Sunday, March 04, 2012

Saturday, March 03, 2012

There's an app for that....the iPad for the fine artist.

Many of you know that I am an IT Manager in my day job. My world involves computers designed for corporate security, programming, stagnant software and conformity. Now imagine introducing an iPad to my other life as a fine artist!

The freedom of the iPad is refreshing, invigorating and inspiring. The flexibility and mobility lends itself well to be my personal assistant to keep track of my ideas, map out projects and explore themes. It can take photos, edit and dissect them to satisfy my creative exploration. I can jot down notes, organize them, write articles, tutorials and ebooks. At it's most inspiring level, I can doodle, sketch or paint to create digital artwork.

There are now millions of apps available (both good and bad). The apps are usually small and focused to specific tasks. Instead of the software dictating what you can do, you determine what you need. This allows you to customize a unique set of apps that will work just for you and your work flow. Whether you are an engineer, writer or an artist....there is an app for that!

I have spent the past month exploring a variety of apps and have discovered a handful of apps that really suite my needs as a fine artist. I'd like to share my "favorites" list for my fellow artists.

No USB Port?

The first thing I had to figure out was how to get my work on and off the iPad. Since there is no USB port, the old fashioned "sneaker net" method is not an option.

DropBox - Using a combination of DropBox on my desktop computer and iPad let's me seamlessly upload and download documents and images.

Google Docs - I have used Google Docs for a number of years, so it also works well.

Email - Some apps do not work with DropBox or Google Docs, so emailing the final product to myself is the third option.

Wireless printer - I love the new technologies! The iPad instantly found my wireless printer. No installation of drivers or additional software.


Microsoft Office Suites in the corporate world is the extent of my writing software knowledge. Less than ten percent of it's functionality is actually used in the majority of writing, so I'm delighted to find easy, simple software for this function.

Pages - Meets the needs of my writing.....I'm using this software as I type this article. Add an iPad bluetooth keyboard to give the desktop feel to your experience.

Office HD - Great for those MS Word users (like me!)

Note Taking

These are the apps that are at the heart of my love of the iPad. They provide instantaneous recording of fleeting thoughts, ideas, doodles, lists in non-conforming, flexible apps. Here are my favorites:

Penultimate - The simplest of all can be the best. If I have a random thought, it goes here. It's great for doodling too (one my favorite pastimes). No more wasted paper. Handwriting with a stylus in it's free-est form.

Notes Plus - This app is the coolest and definitely my absolute favorite app. To get the fullest appreciation of this one, I recommend watching an uTube video. Turn your handwritten notes to text with the 'convert to text' feature. There is a hand shield if you tend to drag your hand on the screen while writing. Want to record a lecture? No problem. Open a .pdf file, annotate and save. Import images, annotate on them, write notes on composition changes, etc.

Note Taker HD - A bit more complex than I like, but it is also very feature rich.

Novel/Book Writing

The novelist or book writer will love to explore all the different kinds of apps used to organize their chapters, story lines and plots. Here's a few that have caught my attention.

Index Card - I used index cards in college to write research notes, sort and compose term papers. This app has the same "comfortable feel" as physical index cards. Once you have them organized, save it as a text document.

Writer's Studio - I think this app is a great introductory to writing children's books. Music, text and illustrations can be easily blended together.

Photo Editing

Top Camera - Tops my list of photo editing. Take a photo with iPad and instantly edit it, or open one from your camera roll. Lots of the most commonly used editing tools, easy to apply.

PS Express - Photoshop version for the iPad. I'm a bit disappointed in this app. as the features are minimal. I'll stick to using my desktop Photoshop Elements.

Color Effect - This is a fun app. Turn your photo to black and white and bring the original color back to objects you want.

Draw Pad - This app is a great transition tool from photo to outline. Open a photo and use the opague setting to make the photo semi-transparent. Then use the stylus to outline the subject matter. You can study the outline/photo, manipulate it, add more subject matter. A wonderful tool to help you explore and dissect your subject matter before you draw.

Digital Artwork

Up to now, all the apps I have discussed are to assist me in my creative endeavors. This last category includes apps that can actually be the means to the end. Creating digital artwork.

Draw Cast - Multi-layer application that can create very detailed and subtle effects. Good variety of brushes and palette.

Art Studio - Includes how-to lessons on drawing faces, 3-d objects and animals in the digital world.

Wasabi Paint - A painter's dream! I can mix my palette on the screen to create impressionistic or abstract paintings. Pretty cool.

Sketchbook Pro and Brushes are two more apps worth exploring.

Honorable Mention

Walter Foster's app "Learn to Draw" is on my honorable mention list. This app provides just a hint of what the future holds and what ebooks are all about. It is an interactive app that talks as well as displays to the young artist the steps of drawing. I give credit to Walter Foster for stepping into the digital world and creating this app. This is really the reason why I purchased an iPad. I think it is an incredible tool that supports and encourages creating thinking; something our school systems have fallen short of in the past few decades.