Tag Archives: Art apps

A matter of styl(i).

Yesterday, over twitter, I was asked which stylus I used to make my Creative Week images.

It’s a good question, a valid question, and an incorrect question and it strikes at the heart of how some people see iPad art. The other day I responded to a different tweet (from a technology magazine) about the 7 inch iPad and I said that I was looking forward to it and thought it would do well in the education world. “Why, don’t the deserve a real iPad?” came the reply. I’ve often been asked if I do ‘proper’ art as well as draw on iDevices.

This is the problem. To me the iPad is the most interesting creative tool that I have come across. The screen lends itself to drawing and painting and creating and collaborating. Styli help with that effort (but you can draw without them). But this new realm of artistry didn’t begin with the iPad (nor did it begin with the iPhone) but it was the New Yorker, Jorge Colombo and the Brushes app that popularised it to the extent that I and millions of other sat up and took notice. So was the iPhone a toy? Certainly not. So why would the 7 inch version be a plaything? For primary school children with smaller hands the smaller version will be perfect. The price will help, it’s an interesting proposition (as is the Nexus 7 but the app store doesn’t support the hardware anywhere near as well as the iDevices and their access to more tools that you could ever imaging utilising). I like the idea of a 7″ iPad (or iReader as Kyle Swager thinks it will be called – and I wouldn’t bet against him).

Would you tell an oil painter to use one paintbrush? A sculpter to use only a hammer or chisel? So why are people surprised when I say I use a handful of styli? Because it’s unexpected. And that’s part of the magic. For the majority of users an iDevice is understood as a content consumption tool. Draw Something challenged that stereotype for a brief, beautiful moment, but people still look over my shoulder when I’m painting, especially when I do so on a train or a bus. I’m always happy to answer questions about what I’m doing and what stylus I’m using – what surprises me is that so many people ask, especially on the tube.

So, onto the styli:

(Click for larger image. Drawn using Adobe Ideas on an iPad 2).

I’ve more but these are the ones I could find, having been asked to submit an image on the subject at pretty short notice. All of them I like, all for different reasons. A stylus is as personal as a paintbrush and most artists I know have a good few brushes that they move between, often stored upright in a paint stained jam jar (although I always preferred a Marmite jar myself 🙂 ). Me, I keep my styli in a Stylus frog, to make sure they don’t roll away when I’m not looking or the bus turns a corner.

In addition to these I also have a cheap eBay knock off of the Alupen (not at all responsive), a cheap eBay rip off of the Dagi, surprisingly good but not transparent, a couple of eBay styli with thick, chiselled rubber tips (horrible, slow and laggy), a Samsung stylus (which I loved but died after a few months of concerted work) and a cheap eBay stylus with a biro pen on the other end which was fab but I’ve since lost… 🙁

The styli I want to use are: the Redpen, the Aponyo, the Collusion, the oStylus, the new Dagi, the o-tool and, like many mobile device artists around the world; the Blue Tiger prototype from Ten One Design. Which looks very, very interesting indeed. (the only problem is a: cost and b: the fact that at the moment I’m a part time teacher with an occasional freelance funding stream for such things and small matters like replacing a roof at short notice tend to take priority over fripperies like another stylus for my collection. Sadly).

Do I have a favourite stylus? Often. But not the same one all of the time and not the same one for all of the apps. It’s a mood thing and, if you are lucky enough to be able to do so, I always encourage people to try a stylus before they buy a stylus. I’ve done a few events over the past year (World Skills Fest, London International Tech Show, 2 x Pechakucha’s and a few other things here and there) and, at each one, I’ve taken my well fed Stylus Frog with me for people to try and find the one that works for them best. I’m in the process of being booked for two events in October and, if you can join me you’d be most welcome to test drive a stylus or two.

So, what did I use at the Adobe session on Tuesday? Does that signify a favourite or two? I used the Stylus Sock and two Nomad paintbrushes (short and long hair). Why them? Well, I do love them both, but the main thing was that they were silent and I had a camera perched on my shoulder 🙂 You see? Different styli, different uses. All amazing.

(Drew this to test out the Cosmonaut… If i get a new app or a new stylus I try and draw something, often my frog, just to see how they work…)

(and, ahem, I also named my iPad art book after him, so he’s that important to me 🙂 )