So, unless you were buried under a rock over the last few days, or are simply unplugged from the world of tech, you couldn’t have failed to notice that Apple have made some important announcements-the Apple iPad Pro, and the Apple Pencil. Important?! Is it really that important? Well hang on in there guys, lets just take a look at what it was Apple announced…
Apple like making big announcements. And they like to do it in style. They also like to make you think that what they are announcing is the answer to all of your problems. The iPad Pro is Apple’s big attempt at creating a Microsoft Surface competitor that……..hold on a cotton picking minute!!! Did I just say a Surface competitor?! But we all know that the Surface is a stylus based device, in fact it’s whole ethos is to work with a stylus! And where do Apple stand on that one? Steve Jobs 2007: “Who wants a stylus? You have to get em’, put em’ away. You lose them. Yuck.”. So here we are with an Apple product and a stylus. Well let’s clear up the often misquoted Steve Jobs. Put into context, back in 2007, no one would have wanted a stylus. The capacitive screens were poor, and better suited to a finger. He was right as well, how many times have you mislaid a stylus? I lose mine all of the time. So Apple were never really against the idea of a stylus. They were simply waiting for the right time to introduce one. I do think they waited longer than everyone else to assess the market, which is surely a first for Apple. They should have been on the ball in the first place, and wiped the smiles of Microsoft’s faces. Instead it’s the other way round. But lets not forget, it’s taken Microsoft three versions of the Surface to get it right, and even then, there are a lot of reasons to not get one.
Lets bring this back to the idea of a tablet for creative purposes. First off, I am not a tech head, neither am I a technophobe. I just like to create art. And much like my discovery of acrylics, then oils, then finer brushes, better canvas etc, my discovery of tech pushed me further into my own world and allowed me to create the visions I had always had in my head. And that’s the important thing here. Because we as artists tend to spend many an hour looking and hoping for the latest tech that will not lag, perform with Photoshop, last for hours on a single charge-damn it, even wash our pants for us! But sometimes, that time could be better spent creating. So here we have another option-the Apple iPad Pro. The stylus is called the Apple Pencil (just have to be different don’t they?!) and the prices are eye watering as expected. But as an artist, does the iOS system appeal to me? I use a Wacom Intuos and a pretty beefed up PC, and that is all I need. I have dabbled with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 on the Android system (another obvious competitor) but have found it to be lacking. The Wacom wins hands down. And this is what artists and creative professionals will be looking at. Will the iPad Pro win as a pro tool? After all, they are selling it as that. Talk to artists and you’ll here them all cry that Wacom are too expensive, there are no true alternatives out there and to some extent they are correct. Here we are again, with what is an operating system that cannot be used with the big hitters (Photoshop, Maya, Autocad etc) being sold as “pro”. All Apple had to do was release Macbook with touch ability-winner! There’s your pro tool right there!
But fear not oh digital pixel mixing types. We now have a race on our hands. You see, the way I see it, this news can only mean one thing….more products to choose from. Other companies will take Apple’s announcement as the green light to produce tech that is better and more suitable for our needs. Wacom will need to work on their Companion range and possibly offer a more budget version. Samsung owns 20% of Wacom, and will surely use their tech in their tablets more, and may even produce a Companion style tablet of their own. Microsoft know they have the Surface range and have ironed out many of their problems already…..they are on the up. With more choice comes a more competitive pricing strategy, so better suited tech will come down in price…..keep your eyes on the Surface on ebay as many people sell up to obtain an iPad Pro.
As for me, I’ll stick to my PC and Wacom Intuos 5 set up. It’s noisy, massive, can’t be taken anywhere, and I love it to bits! When it dies, then the shopping begins!
I am embracing the quick stroke….ooh err, sounds a bit weird. But seriously, giving yourself an hour to complete a sketch is liberating….what am I talking about….speedpainting….a staple of the concept/environment artist working in the games industry. Speedpainting allows the artist to get that “feeling” or vision on the digital canvas a hell of a lot quicker than a full piece. In fact, the original vision is often lost when you try to polish it to the nth degree. The best ideas are often the freshest ones in your head…..let them develop and sometimes (but not always!) that vision is lost, and what you end up with is something rather lascklustre. I am working on a couple of projects for indy game studios and doing some concept work here and there. They need quick ideas, not polished pieces to be hung in the gallery. They want the artist to give the writer, 3d artists etc the vision to create further. Should they require a piece or vision to be worked on more, they will ask me to do so.
Icy View probably took around 45 minutes, although I can’t quite remember. What I do remember is that I just sketched my little heart out, laying colour over colour, not getting bogged down by the details. Don’t use the smudge or blend tools too much when speedpainting-you’ll only create areas that have too much detail, that in contrast will leave the other areas lacking. Paint with your arm, stand up, listen to music and sing-whatever is needed to relax your style!
Crystal Lake was a very quick piece, and again, what was the point in going overboard? The intention can be seen. Yes, with a critical eye there are lines overlapping, the odd random shadow, not a perfect composition etc, but imagine if the studio asked me to refine this further or create a view from a ship flying over the lake-not only have they got the idea to further their vision, but the artist does too. Already the creative thinking part of the brief is complete, leaving the artist with the best part-painting!
I will admit that the Mountains speedpainting took longer than intended. In fact, I started to polish this one up, only to rough out some of those smoothed lines! But again, approaching this with no detailed intention, I simply sketched a mountain. I didn’t even bother with reference-why would I? It would simply slow me down when it came to detail.
Ok, so you create your speedpainting, then what? You’re asked to refine it further…..and that is the best part, because you have your template. With Mountain Retreat, the basic sketch was completed in one hour. I then went back to it the next day and refined it-but again, not too much. Time in total? Probably about 3 hours. The crazy thing is, it could be pushed further, of course it could, but not only does it communicate what is needed to the development team, it also has enough to warrant being a stand alone piece of art.
Exodus is another example of a speedpainting that got refined. I was simply practicing desert terrain, and picked one out of my 5 or 6 pieces that I pushed further. Once the basics are there-the fundamentals if you like-the rest is easy.
Mountain Retreat and Exodus are more polished than the others. But they did start off as quick scribbles. In fact, other than knowing roughly what I wanted in terms of subject (castle and desert respectively) I had no idea of composition, mood, colour etc. I literally approached the canvas and attacked it with determination.
This isn’t a lesson into speedpainting, hell I have so much to learn with it myself. But if you’re stuck for ideas, or simply feel that you are lacking in the skills department, just throw down some random shapes on the canvas. go away, make a brew, then look at those shapes. If you see something emerge, go with it-a droid, a mountain, a gorilla, a spaceman in Mcdonalds…whatever! Don’t get bogged down with details, relax, enjoy, and be amazed at how good you are!