The Thatch Bug.

I’ve mentioned Mr Nick Thatcher before. If the two of use make an occasional double act then I’m definitely the Watson to his Holmes as he, far more than I, is a bit of a genius.

A couple of weeks ago I booked two tickets to an HTC gathering (more on which later) and Nick and I had one of our occasional meet ups to discuss plans. I said I’d love a snap on clip for my trusty new One M8 and he said he’d see what he could do, as long as I was aware that he’d be out of action for one of the weeks we had before the day with work in Amsterdam.

As it was he made this… A very cool 3d printed shield and lens system for the phone:

In fact he made four of them… one with an extra shield that attached to the phone and three (red, gold and black) that attached to the phone via magic (or hair clips, depending on how you view the world).

It allowed me to take pictures like this:

…on the train going to the venue and these pics:

…in the venue. Lovely stuff. We gave away the hair band lenses (and I hope we see some very cool images form them in the future) and I’ve got the shield clip lens so that I can play with it some more over Christmas.

The plan is, possibly, to make a limited run for sale in the new year. We’ll see, but certainly the vibe was pretty strong on the night…

But again, here’s to Nick, who makes these cool things happen even when he has a bucket load of other things to be doing… You can catch up with his awesome inventions here. If next year pans out the way I think it might remember you (possibly) heard it here first…

Fabulous (and long) week…

It’s been a week… On Monday I reached the grand old age of 44:

On Tuesday a friend of mine and I put the finishing touch to a lovely extra camera lens to my trusty HTC One:

On Weds I did one of my last two residency days at Shake Shack in Covent Garden:

… and I ran the fourth of five tablet art sessions at the Ben Uri gallery. Much fun that is, pictures to come…

On Thursday it was a fabulous night at the HTCMeetup in London:

Where I did a smidge of drawing on One, Desire Eye and Nexus 9:

(photo courtesy of @TheChicGeekBiz).

… and I test drove the Thatch Bug camera lens by the very excellent Mr Nick Thatcher:

…and on Friday I went to see the Hobbit with a very lovely old mate who I’ve seen all six films with on release day…

More blather to come but basically? Today has been, deservedly, a bit of a rest day…

 

The Secret Origin of Bubble Man. Pixelmator app and love.

Sometimes I draw a squiggle on a screen to see what it’ll become. Sometimes it becomes an instantly obvious picture and sometimes it takes a while to coalesce into what I end up drawing. Occasionally I turn the squiggle around unto it become the basis of the picture I want to draw.

This picture became the Secret Origin of Bubble Man almost instantly, although it didn’t have the bubbles. From the first line drawn in the app (Pixelmator app on iPad if you’re interested) I knew it was going to be a pastiche of the famous Batman panel but, in my mind, as I drew, it was going to be a gnome flying through the window – and subsequently be the secret origin of Gnome man. It wasn’t until I’d drawn the Wayne style character in that I realised I wanted the pipe to be blowing bubbles… The only real reason for the decision being that I wanted to play about with some of the photo editing tools in the app to see how they performed.

I’m a BIG fan of Pixelmator on the desktop (although not so much a fan of some of the more recent UI decisions they’ve made. Bringing the filters into a panel rather than a drop down I find unwieldy and less immediate). The app I downloaded on day one and had a quick play with, but have been too busy since to play with.

(this desktop picture was used in the Pixelmator 1 and 2 manuals :) )

Again, I like it a lot, but I find some of the UI decisions confusing and convoluted. It’s a great app, just not an app which is one of the greats – at the moment anyway. It’s V1 so I’m sure there’s a lot to be added in the future, especially if the pace of desktop improvement is matched.

I drew the picture in two 45 min long sittings. The above image is after one session, which I drew in the evening before going to sleep. The top image – closer to completion but I may play with it some more – was worked on in the morning as I woke up. I did, admittedly, have weird dreams but don’t think the content of the picture was to blame :)

Looking through the Pixelmator album I found this:

which remains my favourite Pixelmator picture despite being one of the first ones I did in the program and subsequently too small a pixel depth to do anything with and this:

…which I’d completely forgotten about :)

Sadly it looks like I might be picking up a Win OS device as my next laptop so wouldn’t have access to desktop Pixelmator… And that’s enough reason alone to give me pause to reconsider which laptop I need to get next…

The Hockney movie.

David Hockney is a national treasure. Let’s start with that as a premise. You don’t have to like him, you don’t have to agree with him, you don’t have to enjoy or understand his artwork but few artists – if any – have managed to ease themselves in and out of fashion, to take on so many styles and media and to stay at the top of their game as well as he has, for as long as he has. David Hockney is someone the UK should be very proud of as one of their most creative sons.

As I’m a touch screen artist you might be expecting this to be an ode to his work on Apple devices but this isn’t the case. Director Randall Wright has created a well rounded portrait of Hockney which focuses on both a wide range of his work and the most intimate part of anyone’s soul: the desire to love and be loved.

Going into the film, reading the advance notes, you could be forgiven for anticipating a sombre piece. The comments alongside the movie suggest a intimate portrait of a man who has suffered personal loss – most horribly during the Aids epidemic of the 80s – and at times rejection at the hands of the established art community, friends and lovers. This is certainly a part of the film but the whole story is far more balanced: it captures the loss but also the joy of confident creativity. In two hours it was never going to tell the whole story – some important pieces of artwork never feature and some, like The Bigger Splash, I would love to have seen extra time given to (I eagerly await a DVD in the hope that extras and deleted scenes might give me more to enjoy and to think about).

Viewers are promised ‘the definitive exploration of one of the most important artists of his generation’. This is, and isn’t, the case. We see him throughout his long and extraordinary career and those lucky enough to be at the premier were granted an additional 45 minutes of live Q and A in his L.A. studio but Hockney isn’t a man so easily summed up. This is an entrancing look at his life and his loves and for that should be essential viewing not only for any aspiring artist but for anyone who has ever asked an artist the question ‘how do you know what to paint?’

On the way out of the cinema (the very lovely Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford) I found myself looking at the colours and the objects which surrounded me in a different way and I wished that Google Glass could somehow morph into Hockney’s eye (and, of course, we all know what the glass frames would look like from a design perspective). To see the world as fearlessly, as colourfully and as specifically as he does would be a wonderful thing. It’s possible that this film is as close as I’ll get (although it did also make me want to dig out my Bigger Picture DVD as soon as I arrived home).

It also made me want to paint the picture below on the train. Inspiring stuff, I look forward to seeing the movie again.

I was lucky enough to attend the Fresh Flowers exhibition in Paris and even luckier to have been asked to teach Royal Academy staff members how to draw on an iPad using the app that David uses yet in the Royal Academy exhibition it was the multi camera time and space images he made which excited me the most. I could (and did) sit and watch them for hours as they were so all encompassing and engaging. The film, while not similar in terms of scope or subject matter, I also didn’t want to end.

Teentech Surrey.

In a slightly ironic move (given Nicky Morgan’s comments yesterday) Wednesday saw the students and I deliver a full days teaching of tablet art technique to a range of year 10 and 11 students from a wide range of schools.

Excellent fun it was too, although I was utterly dog tired when I managed to drag my weary feet home… We used Flowpaper (which allowed me to talk about the very talented artist/programmer Richard ‘Dr’ Bailey who created some wonderfully beautiful procedural art images. After that we created an image in Brushes app (v2. v3 sadly doesn’t appeal to me in the same way) which allowed me to talk a little about Hockney and the RA. It’s a bit mean of me to teach on the app, really, as it’s not commercially available but it is a masterclass in UI design, even now years on from this version release and a year or so since it was pulled from the (app) shelf. Brushes remains one of the best tablet art apps which is what makes it all the sadder that you can’t buy it.

Finally, we did a picture in ArtRage app, a hugely powerful and phenomenally lovely piece of software available for desktop and tablet. It was good fun to use and, while the students all had their favourite app, this was the one that the teachers gravitated towards the most.

A lot of work then, especially as it was my day off, but it was a lot of fun. Everyone seemed to have a good time and we had some great pictures drawn on the devices. Bearing in mind each kid had less than 15 minutes to draw on the screens I think we came out with some very nice pieces of work.

As well as being my day off it was also the day of no classes for most of the students who joined me. Despite that they also did a full days work, never complaining (well, apart from not enough food in one students case) and being as good as I could have hoped. Well done them, as always. On their break, between sessions 5 and 6, the students sat around to do even more work, drawing the NAO Active Robot who made a short appearance on our stand. I got to draw for 20 minutes too, so all told it was a happy time…

(I will add some of their pics to the blog soon but as soon as I arrived back I put the iPads in the classroom and headed off home. That’s an update to come…)

Drawquest.

Once upon a time there was a fabulous app called Drawquest. It was launched as a community based art app and, very quickly it became a huge melting pot of lovely artists drawing pictures to the theme of the day, whatever that was.

Sadly the app was awesome but the business plan was fluid and, before its time, the funding dried up. Sadly the app base was hacked (I believe this was the order of events) and then soon after the app was taken down from the store.

All hugely sad. Many of the artists who met up on DQ still chat on Twitter and some friendships will last for a long time I hope. A couple of days ago the Drawquest team sent an email to all users saying that the pictures which had been made were downloadable, so I have, and some of my favourites are here.

…and the very excellent Mr Chris and I had a long running, drawn out fight scene… Here’s one page worth, hopefully he and I will manage to put it all together in one place now:

The DQ team signed their email off with ‘we still miss the Drawquest community dearly’.

Oh Drawquest, we miss you too.

Tablet art at Shake Shack, Covent Garden.

Well, some days are just worth writing about.

I’ve been lucky enough to be selected as Shack Shack’s artist in residence until Christmas. It was a great opportunity which has only become more beautiful and wonderful with the absolutely fabulous Christmas decorations which they have put up – huge and extraordinary baubles.

…which made it a fabulous place to run a tablet art class:

Time wise it was a tricky one… We had to be at the College in the morning and then had the afternoon and early evening to be there. We got the first train possible and arrived just shy of 3pm. All of the students found their seats and I dished out the tablets we would be using: 3 x Samsung Note 10.1s, 5 x Galaxy Note 3s, a Galaxy tab 10.1 and a Note Pro 12.9 inch tablet.

Basically? Samsung all the way :) Which is fine – I’ve often said how much I like the S-Pen integration and the only thing that has given me hesitation about the devices have been the lack of some of my favourite apps.

But one of my favourite apps, ArtRage, has hit the Android store in a partnership with Samsung for the next few months (it’ll be available on other Android devices in 2015.

We were joined by three very cool tablet artists: Jonathan Lawlor, Edward Ofosu and Valerie Beeby. I’ll post their artwork into this thread soon but here are some of the pieces my students did, on their first shot with ArtRage on Samsung Galaxy tablets. We had an hour and a half to draw and Shake Shack spoiled us rotten.

and the first piece by one of the visiting artists (mine is the picture above this text incidentally) is by the very fabulous Edward Ofosu :)

More to come… More pics being uploaded tomorrow and over the weekend :) The very marvellous Dame Kath of Jones (below) took a huge amount of photos which I can’t wait to see when I catch up with her next…

This Android picture…

This picture:

…was drawn on an HTC One M8 using a Plai eStylo and the very fab Autodesk Sketchbook app. This is unusual for two/three reasons; One: I now have a phone which is top of the range, which is nice (and spectacularly unusual for me – normally I rely on the phone one or two gens behind and only if I can get it for a cheap second hand price – part time teaching not making me rich beyond my wildest dreams) and Two: the eStylo works with barely anything… As I’ve mentioned before the HTC is the screen which, still, takes more styli than any other so I’m really looking forward to drawing on it more… The third possible reason is that I’ve just reviewed Sketchbook for a well known Mac magazine which is nice.

This picture:

…was drawn on a Samsung Note 3 using ArtRage app which has recently been released for Samsung tablets (partially because of their excellent integration with the S Pens). All good stuff – ArtRage is one of my favourite art apps out there.

This picture:

…was drawn on a Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tablet using ArtRage again.

… and of course you all know I love my Hudls, right?

 

Wacom Fineline stylus (my current favourite) drawn on Didlr app on a Hudl 2. Thoroughly enjoying the Fineline – I also drew it on the iPad the other day (still in ArtRage).

Not by purpose but I do seem to be on a bit more of an Android kick at the moment. ArtRage is a phenomenal app and I’m delighted to see it on a larger range of machines :) (that’s not to say that I’m not enjoying drawing on Surface tablets and the brief dalliances I’ve had with the iPad Air 2… And I really want to draw on the Nexus 9… And the HP Sprout as well, come to that). But the HTC One M8 is an excellent phone to draw on and I’m looking forward to spending time with the Samsung Note 3, 10.1 and Pro over the next week.

More, on the Android/ArtRage side of things to come. Exciting things happening tomorrow…

Therapeutic draw session in PC World, Guildford.

The half term break has been neither restful nor peaceful so a therapeutic draw session was called for.

First off – the Samsung Galaxy Pro:

…which I was delighted to see had S Note app installed. That made me smile – it’s something I’m more than happy to use to create a picture.

That was closely followed by an HP Pavilion 11 inch laptop:

Which I was also delighted to see had the very fab Fresh Paint app on. So delighted I completely forgot to take anything like a good photograph of (and had also forgotten to bring a USB stick with me so was doubly stuck).

That was followed by a Lenovo Yoga 2:

…which only had Paint on. That’s not terrible – it’s not a bad drawing app at all. But Fresh Paint is the first thing I always look for on a Windows 8 touch screen. I also couldn’t find a way to get rid of the ‘Touch here to find out more’ dialog box…

The last machine I drew on was the Surface Pro 3 which I like a lot. I even managed to persuade a staff member to try out the app (Fresh Paint again) and he did a pretty good job indeed for a first time on a touch screen :)

All in all a lovely 90 minutes drawing on a range of touch screens. If I had the money I’d have bought all of them – there weren’t any I disliked the screens or machines of.

Ironically I went in in the hope that they might have a Google Nexus 9 and had a few conversations about it… but that’s still to arrive (although the staff were as keen as I am to see the tablet. But hey, I can always pop back later and draw again :) )

Digital art Big Draw workshop at the Electric Theatre, Guildford.

As if often the case in a half term The Electric Theatre in Guildford asked me to run a couple of art sessions for 5-9 year olds. Mondays theme was traditional art and Wednesday was digital.

We started, as almost all of my classes do, with a couple of psychological tricks to explain how easy drawing is. Once that barrier is broken (about 10 minutes in if I’m taking the scenic route) we started to draw on tablet.

And excellent fun it was too, as these sessions often tend to be :)


On the touch screens we started with the very lovely Tesco Hudl (first generation) and used Autodesk Sketchbook to take photos of drawn owls and colour them:

Then we did a little bit of face liquifying (still on Hudl) which went down brilliantly :)

We did a bit of Autostitch panorama photo taking:

(click on the photos for larger versions)

…and we drew on a range of apps:

Fresh Paint app on Surface RT.

Brushes app (v2) on iPad.

Autodesk Sketchbook on Hudl.

Adobe Photoshop on Hudl.

ArtRage on iPad.

All in all? A lot of fun and, I think, a good few new 6 year old touch screen artists ready to carry on where they left off after the 2 hour session (all asked which apps and styli they should buy and all of the parents/grandparents looked relieved when I told them that the prices were generally low and affordable). The feedback was excellent with the often asked question ‘are you going to do more of these sessions’ becoming more and more pressing on my mind :) Hopefully soon (although not until early 2015 that said).

I was also lucky enough to be joined by three of my College students – all very capable tablet art tutors in their own right – which meant that if I’d so wanted I could have delegated all of the work to them! I didn’t of course – doing youth arts work is too much fun to not be involved in – but it was lovely to know that I could hand off to them when I wanted the younger kids to have some extra assistance…

Next up? Half a days rest. I think I’ve earned it :)