iPad Copyist: Beginnings

Trying Something New

It’s been a while since I have posted anything on this blog and I apologize. In the future I am going to try to post more consistently. With the end of the summer came new beginnings. I made the decision to focus more on my art and leave my full-time employment. On my last week of work I was approached for a short-term contract. It was a great opportunity but it also took a lot of my time. I also decided to keep up with teaching so I took an adjunct position at Northern Virginia Community College. Last semester I got to teach Photoshop, which is my favorite program to teach students. For this year, I’m taking on some smaller jobs and teaching some classes. But like I decided earlier, I want this to be the year that I really work on my own art and design projects.

In August, I also purchased and iPad II for keeping track of notes and emails while on contract. Previously, I always equated people who have tablets as morons. It didn’t take long for me to become one of the pack. With the iPad also came entertainment. I downloaded ArtRage for the iPad and started drawing.

ArtRage on the iPad: The Pros and Cons

Having both a Modbook and an iPad, I can give you an overview of my experience so far.

The Stylus

Overall, I like drawing on my iPad. The first thing that I had to do was find a stylus that was responsive. That took a little while with some trial and error. The apps for the iPad don’t have pressure sensitivity, so if that’s something you rely on to draw and paint, working on an iPad might take some adjustment. I don’t mind not having it, personally. The first stylus I bought was Rocketfish stylus. I got it because it looked like the only impressive stylus that Best Buy offers. I paid $16 for the stylus, making it the most expensive stylus in my collection. I would not recommend this stylus at all. The rubber on the tip of the stylus is super rubbery. It feels squishy when you draw with it and what’s worse is that the sponginess causes friction as you drag it across the screen. I was finding my arm and wrist getting sore from dragging the stylus across the screen for long periods of time. It works pretty well for simpler actions like taking notes. But even with smaller movements, the drag you get it more than noticeable.

The second stylus I tried was on a whim. One night when I was shopping for my godson’s birthday party at Five Below, I found a big, fat stylus that they were carrying. It was only $5, so I thought I’d give it a whirl. The stylus is a little too large for the screen and at times can be difficult to see around. It doesn’t have any drag or friction like the Rocketfish stylus. The big downside of this stylus was that as I started painting more and more, the rubber tip of the stylus started to stain the screen—like skid marks left behind by black-soled sneakers.

As they always say, the third time is always the charm. I did some more research and recently purchased a Nataal stylus. This stylus is just what I’ve been looking for. It was under $8 and it works like a dream. The tip is smaller than the other styluses that I purchased and it’s made of the same rubber as the Rocketfish stylus without any of the friction. I’ve only used it once, but so far I’m sold.

Now the Nataal stylus is no where as sophisticated as using Wacom technology, but it’s a good compromise.

iPad vs. the Modbook

The differences are actually pretty vast between the iPad and the Modbook. Overall, I like using the Modbook more but I’m trying to be fair. I paid significantly more for the Modbook and it’s an actual computer, unlike the iPad. That being said, there are some benefits for using the iPad. Battery life for the iPad has been a wonder. When I paint at the National Gallery of Art with my Modbook, I spend a two hour morning session painting, recharging over lunch for another two-hour session in the afternoon. If I didn’t recharge and wanted to work straight, I would probably get a little more than three hours before the Modbook lost its juice. The iPad on the other hand just keeps going and going. I can work all day without recharging as long as I don’t have multiple apps open and wifi is turned off.

Another plus for the iPad is its weight. Carrying around the iPad compared to the Modbook is a dream. The Modbook is heavier than a Macbook because of the super heavy glass screen. Lugging the Modbook around the city isn’t fun. The iPad on the other hand is great and truly portable.

Where the Modbook really defines itself as the superior product is in resolution. The iPad has a small and fix resolution. While drawing in ArtRage you have a max size of 1400 x 1400 in size on iPad 1, 2048 x 2048 on iPad 2. This is something that I just figured out. In the ArtRage app when you first create an image, you can click on the size and change it. I didn’t know this and was just using the standard 760 x 1024. This might really help with the problems that I was having earlier. The coolest feature of the ArtRage app is the ability to export your drawing as a script. When you replay the script on your home computer, you can select a larger size and it will redraw what you’ve done at a higher resolution. I have found so far that smaller detail is compromised with scripts when redrawing at higher resolutions, but that is also probably because I am drawing at the smallest size possible.

Living a Scripted Life

Here is a link to a video playback I have of a script I ran. You can see what running a script is like on your computer. It redraws ever brush stroke you make and you can stop the script at any time. For the video, I sped up the time so that it’s not too boring.

Clearly this is still new for me and I’m trying to make a part of my new workflow. With the iPad III touting an jump in resolution, this can only help the script function. Now that I understand that I can increase my canvas size to something a little more impressive, it might make the script function a game changer. If you work at the default size, it will be too small to upsize with a script. Today I’ll try making an illustration at the highest resolution and then use the script to make a larger image. Here are two images using the default size. The image on the left is the original painting at the original 760 x 1024. The resized script image on the right is resized to 3000 x 4000. You’ll see that what you think is blended well at a lower resolution needs some work when you blow up the image size using the script. Starting with an image larger than 760 x 1024 might fix this. If it works, ArtRage is even more amazing than I already thought. No other drawing program for the iPad gives you the option to redraw the image at any size you’d like.

"Script Example"

 Overall Experience with iPad and ArtRage.

Drawing with Pencil felt really natural using the iPad. The resolution didn’t get in the way of being able to create some great imagery. When I started to paint, I had problems trying to blend subtle areas since the file size was small to begin with. When I would zoom in, the image would become too blurry. Now knowing that I can increase the canvas size to 2048 x 2048, this might improve the experience. Painting larger areas was easier than smaller areas do to blurriness when zooming in.

If the script function works better on the larger canvas size, this app is going to best the best thing in the world.

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