Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sketchuary: Making Sketch Art on the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Before I started drawing and painting again, my childhood art instructor Sally Bartalot published a book on her teaching methodology called Art Alive: A Fresh Approach to the Basics. She had contacted me to get my permission to share some of my work in the book, and at the same time, she encouraged me to get back into art. At the very least, she wanted me to throw a sketchbook in my purse and sketch during my kiddie chauffeuring gig. I did part of it -- I made a bag with some sketching supplies and carried it around with me for a year, never once putting pen or pencil to the paper therein.

I think one of the hurdles I had in even starting to make art again is that my hands were just plain out of shape. Nearly all language communication I had done was either by speaking or typing for quite a few years. If I wrote anything at all, it was just signing my name on a credit card receipt or writing the occasional check. I couldn't imagine using my hands to create images. But sketching could be the start of the "Couch Potato to 5k" for my hands.

Sketching isn't how I got started again, though it would have been an effective approach. A few years after Sally's book was published, I saw a group called "Sketchuary" on Facebook which is active every February. A friend on Facebook participated for a few years, and I immediately recognized how useful it would be to make a daily sketch. It wasn't until this February that I was courageous enough to try it. For every day of February, participants post a sketch to the group.

On the first day, I sketched a glass bottle with a stem of orchids sitting on a magazine on a piece of sketch paper using a 2B pencil. It took quite a while. I was interested in some of the digital work some of the other participants had uploaded, so I decided to revisit trying to make art on my Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Digital Tablet.

On the second day, I opened up my tablet and was immediately reminded that the last time I had attempted to create art, I was using Sketchbook Express, and had made it pretty far into an airbrushed Columbine flower when the program crashed. I wasn't even able to open the art in anything except a preview pane to save it or edit it, so I took a screen shot of the preview pane and then decided to go back to the Google Play store to see if there were any other programs to try.

I saw in the Google Play store that one of the better rated programs was still Infinite Painter, which I had also tried in 2014, and which also had the same problem of locking up and losing the artwork. I actually paid for that app, so when I saw that others were still experiencing problems like that, I decided to keep looking.

For my first digital sketch for Sketchuary, I settled on Autodesk Sketchbook. For the first sixteen days of February I used either traditional media or Autodesk Sketchbook to satisfy my sketch challenge for the day. In the beginning, it was really hard to get used to the slipperiness of the pen on the screen of the tablet, but after a few days, I really enjoyed it. I found it helpful to not choke down on the stylus, but use a light loose touch, which is something I had to relearn with traditional media, as well. My favorite sketch from the first part of Sketchuary is the one I did of my dog Ollie, snoozing at the end of the sofa, illuminated in lamplight.

Dog on Sofa, Digital Sketch by Amy Lewark

On the sixteenth, I decided to try another program, ArtFlow (Free Version). I can't accurately remember why I decided to switch, but I think it was something to do with the controls. I indicated on Facebook that I liked ArtFlow a lot better than Autodesk Sketchbook, even though I was only using the free version.

The next day, I decided to try ArtRage. I had tried it before on my daughter's desktop computer, and found it to be quite enjoyable. I knew ArtRage would enable the use of digital versions of many media, including oil. I figured a good challenge might be to try to reproduce the work of a master, so I chose the first one who popped in my head -- Toulouse Lautrec -- and his Portrait of Helen.

Digital Study of Toulouse-Lautrec's Portrait of Helen by Amy Lewark

For a few days I played around with the line smoothing tools and "pen and ink" on ArtRage, producing some very quick sketches of my dog sleeping, a rooster, some lillies I had on my kitchen table, and a reproduction of William Bouguereau's Baigneuse (1864). What I had to learn very quickly is to kind of anticipate what the line-smoothing algorithm would do to the path of my line. I was hitting "undo" quite a bit until I was satisfied with the result of each line.

Sleeping Dog, Digital Sketch by Amy Lewark

Lilies, Digital Sketch by Amy Lewark

Rooster, Digital Sketch by Amy Lewark

Digital Study of William Bouguereau's "Baigneuse" by Amy Lewark

After getting comfortable with the interface, over the next few days I decided to try some different tools within ArtRage. First I tried the watercolor brush on an otter. It ended up being more of a sketch (in line with the theme of Sketchuary) than a painting, but it made me want to investigate how to achieve results more in line with traditional watercolor (no line smoothing).

Digital Watercolor Sketch of an Otter by Amy Lewark
I had not tried pencil sketching yet, so I tried that the next day on a cat.

Digital Pencil Sketch of a Cat by Amy Lewark

And, finally, I decided I wanted to draw something that would really capitalize on lots of line movement, so I sketched this owl. Toward the end I changed the color of the pen to white to get some marks in there that would be difficult to get with traditional media such as ink.

Digital Sketch of an Owl by Amy Lewark
Working on my Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet was a lot of fun. During the month of February, I really was just getting comfortable with the different tools and media available, and also learning how to control my stylus on the slippery screen. I enjoyed experimenting each day and learning the different effects I could get through a traditional drawing methodology using an unconventional approach. It sure did make me want to explore some more, which I have done extensively over the last few months.

Artist and Blogger Ellie Taylor has posted about using Android Tablets to make digital art, and has also reviewed her experiences with several of the apps available for Android.

Regarding the new title of my blog -- It used to be called "Fat 4 Thought" which served a few purposes for me -- it was, due to my background in Neurobiology, an homage to the idea that brains are made of fatty acids and that the idea that we should avoid dietary fat (particularly the saturated type) at all costs was nonsensical. Then, even though I felt less and less attached to dietary dogma, I still felt it important to note that brains are made of fat (because even among those who have embraced dietary fat, the idea that some fat might be a normal component of a healthy body still seems terrible). Well, whatever. Whether I'm studying science or art, what I feel passionate about is the idea that learning should not be owned by anyone but the learner, no matter the subject.

I realize "Nonproprietary Learning" is a mouthful, but things like "Always Learning" and even "Learning Unleashed" were generally taken and I really did want to give a nod to the idea that each of us owns our own learning.

I'll try to share my learning process here to do the new name justice.

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