Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Apple Pencil

Here's a picture of David Hockney's Dachshund that I did using Apple pencil on a 12.9" iPad Pro in the app ProCreate.

I said I’d write some reviews and stuff about working with the Apple Pencil didn’t I? Well, I’ve been too busy learning software and building brushes and experimenting to get very far with that. But I have been spending quite a bit of time on forums for the two best pieces of software for the iPad, namely ProCreate and the more powerful, but for the moment frustratingly unstable Paintstorm Studio. I’m mostly on these forums to learn and to lobby for updates and features that I think are important, but I recently wrote this and realised that it sums up, better than I have been able before, a lot of how I feel about working digitally: 

“I strongly believe that one of the main reasons that real media still appear more expressive and individual than digital media is in the subtleness of mark-making. The more small variables that tilt, pressure, and speed of mark making control, then the more of the tiny decisions and quirks of personality and movement that make a person's art different from another's shine through.

That's not to encourage people to be luddite about the fantastic things digital can achieve, and help them to smooth out or to emulate other people's marks if that's what they want. But artists using real pencils are essentially laying down layers of graphene when they draw -one of the thinnest materials known to man. The miracle of drawing is that a person can control this and express so much. 

It's clear that the Apple Pencil is capable of getting closer to this level of expressiveness than any other digital tool, but when the software (and hardware -the more complex the brushes get) imposes limits it's frustrating! As a professional I have always used a lot of digital because of the control I need to meet deadlines, but I've always missed the subtlety of real media, and often returned to scanned art composited in Photoshop.”

What I was referring to about limits is that ProCreate currently lacks useful controls over tilt and 'dual brush' functions. Paintstorm Studio allows most of this to be controlled -and makes amazing brushes possible, but it is rather glitchy.

Here's a quick demo of a couple of brushes that I created in Paintstorm Studio:

I’m not kidding about how close the Apple Pencil gets to the subtleties of drawing on real paper. Paintstorm Studio allows the user (with a pretty steep learning curve and no real instructions) to see that nearly every variable that is available in a real paintbrush or pencil is there. It’s a bit of an uncanny feeling -but you get over it. There are also several workflow problems with saving and sending files but I don’t think they’ll be around for long.

Take a look around three minutes into this video:

I predict that it’ll only be matter of a few years or less before there is software and hardware available for drawing and painting that can model most real media properly -using fluid dynamics and maybe even gravity modelling (tip the iPad and have digital watercolour drip down the ‘page’ collecting suspended pigment in the indentations of a modelled texture). At the moment you really need to have quite a lot of experience with real paper and paint to get ‘realistic’ effects digitally (which I think leads to some great work in itself -work that is comfortable with it's digitalness -and also some really hideous stuff). I wonder what it will be like when you don’t. On the one hand Total Drawing Freedom! On the other hand Agggh! It’s The Semiotic Matrix! 

Meanwhile in my humble matrix I've been working out artwork styles for my next picture book and drawing a lot of squiggles to try to make satisfying brushes in both ProCreate and Paintstorm Studio.
(I've made so many, particularly in Paintstorm, that I'm wondering about putting some up for sale. Any interest in that? I feel weirdly protective of them -and at the same time that's probably nonsense.)

Despite going horribly over-complicated about brushes, I hope it's clear that I'm really going for simplicity when it comes to the drawings themselves!

[Btw. I've also done some published drawings where I did the linework on the iPad and then finished them on paper but I'll do a separate post about those.]

Drawn with custom brushes (and overlaid textures) in ProCreate:

Drawn with custom brushes (and sometimes overlaid textures) in Paintstorm Studio:


Soni Speight said...

Yes! I would definitely buy brushes from you :)

Joel Stewart said...

That's great to hear. I will let people know on this blog (and elsewhere) if I get a set, or sets, together for downloading.

Maurizio Boscarol said...

That's great. Let us know about brushes. I feel the same, ciclically turning back to paper and ink, Procreate, new software, and even vector drawing to achieve different styles. PAintstorm Studio it the only one that let me foresee an all digital workflow that won't let me turn back to paper. But sometimes it becomes really frustrating. Spent 2 hours today on it and then went to Procreate, where I achieved a better results without any GUI frustration... Still, can't achieve the same analog feeling on Procreate, even with my own created brushes. LEt's hope the developer have the right incentives and resources to improve PSS.

Tor Freeman said...

Really interesting Joel! Thanks for sharing your thoughts - I haven't got an iPad yet but your drawings have made me want one more than ever.

Joel Stewart said...

Really good drawings Maurizio (I wish I could understand the jokes...)

It's actually just a few small changes to ProCreate that would make most of the difference isn't it? But they do seem to have a long and careful schedule that doesn't necessarily favour users who want that analogue line.

Meanwhile I'm getting used to things in Paintstorm that I doubt they'll ever put in, like the palette picker etc and the infinite customisation. It is funny that almost every time I type Paintstorm I accidentally type Painstorm though. The headache from carrying around in my head all those things that may trigger a crash. And trying to work out what files I've saved where...

The main rules I've found for my using of Paintstorm are: Never go over 300 brushes. Always back up brushes to iCloud or Dropbox (very slow for me) not iTunes. Don't quit with the home button but use exit. And basically don't trust a big file not to cause a memory crash -especially and ironically during autosave.

Joel Stewart said...

Thanks Tor! I think you'd make really good use of it. But I imagine you'd be like me and want all the things that Paintstorm can do, and be frustrated with all the same things too!