Category Archives: General Stuff :)

A moving gift…

One of my loves in life are lenticular images. The serrated plastic pictures that change from one to another (or more in some clever cases) and, as my wife says, make a lovely buzzing sound when you drag your fingernails across them.

I’m also a sucker for Dr Who and propaganda imagery so a present that mixed and matched all three? Sold. It was a jigsaw puzzle that moved as you did it, which you can guess how much that helped, but wifey and I finally finished it this morning as we had a lazy start to the year. The plan is to glue it together and put it in a frame somewhere because, to be honest, I don’t want to ever have to put it together again. Enjoyed it though, tricksome as it was.

(two pictures AT WAR with each other 🙂 ).

Closing out 2013.

So 2013 nearly done and dusted. Some bits I’ll look back on and smile, other parts I’ll be very glad to see gone and look forward to seeing what 2014 brings.

Loads of bits and bobs to do around the house today so only a quick splurge of blog.

The church nearest me has put OMG up in the windows for Christmas, made from fairy light strings, and fab it looks too 🙂 A very clever way of using the architecture of the building. And it’s upset a couple of people too, which is never good to do on purpose but not always bad to do by accident. Makes me smile anyhow.

My son collects rubber ducks and we decided to count them. True to form we only got part way through the beak count but we were up to 225 at the time and there was more to be done but it was fun to see them take over the living room floor.

I was given a couple of cheap and playful phone camera lenses for Christmas which I’ve not had a chance to play with too much but make me smile to know they’re in my pocket ready to be whipped out and stuck to the front of a camera:

Phones have been an oddity over Christmas with me moving on from my very well used iPhone 4S to… well, that’s the trick, I ummed and ahhed about it so much I didn’t get a phone and then, when I kind of had to as I was missing calls and messages and so on, I bought a pay as you go Nokia 520 as it was fairly cheap and also ran Fresh Paint, which I REALLY wanted to try on the mobile platform (although I thoroughly enjoy  it on the Surface tablet). Anyhow I miss a million apps on the iPhone which I’m sure I’ll get back to sometime in the future… Which leads me to…Family and I went on the London Eye at night which was as lovely and beautiful as we imagined it would be, despite son boy complaining of stomach pains on the tube on the way to it… Fortunately he managed to hold onto his lunch and we saw London clothed in an equal amount of light and darkness. I missed my iPhone as it’s the sort of thing that would Autostitch amazingly well

((for example:

-both taken last year on the 4S)).

…but it was probably a mercy to my family that they didn’t have to stand around while I took 20 or so pictures and waited for them to be stitched together. I did take the above pic on the Lumia which sums up the lights at least and, for a cheaper end camera, it took the photo very well I think.

I did take a couple of pictures on the Eye but tbh was more interested in seeing the view away from a screen for once.

(taken with a Galaxy S4).

(taken with a Lumia 520).

I also had, because Hey, London, an ice cream at Chin Chin Labs. Because that’s what’s Camden at its best, and the picture above was an insta-CCL classic: Beetroot, Goats Cheese, Truffle Crumble (with, I think, some thyme in there as well). Yum.

I had a couple of beers over the year. This is a quick doodle on Didlr app and Samsung Galaxy S4 of a Hogs Back Brewery beer. It wasn’t my favourite of the ones I’ve had this year (I prefer their AOT and OTT beers) but the HBB labels are a thing of wonder. My favourite beer this year? Hmmm. Probably Innis and Gunn rum finish, bottled (and also replete with a lovely label) and something I’d love to have on tap to see how it compares.

And, yes, this. Sometimes this year I’ve been pushing a mountain while climbing up a mountain, while the mountain was still growing. Occasionally it felt a bit futile but very often I’ve had lovely, marvellous and amazing friends and family around me helping me along and saying hi just when I’ve needed it. The best thing about 2013 has been the friends and family who I’ve shared the good and the bad with. Hopefully I’ll take both the good and the friends with me in the following year and hopefully the same for you and yours. There will still be bad somewhere along the line I’m sure, but hopefully it’ll all find a natural balance…


It’s been a tough year in many ways. I tried to do too much, both with events and emotionally, and had a bit of an unexpected crash and burn over the summer break. It’s a few months on and I’m still picking up, slowly and as carefully as possible, some of the pieces although at least now they’re beginning to make a recognisable jigsaw picture as the weeks go by.

Every so often I have a road bump in the progress and this week was one of them. I took the students to another event (which I occasionally think I should REALLY stop doing but they’re just so much fun on the day and I ALWAYS see the best of the students when we go out and do something big) and at the end of it, when packing down, I found that the only thing which had been lost was a small tan brown pencil case which contained some of my most loved styli.

So, in one small loss I found I am now without my Wacom Feel, Jot Touch, Jot Classic, Pogo Sketch Pro, Pogo Connect, Nomad Cobalt Blue and two Dagi styli.

Basically – a bit gutted. A couple of the lost styli are irreplaceable, none are replaceable quickly although one magnificent friend has said she’ll send me some from the States which I can’t wait to open as it’ll be a lovely parcel to receive I’m sure.

Which put me in mind of this picture:

(drawn on iPad 3 using Dagi and Autodesk Sketchbook Pro).

Since drawing it I no longer see the person who’s iPad I drew it on and I’ve lost both the Moleskine pad and, now, the pencil case of styli.

All in all, it’s not been the greatest of years so far (some bits have been fab that said… but some parts caused more hurt  than I could bear at the time). Roll on ’14. Am aiming for more changes then and I actively look forward to those challenges as they come up…

Drew this pic on the same day so maybe the losses stemmed from the world of business being against me taking visual notes during a meeting… 🙁


Let’s Hudl again shall we?

So, let’s have a coffee break and chat on things Hudl related shall we?

First off – no favouritism and I haven’t been bought off*… I was starting up a youngsters tablet art class and needed 10 tablets. In the event the budget was limited and the max I could get was 7 Hudl’s, on launch day, at 7am after 5 days of 15 hour days for Eurogamer.

But, oh boy, they’re fab. I wasn’t expecting to like them as much as I do. The screen is very sound with good viewing angles and a lovely handling of colour and contrast (unlike some tablets I could point to which BURN YOUR EYES OUT WITH OVER-SATURATED COLOURS!!!)

Then there’s the physical size etc. The bezel is a good ratio although the screen is a little bit off the perfect golden ratio size of some other tablets. Once slapped inside (sorry, gently placed) a protective case it’s got a good feeling of solidity, weight and maturity – there’s very little in the way of rough edges and corners and my only complaint might be that the micro SD card slot is unprotected. Possibly the machine is a little heavy, maybe, but not overwhelmingly so and for the price by no means a brick either. To be honest I’ve drawn for an hour in a pub and on a bus with a Hudl and didn’t notice fatigue from the time spent holding it… It is a bit thicker than other tablets, a fraction, bearing a smidge of a reminder to the iPhone 3GS and the curved stylings more than, say, the squarer and blockier stylings of the Surface or iPhone 4/5 etc. It doesn’t have the beautiful stylings of the Lumias (and I am VERY interested in the 2520 as a device) but by the same token it isn’t in any way an ugly or old fashioned looking tablet. Why didn’t I choose a Kindle Fire HD instead? Well… To be honest that does feel like an older fashioned device to me – something about it feels unfriendly. Factor in the fact that, while the Hudl has a – at best functional – camera (whereas the Kindle Fire does not) and that the Hudl runs on stock Android to the Kindle’s Argos catalog OS it didn’t seem like a sensible trade off.

Regardless, as a tablet artist, it’s the screen and how it works with the styli that I’m most concerned about. Well, maybe processor speed versus art app functionality too. And in this case it’s, again, way up there. The normal test styli (the New Trent, Dagi, Pogo et al) all passed with flying colours and then I moved onto the bogey stylus for any tablet screen (and the curse of the worst): the Nomad Compose long hair stylus.

(photo taken using iPhone 4S and Olloclip).

Depending on the screen this stylus can jitter or intermittently lose connection (and thus become useless) and, to my surprise, there was none of the former and very little of the latter.

So, a perfect machine for a screen artist? Well, we’re still, in ways, at the infancy of the Android app store – I can only point to four or five stable art apps that I like on the platform and half a dozen others that do the business, just.

But the apps that it does run it runs very capably indeed. Photoshop Touch, Didlr, Sketchbook, Watercolor Pencil all fly on the system and are a joy to draw on and, again, I am coming at this from an unusual and specialist angle. I keep hearing good things about Blinkbox and all of the normal apps: Chrome, Youtube et al run as happily on the machine as they do on other tablets.

So, have had the tablets for a couple of weeks now, haven’t had that much time but still painted a few pics for the sheer joy of using the tablet with an art app:

Adobe Photoshop Touch.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

Didlr app.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

So. A good machine for buying to let kids play with with little worry? Seemingly so. I’ve let my students at college draw on mine:

and also let 8 years old draw on them…

… and in all cases it passed every test with flying colours. Must admit I’m both surprised and delighted. As Tesco have said this is the first in a series of devices from them, and it’s obviously a successful one as they’re been VERY hard to get hold of since release, I’m intrigued to see where they’ll go next.

*Flipping wish I had been bought off pre-this post and vaguley hope I would be in the next 24 hours! 🙂 I’m sitting down with 10 kids on Tues to do tablet artwork in a sci-fi art exhibition and have only 7 Hudl’s. Three will have to be on iPads and tbh that bugs me more than it should. Detracts from the group nature of what we’ll be doing. That said, until payday and the devices come back into stock I’m reliant on interest from others *cough*hint*cough* or have to work around it with a cludge.

A solid hour of doodle bombing…

Every so often I escape the clutches of the work room that makes me miserable and go somewhere to draw. Occasionally that’s a bench on the duck pond in the park next door to my work place (I’m very lucky), sometimes it was my favourite pub (The Rowbarge, much missed 🙁 ) and if not there the Wetherspoon’s pub in Guildford. I try and mix up the beers with coffees so I’m not just in it for the ale, it’s more a comfortable place to sit and draw.

Recently I’ve taken to walking to the local PC World to draw on whatever tablet they have on offer. This week was different however as I’d recently received a Wacom Feel stylus to test out and I was keen to give it a go on whichever tablet would accept it.

First up? Galaxy Note 8 with Wacom Feel and Sketchbook Mobile.

Now I REALLY like this tablet. A lot. I was very fond of the Note 10.1 and Note 2’s that I used at the Barbican and MCM Comics Expo and this is a very nice logical successor. I’ve also got no issues with the screen ratio – in fact I’d argue that the screen is closer to the golden ratio that other tablets – and there’s something about it in landscape mode that is more comfortable and friendly. Similarly the poly carbonate back, a problem levelled at Samsung hardware often is one I never come up against. I like the design of the Galaxies and Notes very much. The Note 2’s especially as the removable battery is and has been a spectacularly helpful thing in the past.

That said – and I’ve very much come to like Sketchbook Pro – I don’t like that app on this hardware. No idea why, may be the height of the desk or the intrusive left hand menu that kept popping up, but I didn’t enjoy the pic drawing as much as I thought I might. Worked very well with the Wacom pen though, as good as I could have hoped for. To me a Samsung Galaxy is interwoven with Photoshop for some reason (I don’t like using PS Touch on iOS but love it on Galaxy. Odd, but there you go), would love to play with that app on this hardware. The main thing is that the Wacom Feel styli acquitted itself perfectly.

Next up: Surface Pro, Fresh Paint and Wacom Feel.

Had I mentioned I frickin’ love this app? Very much. Not that I’d stop using other apps instead of it of course and ArtRage has a far wider range of tools and is equally lovely (and can be much more of a daunting tool for the first time user because of it). There’s just something about Fresh Paint that feels so right and, as it’s a free application, I love the fact that it has a huge reach to a brand new audience. Completely enjoyed painting the pic from beginning to end. I also drew a bit of a crowd at one point and, as is normal when I’m painting on tablet, fielded a few questions about apps and styli from PC World customers and staff.

I’m also very keen on the design of the Surface RT and Pro themselves but since Ewen always tells me off when I say that I’ll stop there.

Last off. The surprise package; the Sony Vaio Duo 13…

At the Gadget Show Live the Sony VD11 was the tablet star of the show for me. A fab piece of hardware, mainly because of the Sony Stylus – a pen so well connected to the screen that drawing on it was the most natural thing in the world.

It wasn’t perfect, that said. A bit bulky and heavy, but an excellent mix of screen, keyboard and pen. This sequel – a higher resolution screen and internally spec’d device, not to mention a 13 inch screen rather than 11 – was announced at Mobile World Congress* and I wasn’t expecting to see it on the shelves this soon. I couldn’t pick it up to test weight etc but it looked a lot thinner and lighter from what I could see…

First off I tested the Wacom. No connection. Oh well, I packed a couple of other styli just in case (although frustratingly not my Sony Vaio pen) and looked for Fresh Paint.

Not there. Opened up the store. Password protected.

A bit gutted I swapped over to the other paint app I knew would be there: Paint.

That’s when the third ‘grrr’ came in. No idea why but for some reason the screen was… hmm… not majorly bilked but every so often a line would just appear as phantom connections were made. Which made it quite hard to draw. Significantly tricksome in fact, which is why I was delighted that the picture worked well despite coming through a certain amount of adversity…

So, the verdict? I still want to test drive a Vaio Duo 13 that works and will remember to pack my Vaio pen in the future for just this instance. Apart from the broken screen issues it is a wonderful device – very nicely designed, although I don’t know if I liked the aluminium keyboard colour scheme (but I do always prefer a white to black bezel). And to be fair to the PC World staff it’s not like I asked for help or anything – the picture came out of the issues I found myself introduced to and they’re normally quite helpful if I ask for a machine to be started up or a stylus to be found… Plus I only had an hour and am a stubborn lil wotsit.

Which would I buy? Flip, wish I could buy all three**! All are fab – I like the Surface a lot, the Vaio Duo is a stunning piece of kit and the Galaxy Note 8 is my favourite smaller screen tablet. None are a bad choice, all depend on what you need. Is there a go-to tablet, computer or stylus that I delight in more than any other? Nope. All have their strengths and weaknesses.

Well. There’s one or two manufacturers that I avoid like the plague (HP and Acer) but who knows, they might come up with a humdinger in the future that turns me around.

All in all – not bad for an hours drawing…

*I’m sure I saw the announcement on a live stream of an event but a quick amount of Google searching comes up with nothing. Regardless I do remember having a palpable leap of inner excitement when I read about the launch of the Vaio 13 as the 11 was just so nice to use, even if it was a far too brief lend.

**Google searching did turn this up which was a similar ‘oooooo’ moment. The limited edition, and just a little more expensive***, device looks ultra fab.

***Moot point. Neither Sony’s are in my price bracket by a significant margin.

Sunset on Samsung Premier event night…

Was a bit sad to not be able to get to the Samsung Premier launch on Thursday night, especially as it was one of the unusual nights that I was free from work or so on. The day after was the EV for my A level graphics guys so it’s not as if I would have gone with nothing on my mind… But as it was the EV seems to have gone as well as I could have hoped for (I’m not counting chickens ’til the Fat Colonel has heated the oil yet though. More on that in a future blog post, the EV, not the Colonel’s secret oil temperature*).

I did watch it on the event on the live stream but having been to a good old line up of product launches this year it was one I would have been especially keen to get to, especially as the Ativ Q and Galaxy Zoom look like a lot of fun to use.

That said: I saw this sunset while I was putting the bins out (exciting peek into the world of tablet art there) which I would have missed otherwise (silver linings eh 🙂 ) so whipped out my trusty old (but beginning to show its age) Galaxy 8.9 and drew as quick as I could (brackets distraction brackets). Photoshop Touch runs very well on the machine, apart from the odd moment of catching up with itself, but the main miss for me is the SPen which the tablet I own predates by quite a margin… I fell in love with the SPen on the Notes and 10.1s the college borrowed to do the Barbican and MCM projects from last year (as well as drawing the off cup of coffee) and the brief play I had with the Note 8 at the Gadget Show Live seemed to indicate it was as well implemented on that tablet if not better.

Anyhow: lovely sunset it was, didn’t last that long at all though so I was lucky to have caught it… The moment I finished I had to put son boy to bed so it was very much a ‘catch the moment’ picture.

*An EV is where someone from the awarding body comes to the College I work at and checks my marking (and, by implication, teaching). I’m always a bit nervous on such dates as art and graphics are such subjective courses but, for the most part, the only criticism I’ve ever received is that I’m ‘Tolerably Generous’ which I liked so much I could have had framed 🙂

This year was different though, in as much as the students and I had gone much more tablet art and events centric – not to mention the fact that one class had a quarter ASD students which made it an unusual and, more often than not, brilliantly strange place to be. One student who is the highest on the ASD spectrum that we’ve ever taken through mainstream education should be recieving, as long as the grade boundaries don’t change, a C grade in A level graphics which has been a lot of work and will be wonderful reward.

More to come when the grades are given, mid August, which I’ll be there for, hopefully celebrating with the students.

Gadget Show Live.

So much to blog about but it’s been absolutely hectic like I’ve never encountered over the past month…

Anyhow this is a video of what we got up to – the students, staff, artist friends and I – at the Gadget Show Live. We had an amazing time, hope you agree. Photos and art to come soon.

(video shot and edited by Paul Arrow. Music by (the much missed) Steve from the Prelude ep).

The Frog and the Flamingo at the Gadget Show, April 1st to 7th…

A couple of weeks ago my students and I were offered the chance to reprise one of our happiest adventures at the Gadget Show at the beginning of April.

This is what we did last year:

Which was us at the World Skills Festival. Since then we’ve done something at the Royal Academy, at the Barbican, at MCM Comics expo and so on and so forth. It’s been a big adventure.

And now, all of a sudden, there’s the Gadget Show to think about. It’s a bigger set, we’re doing more, with more tablets. It’s very exciting. We’ve got an excellent place in the hall, and a LOT of people will walk past and see the students creating artwork on tablets.

And you, yes, YOU could help us out a little if you’d care to.

The theme last year was the Digital Forest and quite lovely it all was too. We had a Floating Forest that was a collection of artwork from Messrs Marjoram and Watkins, Rabe, Raftery, Golan, Lenny, Robinson and many more. It looked lovely.

(that’s it on the bottom right, Sadly at the moment I can’t find a better picture 🙁 )

This time we’ve been given MUCH more space to show off artwork, some from our students but other pieces from other tablet artists and practitioners and photographers. The theme is The Frog and the Flamingo (can look like these two but, by the same token, can look like anything you want, although please be mindful of the fact that it’s a public and all ages show).

So, anyone want to join in? Frogs and Flamingos and get in touch for the email to send it to. We print all artwork on Monday and Tuesday 25th/26th March.


Thanks Bob and Richard.

I met Bob Godfrey once, in… 1991 (?) at the Cardiff animation festival. He was kind and charming and driven and passionate and I was a terrified animation student asking for his autograph. He’d recently been doing a press call thing where he COMPLETELY slated the Lion King which, I seem to remember, had the people running the festival holding their breath because Disney were a big sponsor but if they had asked him to tone it down I can’t imagine he would have listened. So, some time later I walked up to him, holding a copy of the festival brochure, and asked him to scribble on it. He asked me what I wanted to do in the future and I said ‘be an animator’. I can’t remember his reply, something along the lines of Good Luck. It’s very likely he would have instinctively known, as he would have met thousands of people saying the same thing, that I would not have been a very good animator.

The animation industry was in the throws of chaos at the time. There were problems at the Spielberg studio, at the Bluth studio, a factory making Freddie as F R O 7 had just shut down and so on. Channel 4 were doing excellent business supporting UK animation yet even that seemed to have its issues with some of the films made being very ‘arty’ and receiving a very cautious, at best, response. For a young terrified student to say he wanted to go into an industry with so much change happening, and very little of it good, must have been something I can imagine Bob wanting to say more about. But he didn’t. He said something positive and affirming while, I assume, biting his lip on what he could have followed up with. Me, it was what I had always wanted since seeing the Secret of NIMH and he wasn’t the sort of person who seemed to want to puncture the dream of someone he didn’t know.

And then I left college, couldn’t find any jobs that didn’t have a q of 50 people with far more experience than I had, swapped to computer games, then to youth work and then to teaching. I’ve not been unlucky (although I’ve occasionally thought I was at the time 🙂 ), but I do wonder what Bob would have said to me had their not been thousands of people also wanting his autograph.

He passed away last week, followed soon after by the voice of Rhubarb and Custard; Richard Briers. Very much the sound and certainly the colour of my childhood animation dreams and happiness. Both very much missed by very many people. I must admit I had a tear in my eye when I completed the picture as a warm up sketch this morning…