I remember when I was in second year in secondary school deciding that I wanted to go to art college. My parents thought I was mad and told me that artists never had any money and that you couldn’t make a living out of it, but sure I knew better. I had such a passion for drawing and painting at the time that I didn’t even consider any other career, I just wanted to follow my dream.
Hailing from Kilkenny, I succeeded in getting a place in Crawford Art College in Cork and started there in 1984, and so my journey as an artist began. In the summer of 1985, I managed to support myself by street drawing on St Patrick St, along with selling photocopies of drawings I did of pop stars of the time such as David Bowie, George Michael, Phil Lynott, and Meat Loaf.
Fast forward 30 years, and a career that didn’t go entirely to my original ‘mad artist’ plan, receiving the new iPad Pro with Apple Pencil stirs some forgotten embers.
On first hearing about the Apple Pencil, I was keen to try it out, despite being disappointed in other similar devices I had tried in the past. I had a hope that the Apple Pencil would be the spark that would rekindle my passion for drawing and painting, but I really didn’t know what to expect.
Right out of the box, you’ve got Apple notes that come pre-loaded with the ability to draw using pencil, pen, and marker tools. I was blown away by how realistic the pencil tool is. It feels like you are in direct contact with the pixels on the display, it mimics the texture you get when drawing on paper.
However, what I didn’t like was the lack of resistance you get when you draw on real textured paper, which is primarily down to the pencil tip being plastic gliding on a glass screen. This does take some getting used to, but now, after hours and hours of drawing on the iPad Pro, I’ve gotten over that and am sure that in time, there will be third-party screen protectors that will have a slight texture to provide that additional realistic pencil to paper resistance some will miss.
I have tried most of the Adobe companion apps for iOS and they work great. In particular I liked the drawing in Adobe Draw but I quickly fell in love with an app called Procreate. Artists have been using this €6 app for the last three years and have created incredible pieces of art using their fingers or third-party styluses. However, the larger screen of the iPad Pro coupled with the Apple Pencil really enables Procreate to be even more powerful as a tool for digital artists.
The first proper drawing I did in Procreate was a Steve Jobs portrait, which took me 14 hours to complete. Some of this time was spent familiarising myself with the app, which has features like multiple layers, undo, and a host of different brush and pen shapes and styles.
You can choose to draw with various types of pencil, graphite, chalk and pastels or from all sorts of painting brushes. You can apply effects like motion blur on individual layers or even change things like colour balance. However, my favourite feature of Procreate is its ability to save each stroke you make and then replay it like a time-lapse movie. You can also save your finished artwork to different picture formats including native Adobe PhotoShop files that include the layers.
Digital art has so many advantages including the ability to have your work printed onto all kinds of materials such as paper, wood, canvas, and even metal — plus you get choose the size you want. I had a poster printed of a portrait I did of my son from a photograph of when he was nine. Thanks to Procreate and the iPad Pro being able to create a very high-resolution file, the quality was still perfect even at A1 size (594mm x 841mm).
For me, the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil is a perfect match between art and technology, it allows me to express my artistic side and I simply see it as another medium to create art.
When I was painting in oils, I gave a lot of my paintings away; now I can create art, share it easily, and give prints to others while hanging onto the original.
Using software like Procreate and the iPad Pro, you have the freedom to experiment without fear of messing things up. You can enjoy all of the traditional mediums of your choice and create realistic or more classical paintings from watercolours to oils and all without getting your hands dirty. I know that some ‘real’ artists will call this cheating but at one time you had to make your own paints and brushes. The real skill and artistry comes from the human brain; devices like the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil are tools to be used to create art.
For me, the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil have been the catalyst to getting me back to my first love. I can recommend it to budding artists or those who’ve taken a long hiatus - like I did, for too many decades.
REVIEW: IPAD PRO IS ONE SLICK COMPUTER
The iPad Pro is the fastest, best sounding and most expensive iPad yet and although it’s not for everyone, it’s hard to deny its beautiful design and massive screen size that packs twice as many pixels (2732-by-2048 pixels) as a Full-HD TV into a 12.9-inch display.
I’ve read and seen a lot of debate about whether the new iPad deserves the ‘Pro’ monikeror if it’s really a laptop replacement and the real answer comes down to the requirements of the user. There are thousands of apps on iOS so if you there are alternatives to your desktop apps then maybe it can replace your laptop. However, if you need the ability to run fully-fledged desktop software and a full blown OS, then the iPad Pro probably isn’t the right choice for you.
I have been testing it now for the last six weeks and take it with me everywhere. I’ve used it extensively to write on, take handwritten notes, email, browse the internet, watch YouTube, Netflix and videos, listen to music, edit video and music, play games and all sorts of other stuff.
For me, the extra large iPad screen size is fantastic for all of these tasks and yet many of the apps and iOS 9 still aren’t tweaked fully to get the most out of the hardware. This will change as Apple update iOS to take full advantage of the extra screen size, resolution and power.
Standout features are of course the large screen but also the four speakers; two on each side - top and bottom. This is the first iPad I've used where I had to turn down the sound because it was too loud.
The iPad Pro is available in several configurations, with prices starting at €939 for the Wifi only with 32GB of storage model, rising to €1,269 for the Wifi and cellular connectivity and 128GB of storage. If you add the optional Apple Pencil for €109 and Apple Smart Keyboard for €179, you start comparing it to expensive laptops.
The Apple Pencil isn’t for you unless you intend to use it for note taking or creative apps. For some, the Apple Pencil is worth buying the iPad Pro for because it is one of the best devices of its kind for what it does. I don’t like that it’s so polished and slippery in your hand but I love its precision and accuracy for drawing or hand writing.
Despite all the rubbish talked about the Steve Jobs quote that Apple will never have a device with a stylus again (who remembers the Apple Newton?), I believe that Steve would have loved the Apple Pencil. It isn’t a stylus that you use to interact with the OS but rather a pencil, a pen, a brush to create with.
For sure, the iPad Pro isn’t for everyone and yes it’s darn expensive but for those that can reap all of the benefits from the complete package, it’s a game changer.