommendation from a Marmarati mate I tried a curry at Moksh in Cardiff Bay. Ultra scrummy – first time I’d had Crocodile curry. Hopefully not the last.

All in all – a very wonderful week away. Also coincided with my 21st wedding anniversary so we had an especially chilled Thursday.

….and we had fireworks on the beach. Hurrah.

More screen sharing… (HP, Sony and MS Surface).

Sometimes, often times in fact, I like to head down to PC World in Guildford (which is about 15 minutes walk away from where I work) and draw on a screen or two. The nice thing about being in tablet art is that not only can I draw on the screens I have at my disposal but I can also have a play with screens in a number of shops on demo and display. I’ve yet to come up with a name for the process that I like (having gone through Doodle bombing, Screen sharing and Share Screening off and on) but it’s something that I like to do for an hour or so. Generally each picture tends to clock in at some internal body clock at fifteen to twenty minutes and then it’s on to the next screen and device to test drive. It amuses me to think that on a good fifty or so machines (minimum) there’s a picture of a frog or a snail or so on, untilthe machine is wiped

 The other day I popped in and drew on an HP All in One:

…followed by a Sony Xperia Z:

…and then I finished the session off on a Surface Pro 2 (which I wasn’t going to but was asked nicely enough by one of the staff to think ‘oh OK, one more picture then…’).


As always, for the most part, I had no idea what I was going to draw. I keep meaning to have a plan for such times but they tend to happen without warning and mostly on whim so, for the most part, the planning happens as I’m walking through the doors to see which machines are available or new…

 Did I have a favourite machine? It’s what I’m often asked either as I’m drawing or when people see that I chop and change devices so much. Nope, not really… I have a couple of machines/machine makers which I don’t like – because of muted colours or rough Matte finish screens (which in a way is a complete about face as I can remember when I traded up from my Matte screen polycarb Macbook to a MBP with glossy screen and oh boy did I moan like mad…) Some machines take to more styli than others – often with no rhyme or reason. The HP All in One likes the Nomad Flex over the Nomad Compose for example, but that’s fine. In the same way that some apps suit some styli more than others so do some screens. It’s not a dealbreaker for me (to this date the only machine – tablet or otherwise – which has worked with all styli I use is the HTC One M8. Nothing works with everything).

Which stylus is my favourite? Often asked that and my answer – always – is ‘I can only pick one?’ There are styli that I don’t like – mainly for mechanical or ergonomic reasons  – but oftentimes I chat to an artist who likes one I don’t like and, again, that’s fine J Roz Hall loves his Alupen, personally I tend not to like rubberised tips on styli. Susan Murtaugh likes the Jot Touch PixelPoint and I REALLY don’t get along with that one (despite having tried my hardest to learn to like it). Each to their own.

I tend to like these ones here, sort of:

(Styli painted in ArtRage app).

I painted it for a tablet art class I’m running in London to illustrate a good range of styli which might suit that participants. The Cosmonaut is one I don’t use that much but feel would suit people with less fine ability to grip a smaller stylus and as the class age runs from 10 – 80 I tried to cover all bases. Similarly the Nomad Long Hair is a fabulous stylus but I prefer the short hair one. All in all though it’s a good group of styli which meets a whole range of needs.

 Regardless: the opportunity to draw on screens is always much appreciated. Hope you like the pics.

At the #DigitalRevolution exhibition at the Barbican Centre.

Just under two years ago the students and I had the very wonderful opportunity to draw at the Barbican.

 All sorts of fun it was too. I’ve been to the Barbican a few times but the space lends itself to exploration and the opportunity to spend two long days in there was a fabulous thing.

I’ve been back a few times since but last week I was demo-ing iPad artwork in Brent Cross so decided to head up early to take in the technology and art exhibition which had recently opened. As always some parts seemed to be geared towards me drawing on tablet which led me to photograph and paint a Next Cube (which was well and truly on my bucket list of machines to draw on. Sadly it worked but had no art software to utilise).


The stars of the show, for me, were either the mechanical tentacles or the interactive light beams. Both had a hypnotic quality which I thoroughly enjoyed. Hence a mash up painting drawn on iPad on the tube heading to the next part of the evening…

And the(occasionally) obligatory process video animation:

Happy end of one era….

For between 18 – 20 years (hard to tell it’s been so long) my wife and I have led a youth group for kids aged 10 – 14 in a church hall on a council estate. We led our final group last week and did a sort of semi-official hand over to the new worker in charge (because the group will carry on, which is the loveliest thing of all) and then, this Friday, we had a social night for the youth group leaders and the kids who had been at the group longest and were leaving this year.

It’s been, basically, emotional. A little. For the past year especially I’ve been shattered before I start each night (although it’s never hard to raise the energy levels for a game of football or chat to the kids who attend) and it’s the right time, for a number of reasons, to stop.

We thought Friday night had been the finale but were ambushed by everyone in the church with a range of gifts and a meal as a thank you. All of it was a lovely surprise; there were a number of rounds of applause as kids said thank you for various things we’d done over the years and almost everyone said thank you for working so hard.

Basically – and we’re keeping the tickets to the Shard (one of the presents) in a safe place so no returns… But it wasn’t work. Sitting down and chatting to kids, seeing how they are and encouraging  the best out of them, has never been work and, though we’ve been tired through what life has thrown our way for the past few years, running the youth group has always been a pleasure. Sometimes the nights were trickier to navigate than others but always we felt like we were in the right place at the right time.

Now it’s time to rest though, for a while…