Monday, September 26, 2011

Z is for Zebra

Alas, all good things must come to an end. This is the final entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet. Sob!

I have a feeling these red envelopes are also an endangered species. (See more Netflix doodles here... while they last.)

Black rollerball & white gel pen on Netflix return envelope.

p.s. It helps if you pronounce the "Z" in British fashion, i.e. "zed."

p.p.s. Can you find the hidden message? (Click if you need a closer view.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Y is for Yellow-Bellied Water Skink

This week's entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet is a super-quickie, because it's my husband's birthday & we spent last night doing some advance celebrating.

Interesting how many yellow-bellied whatsits are represented in nature's alphabet. I don't recall so many other belly-color names showing up. And I don't think there are any lily-livered skinks, &c., so it's not that they were all named by B Western characters. Which just reminded me of that lovely oath from Zorro, "meal mush & goat's milk!"

Enough tangents! And sorry, skink, for putting you through such contortions to simulate a "Y". You may stretch out now.
Ball-point, marker & white gouache on brown paper, with some Photoshop tweaking.

Oops, one more tangent: today is the day when my Curiotype alphabet finally overtakes Animal Alphabet (assuming I can get that one finished along with birthday doings). Feels a bit sad to have both of them drawing to a close...

Monday, September 12, 2011

X is for Xerus

This week's entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet.

I have a soft spot for squirrels-- they may steal my tomatoes, bury pecans in my potted plants, & generally get up to all sorts of mischief, but it's so much fun to watch their antics! The xerus was a new one to me, but I love their super-upright posture. They look like they've been taking ballet for years.

Ball-point, marker & white gouache on brown paper, recolored & otherwise tinkered with in Photoshop.

Monday, September 5, 2011

W is for Widgeon

This week's entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet.

Ball-point, marker & white gouache on brown paper, recolored & otherwise tinkered with in Photoshop.

Monday, August 29, 2011

V is for Virginia Opossum

Between that crazy earthquake & Hurricane Irene, Virginians have endured more than their share of our planet's little tantrums lately. I hope there are no more unpleasant surprises in store any time soon for our neighbor state (or its eponymous 'possums).

Ball-point, marker & white gouache on brown paper, recolored, raindropped & otherwise fooled with in Photoshop.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mystery Massbuch

I have been collecting ephemera for a very long time, & usually can work out what things are, but today I had a Fleam Find that puzzles & intrigues me. Does anyone have a clue what these notes might be about? They all seem to involve color & historical events. At first I thought it might be stamp descriptions, but then what are all the grain measurements about? (Or is there perhaps a currency abbreviated gr? I couldn't find one.)

If anyone has a clue I would be deeply grateful-- my curiosity is tormenting me!

Oh, by the way, the notebook is a small Massbuch, a Catholic calendar, though if there is a connection I can't make it out.

Edit: The mystery is solved! A Twitter friend, @norlik, figured out that this is in fact a list of stamps-- Polish stamps. The gr is neither grams nor grains, but Groszy, 1/100 złoty.
@norlik even found a link to one of the stamps mentioned, the Madame Curie commemorative.

Thank you so much, @norlik! I love the internet!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

U is for Ulysses Butterfly

When I was hunting down U animals for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet, I saw the Ulysses butterfly & immediately thought of the novel by James Joyce, one of my all-time favorite books.

It was such a pleasure transcribing Joyce's words. If I were completely mad, I would do a huge series of these including the entire text. Wouldn't that make quite an installment? But as I'm only slightly mad, I'll stick to one, featuring the first & last bits. (Click for a better view.)

I highly recommend that you go get the book & fill in the gap!

p.s. This one is all Photoshop

Monday, August 15, 2011

T is for Tahr

This week's entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet.
Ball-point, marker & white gel-pen on brown paper, fooled with in Photoshop.

(Pssst! By the way, if you're looking for the missing "S" you'll find it on my Oddments blog.)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

R is for Robin

This week's entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet goes out to my niece, Robin.

Ball-point, marker & white gouache on brown paper, recolored & otherwise fooled with in Photoshop.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Q is for Quindio Glass Frog

This week's entry for Ben Towle'sAnimal Alphabet is the Quindio Glass Frog.

Ball-point, marker & white gouache on brown paper, recolored* & fiddled with in Photoshop.

*With PS it is easy being green.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Brain Medicine & Drawing Instruction

Despite temps nearing 100 & rain threatening, I had a splendid morning at the Fleam: I found some great old textbooks & ephemera for cheap, as well as a handsome Visible Man model with at least most of his dainty little parts intact.

These ads are both from Primary Education magazine, January 1923.

I imagine being forced to teach drawing does sometimes result in dreadful mental strain. That's probably why the arts are disappearing from our schools, right? So maybe we just need to bring back Horsford's.

Monday, July 18, 2011

P is for Pigeon

This week's entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet goes out to Allison Sommers, painter, pigeon protectress & purveyor of the priceless Pigeon Trading Post.

Ball-point, marker & white gouache on brown paper, fiddled with in Photoshop

Monday, July 11, 2011

O is for Octopus

... & obvious. I admit I cheated a bit on this weeks entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet, by using an old drawing, white gouache on black paper, retweaked a bit in Photoshop.

Monday, July 4, 2011

N is for Numbat

This week's entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet is the numbat. Thanks to Isaac Cates for suggesting this odd & elegant marsupial!

Sketched in ball-point pen, marker & white gouache on brown paper, then a bit of Photoshop fiddling.

Monday, June 27, 2011

M is for Mandrill

This week's entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet is the Mandrill. This one demanded color & I only had time for a quickie, so it's completely digital (Photoshop.) I'd really love to work this up to a full-fledged painting someday.

I took considerable liberties with the chest hair pattern for alphabetical purposes. ;-)

Monday, June 20, 2011

L is for Lacewing

This week's entry for Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet is the Lacewing.

White gouache (applied with a flexible crow-quill) on black charcoal paper, with a PS tweak or 2.

Edit: Ben asked me about the pen & gouache technique so I thought I'd add a few tips.

First, mix a small quantity of gouache to a light-creamy consistency (I use a clean empty ink bottle since I always have those handy), then apply the gouache to the underside of the nib with an old brush (it's bad for the brush so don't use your good ones).

Keep a water jar handy for when the gouache starts to dry on the nib-- just touch the nib to the surface of the water & it will make it flow again. Keep scrap paper handy to get the flow started when it's stubborn, & be sure to shake the nib after each load of paint or you may be unhappily surprised with a sudden blob. If you have any more questions just let me know!

Monday, June 13, 2011

K is for Kiwi

I'm friends with several lovely New Zealanders (none of whom I've met in person, but I still feel as though I know them!) so my choice for K in Ben Towle's Animal Alphabet was a natural.

Ball-point pen, marker & white gouache on brown paper, fiddled in Photoshop.

p.s. Ben has a great interview out on Comics Reporter

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Voyage to Another Bloglet?

For reasons best left to psychiatric specialists, I've decided to start yet another blog! This one is called "Oddments & Curiosities." It will post on odd days, & feature odd creatures such as those you see here. Or completely different-- I really have no idea. You'll have to follow to find out! ;-)

Monday, June 6, 2011

J is for Jaguarundi

Ben Towle, the creator of the wonderful web comic Oyster War, also runs a weekly challenge called The Animal Alphabet Project. I'm a bit late to the party, but I do love drawing beasties, so here's my first contribution.

J is for jaguarundi.

Ball-point pen, marker & white gouache on brown paper, with a bit of Photoshop fiddling. ~6x7"

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sleep Tight!

Beginning next month I will be taking a class in Flash animation. In preparation I've been working on ways to simplify my art style drastically, so as not to go entirely crazy when I have to do a whole bunch of drawings of the same subject. %} Here's one of my efforts, which is actually part of a quasi-animation test I did in Photoshop. Unfortunately, every time I try to export/render to video, it crashes my computer! So, for now, the still will have to do. (You're not missing much, I promise.)

I did the initial sketch in ink & white gouache on toned paper, then changed the color & added the background (scanned from an acrylic painting) in Photoshop.

Part of me really really wants to refine this, but I'm trying as hard as I can to let go of my obsessive tweaking since I know I won't have time for that in my class.

I do hope this creepy crawly fellow doesn't disturb your dreams.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

iMad Scientist ArtRage iPad App Review

For the next few posts, I'll be reviewing my experiments with various iPad paint apps. I'd very much welcome comments, corrections & tips if you have experience with these apps, or any questions if you are looking into the subject yourself.

This image, "Ragemuffin", was created using ArtRage with the Nomad Brush.

Of all the paint apps I've tried, ArtRage is the one that offers the highest highs and lowest lows. There are so many mind-bogglingly rich features in this app, I want to love it with all my heart. Yet the actual user experience is frequently frustrating and even, yes, rage-provoking. Working with it is something like engaging in a relationship with a brilliant, passionate, infuriatingly lazy and sometimes abusive partner.

Ease of use
Let's get to the bad news first. This is NOT a snappy, carefree painting experience. There is a notorious lag effect while painting, which I found very annoying at times even though my painting style is naturally far from speedy. Some promising features are actually rendered nearly useless due to the painfully slow response. And while anyone can intuitively grasp the basics of mark-making here, it will take considerable time, study & experimentation to learn how to get the most of the many options, by which point you may be pulling your hair out with impatience. The speed issue is by far the
WORST FEATURE of this app. Admittedly I don't really know much about programming, but I get the strong feeling that the developers have bitten off more than they can chew here, at least given the current technology of the iPad. I do find that performance improves somewhat by saving super-frequently, closing & reopening the app regularly, & restarting the iPad once in a while. Also, if you're the kind of artist who uses only one layer to paint, you may achieve better results.

To the developers' credit, the in-app help menu is exceptionally thorough & useful, & their website offers a wealth of additional info, though the forums can be a bit confusing since they include comments on desktop versions of ArtRage.

Now let the good news begin! ArtRage boasts a generous array of tools, and an almost mind-boggling number of luxuriously paint-like effects. Even with the lag, it's just FUN to explore mark-making with this app. Strokes can mimic markers, pastels, oils or watercolors, endlessly loaded or dry brushes, various amounts of thinner... the list of options & combinations is nearly endless, & there are fascinating effects to discover. For instance, a pen tool that I'd all but ignored at first turned out to have an elegant custom-taper option that mimics hand-inked lines better than any other iPad app I've tried. And I still haven't really scratched the surface of possibilities here. Without a doubt, the brushes are this app's BEST FEATURE.

And the riches continue with an infinite (!) number of layers & a truly impressive array of blending effects. The layer tools are nearly as versatile as the brushes, allowing visibility toggle, precise transparency settings, & even transparency locking, a hugely useful tool, unexpected in an iPad app. A drop menu offers still more options, including canvas & lighting settings that make for immense control over the finished look. The layer transform feature is the one major dud here, due to the dreaded lag, which makes it almost impossible to control with any finesse. Still, a very useful layer menu overall. I might even have picked layers as the best feature, if it weren't for the additional lag that each new layer seems to add.

The color picker is handy: it remains visible at all times, unless you choose to hide it with a tap on the "pod", or if you are painting in that corner, when it automatically vanishes. There is a unique "metallic" setting, possible because of ArtRage's lighting effects. There is a separate eyedropper tool, & a "sampler" saves colors for future use.

ArtRage offers two styles of imports: one that opens a "pinned snapshot" for reference, & one that provides a separate layer that can be incorporated into the art. Both draw on saved photos & photo library. Resizing/transforming the layer import is a major exercise in frustration, so best to modify the size before importing.

Saves & Exports
Alas, here we come to another serious flaw. There is no autosave, though there is a save prompt that can be activated in settings. Also, in my experience, attempting to save a complex piece can result in a crash, sometimes with all unsaved work lost. In general, ArtRage seems more crash-prone than any other app I've tried. Saving super-frequently is a good idea for that reason, & helps with speed & reliability as well. The save menu does offer several convenient options, including save copy. Once saved, images can be exported from the gallery to Photo Album, Email or Print.

The gallery itself is strangely lackluster, with images too small to look impressive for display, yet too large to see many choices at once. The mid-gray background makes for a generally dull effect.

Well, what can I say. This app aimed for greatness, & oh, how I wish it had succeeded. The astonishing wealth of features is a tantalizing golden dream that never quite became reality. Perhaps someday the developers will find a way to solve the lag & crashing issues. Maybe future versions of iPad will prove more compatible for my work. But at present, ArtRage seems more suitable for loose, alla-prima style paintings that take advantage of the many paint textures rather than works that demand many layers. I've done quite a bit of dabbling, & enjoyed myself thoroughly for a while each time, but whenever I tried to create a piece in my own style, the lag or crash issues worked up my own bout of art rage. A sad ending, at least for now.

You can find more iMad Scientist paintings & reviews here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

iMad Scientist: Brushes iPad App Review

For the next few posts, I'll be reviewing my experiments with various iPad paint apps. I'd very much welcome comments, corrections & tips if you have experience with these apps, or any questions if you are looking into the subject yourself.

This image, "Toy", was created using Brushes with the Nomad Brush.

Brushes was the first mobile paint app, & thus has some intriguing history & many ardent users. The famed iPhone New Yorker covers were created on the iPhone version of this app.

Ease of Use
Brushes is quite straightforward & intuitive to use. It's responsive & quick. The tools, layers, photo albums, color palette, color picker & fill tool all remain visible on the toolbar. The entire toolbar can be "disappeared" with a tap (which is good when you want a full view of the art or if you tend to bump into the bottom toolbar) or kept visible for speedier operation. There are also several double-tap shortcuts that can help speed things up. There is quite a thorough downloadable user's guide, as well as a few useful app settings that can customize the app to your preferences.

Oddly enough for an app called Brushes, the brush selection is possibly the app's WORST FEATURE. There is only one brush tool, & though it does have 19 options for brush shape, there are no additional texture options. Brush spacing & size can be adjusted, & there are settings to vary size or opacity with speed, but the latter are on an all-or-nothing toggle, & there is no minimum radius feature, so stroke control is quite limited. There is no smudge or blend tool, so blending is a bit tedious. The app does remember separate settings for eraser & brush at least, unlike some.


There are only six layers available, but the app does offer five blending effects in addition to the opacity setting. (I used multiply & screen in creating the image here.) Other features include merge-down, clear, duplicate, & a handy flip tool. There is no visibility toggle, though you can get around that by setting the transparency to zero.

The color palette conveniently includes both swatches & sliders, visible at the same time. That's the way I set up my color palette in Photoshop so it was nice to have that option here. It's also possible to save custom colors, which is very useful. The one odd annoyance with color is that changing colors in the palette sets the transparency back to 100%. It would be nice to be able to turn that feature off. Using the color picker does retain transparency, luckily, or blending would be an even bigger hassle!

Brushes allows importing from saved photos or library, & on importing immediately opens a transform option for positioning the photo.

Saves & Exports
It is here that Brushes really shines, boasting a unique feature that automatically saves & replays every stroke. It's quite a kick to watch the painting in progress & it can actually provide some interesting insights into your workflow. It's even possible to export these actions via e-mail & convert them to a movie via a free program called Brushes Viewer. (Alas, this is only available for Mac.) Nonetheless, I vote the replay function as the hands-down BEST FEATURE of this app. There is also a very handy option to send your image directly to Flickr, as well as the usual e-mail & add-to-photos options.

The gallery shows large images "framed" in "wood" against a gallery wall. A skinch gimmicky for my taste, but not too obtrusive. Tapping on the thumbnail icon opens a handy overview of your images. The label includes the date, which is nice, but also the unnecessary & possibly-inaccurate description "Digital Finger Painting". There seems to be a bit of a glitch in the orientation function, since it doesn't respond to the iPad's orientation.

Honestly, the action-replay function is the highlight of Brushes for me & makes it great fun & even a bit addictive. Otherwise, the limitations of the brush selection would probably keep me away.

You can find more iMad Scientist paintings & reviews here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

iMad Scientist: Procreate iPad App Review

For the next few posts, I'll be reviewing my experiments with various iPad paint apps. I'd very much welcome comments & tips if you have experience with these apps, or any questions if you are looking into the subject yourself.

This image, "Springy" was created using Procreate with the Nomad Brush. The spring diagrams in the background are from a vintage technical book, scanned & imported into photos. (Please click for a full-size view.)

This app has some very appealing characteristics, but in its current incarnation, it doesn't quite suit my style, as I'll explain below.

Ease of Use
By the time I picked up Procreate, I'd already worked with several apps, so I'm not sure how it would strike a newbie, but it seemed fairly straightforward to me, & the developers offer a very helpful pdf user's manual to help work out any mysteries. The app works smoothly with none of the lag I've experienced with some others, & from what I've heard, user support is unparalleled.
The undo/redo depth is outstanding, allowing for 100 levels! The non-interpolated 3200% zoom is easy to use, fast, & allows great precision. This is probably my second-favorite feature of the app.

Procreate has 8 built-in brush shapes, & is unique among paint apps (as far as I know) in allowing the user to create or import custom brush shapes & textures. This goes not only for the brush per se but also erasers & smudge tools. This is without a doubt the app's BEST FEATURE & would make it a favorite for brushes if not for one serious limitation: there is no minimum radius adjustment, so creating a tapered, precisely shaped brushstroke is all but impossible. (There is the ability to adjust radius to speed, but only to a degree, & control is iffy.) Even if you don't use tapered brushstrokes, a minimum radius feature would be extremely useful for better eraser control. There are, however, interesting adjustment possibilities for texture scale & shape rotation, as well as scatter, fall-off & spacing.

The layers palette is unusually deep for an iPad app, allowing for a luxurious 16 layers. It's fairly easy to handle when it comes to merges (down OR up), reordering, clearing, transforming & duplicating layers.
Alas, it falls short in blending effects. Only opacity can be adjusted: no multiply or screen functions here. When I work in non-digital media I use a lot of glaze effects, so when working digitally I'm a huge fan of multiply, the digital equivalent of a dark glaze. That makes this limitation the app's WORST FEATURE as far as I'm concerned. Luckily, according to the developers, future upgrades may add blending effects, & in any case, if you are an alla prima type, their absence might not bother you at all.

The palette offers a large color-chooser & HSB sliders. The palette is easily accessible & the tap-hold eyedropper feature works fairly reliably, though it seems it will only sample from the active layer. {Edit: Please see my comment below.} Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a swatch palette, so it's not possible to save favorite colors.

Procreate allows you to import multiple images from your saved photos or photo library, & to flip these (as well as your working canvas) horizontally & vertically, in addition to scaling.

Saves & Exports
Auto-saves & also makes it easy to save the file or a copy of the file at will without much fuss. You can also duplicate the file in the gallery, or export via e-mail.

The gallery is elegant & simple in design, with large images against a dark gray ground. You can really only see one image at a time, but it's fairly easy to scroll through.

I have high hopes for this app. It's the newest on the market & the developers seem extremely responsive. I have a feeling that in the future, with a few developer tweaks, it will become a favorite. Currently, though, it's not the dream app I'd hoped for.

You can find more iMad Scientist paintings & reviews here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

iMad Scientist: SketchBook Pro iPad App Review

For the next few posts, I'll be reviewing my experiments with various iPad paint apps. I'd very much welcome comments & tips if you have experience with these apps, or any questions if you are looking into the subject yourself.

This image, "Piehole" was created using SketchBook Pro with the Nomad Brush.

Ease of Use
SP was the first App I used on my iPad, & it was a fairly intuitive learning experience for a Photoshop/Wacom user, though I certainly missed the precision & pressure-sensitivity. (See last post.)
There is some very handy in-app help, which is surprisingly lacking in many apps.
When I first started, I didn't have a stylus, which was just as well, because SP is designed to work best with fingers-- the gesture that calls up the toolbar (3-finger tap) gets a little clunky & irritating, especially if you are using a stylus. I hope future versions have an option that keeps the toolbar open-- even with fingers it would make for faster work. I also find the brush control circle in the center an annoyance, though others might find it handy.
One other issue with iPad apps in general is the danger of accidentally brushing the screen with your wrist while drawing, thus triggering unwanted behaviors. SP keeps the toolbar well out of the danger zone on the top edge, but it is still possible to create accidental marks that way. Some iPad artists use fingerless gloves to prevent this issue.
SP has an extensive selection of brushes, though quite a few of them are gimmicky stamps that get little use from me. I'd much rather have a larger selection of erasers-- or the ability to import custom brushes, as with ProCreate. I do love the controls that allow you to set minimum & maximum radius, to create a custom-tapered effect, for eraser as well as brushes. You can also control opacity & spacing. Unfortunately there appears to be no option to save favorite brush variations. The brush toggle is handy, since it does call up the previous brush, & your variations do stay open during a work session.
The color palette is included in the brush palette, & is fairly easy to use, with a hue circle, brightness/saturation diamond, & 3 sliders, as well as swatches in an alternate palette. It would speed things up to have both swatches & sliders visible together, & it would be very much nicer if you could change colors without having to open the brush palette every time. Other apps have color icons that make changing colors frequently while using one brush a lot simpler. (When I'm done with the individual reviews I'll post a chart that shows which apps have which features.)
There is also an eyedropper tool, which can be accessed by a one-finger hold, great in theory but I find this rather erratic in practice, often causing unwanted dots of the last color. It's more reliable if you use the palette eyedropper.
You can work with up to 6 layers, & each layer has several styles available. I used normal, multiply & screen in the image shown. Probably the BEST FEATURE of SP is the ability to save & export a layered file. This means that there is much more potential to tweak the image later in Photoshop, which could be a huge advantage, especially if you intend to use the work professionally.
Importing Images/Templates
SP allows you to import images from your photos, & also provides quite a few built-in templates, such as grids, lined paper, perspective grids, dotted grids, & frames. The text & background texture of the image shown were imported from my own scans.
Saving Work
This, alas, is SP's WORST FEATURE. There is no auto-save, & when you're creating a complex layered piece, the program is prone to crashing. While painting the image above, I lost about an hour's work that way. Yes, of course I should have saved, but as I'm switching back & forth between apps right now, I forget which ones auto-save & which don't! To make matters worse, the save feature is slow & clunky, as you have to go to the gallery & reopen the sketch each time you save.
The gallery view, where your images are saved, is fairly utilitarian with small images. Personally I prefer this style because you can see so many images at once without scrolling, but if you are looking for a fancy gallery for presentation, with frames & such, this isn't it.

Overall, I quite like this app, & if it weren't for the save/crash issue, it might be my favorite.

You can find more iMad Scientist paintings & reviews here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

iMad Scientist: iPad App Painting Experiments

Tech-phobes beware: inspired by the IF prompt "Toy" I've decided it's finally time to put aside my ink-stained Luddite ways & share my thoughts about my favorite, magical new toy/torture device: the iPad. I received it as a surprise Christmas gift, for which I'm enormously grateful because I would never have bought one for myself, & now I'm completely addicted to this brilliant little package of wonders. It's the perfect size, just like a sketchbook, easy to use on lap, desk, or cafe table (even in bed-- & no paint spills! -though I try not to do that too often). It's not feather-weight, but still relatively easy to lug around, & full of possibilities.

Of course, one of the first things I did on Christmas Day (after recovering from my swoon when I opened the package) was to download a paint app & give it a go. Now I must warn you that in some ways, painting on the iPad is an exercise in frustration, especially for precision-freaks like me, because no matter how carefully you place your finger or stylus, & no matter which app or tool you use, there is always a 5mm floob-factor of where the mark will show up. (It reminds me of learning to drive on my folk's huge & ancient station wagon, when turning the steering wheel just sort of vaguely indicated where the car might go.) Takes some getting used to if you're a perfectionist, but with practice you can still accomplish quite a lot even with this limitation. And if your natural style is loose & free, this really shouldn't be an issue at all. Sorry I even brought it up, you lucky looseys! ;)

Another major frustration is the lack of pressure sensitivity. For artists used to the wonders of Wacom & super-sensitive programs like Photoshop & Manga Studio, it's quite a leap backwards. I nurse a fond hope that Apple will someday develop an iPad tweaked for artists, with greater precision & a pressure sensitive stylus. Despite my cheapskate ways & severe mall-phobia I think I might join the crowd waiting in line for that one!

But in the meantime, I refuse to let a little frustration stop me from experimenting with new art tools & new tricks-- it's just part of the learning process, right? So I've been downloading paint apps one after the other, in search of the optimal iPad paint experience. So far, while each app has its good features (some quite amazingly good) I still haven't found that one perfect app that does everything just the way I like it. (Greedy, moi?)

By contrast, I've also done some stylus exploration, & here I've found a clear, hands-down, knock-out-the-competition favorite-- the Nomad Brush. It is surprisingly beautiful, handles like a real paintbrush, moves with a silky smooth touch on the pad surface (unlike some pen-type styli that have an irritating rubbery drag factor or require excessive pressure) & can be held at any comfortable angle (again unlike many pen-type styli). For now it only comes in one size, but I eagerly await the developers' promised size & bristle variations-- of course the inherent limitations of the iPad again come into play here, but a smaller brush might still be nice for greater stroke visibility & somewhat improved precision.

I still feel like a rank beginner at this & have been very shy of sharing my wobbly efforts, but I think the time has come to be brave. So. The image above was created with the Brushes app, using my fingers & the Nomad Brush. The background texture & text were imported from scans of non-digital stuff, saved to my iPad photos, opened by Brushes & used as the base layers. All blending, layer effects & such were done on the iPad.

Next post: I will begin sharing my experiences with all of the different paint apps I've tried, comparing features, offering tips &c. If you thought this post was tedious & long-winded, gird your loins for a real verbal onslaught, folks! But I hope it will be full of info that will help you avoid frustration & wasted money if you want to make art on the iPad.

You can find more iMad Scientist paintings & reviews here.

edit: Just found out "Toy" was added to the Nomad Brush Gallery! Thanks, Nomads!

Friday, February 18, 2011


And now for something completely different! In honor of National Drink Wine Day* (or actually in defiance of it, since this was an unauthorized use) I had the notion to do a little sketch using wine as a medium. It was a new experience for me (though I have painted with coffee before). I used some cheap Cabernet Sauvignon on Bristol board, applied with a 10x0 watercolor brush. (The image is roughly 4x5".) The wine right out of the bottle gave a pale grey-violet effect. I wanted to be able to darken some areas, so I tried condensing it for a bit in the microwave. Interestingly, this not only darkened & thickened the "ink" but also caused it to retain its original reddish color, at least long enough for a scan. Further experiments are in order, but first I must answer my country's call & drink some of this stuff. Cheers!

*Thanks to the ever-inspiring Allison Sommers for alerting me to this vitally important national event.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I've been experimenting with sketching quick little characters (who may eventually be animated!!) & this one seemed appropriate for today. I always liked the saying "cold hands, warm heart" (maybe because my hands are often cold), so this week's IF prompt made me think of dressing a little heart guy up in a nice warm sweater.

Brush marker, ball-point pen, & white gouache on cut-out brown paper, about 3x4"

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I can hardly believe it, but I'm nearly finished with the book! Not quite though, because I'm a crazed tweaker. It's especially hard to let go of a series, because whenever I look back at a piece with fresh eyes I always see something I want to change! But at some point you just have to surrender.

In this image the old man is dreaming of the black cat, & fearing for his magic flute.

Acrylic on text & maps on canvas, 9x12".
Click for a closer view & to find the hidden cat.

For The Old Man and the Cat, by Anthony Holcroft, to be published in 2011 by Penguin NZ.