I admit, I’m someone who likes gadgets and I recently got a new one, the Slate 2, which I thought I’d review for you here. This device acts like a clipboard that digitalizes your drawings when used with a drawing utensil surrounded by a metal ring. It is advertised as a way to combine digital art with “the pleasure of drawing on paper.” Basically, you draw on the paper and then your lines appear on the screen. You can change the color, opacity, nib size, and simulated drawing utensil (pencil, ballpoint, felt tip, marker, chalk, airbrush, and eraser). There are a few downsides, though:
The equipment is glitchy. There were unwanted lines that appeared on the screen when holding the utensil just above the surface. This may be useful for the airbrush feature, but it is a big problem if you want to do detailed hatching, for instance. I read in the help forums that this issue can be made less noticeable by placing the stroke smoothing setting on LOW and the speed sensitivity on HIGH. This did help, but it did not totally eliminate the problem.
There were also issues with the calibration of the utensil because there was a slight discrepancy between where my pencil was on the paper and where it showed on the screen. I found myself attempting to correct for this (you can see it a little bit on the replay). Therefore, the paper drawing I ended up with was not anything I wanted to keep afterward.
There is no pressure sensitivity. With the pencil setting, you can choose between different hardness levels, but this feature is very limited.
There is no bluetooth feature on a PC. It is annoying for me to have to use a USB cord at all times, especially when there are strict guidelines about how far away you must keep the unit from other metal objects, magnets, and computers/electronics.
The company is located in France and I read in some comment threads that it was next to impossible to return it.
Even still, I think this is a fun toy. The price was not that bad, but if I wanted to get something for serious digital art, I would probably get an iPad Pro. The Slate 2 is definitely not anything I would use to create a serious piece of artwork with unless the glitches were corrected. I do like the replay feature and I think I would like to experiment with this some more. There is a feature to use the device without being connected to the software and then transferring the image to the computer afterward, but I have not used this yet and I am hesitant to do so with the problems I’ve encountered thus far. You can see my sketch and replay video below. I hope this review is helpful to anyone who may be considering this device.
My favorite waterproof black fineliners are Staedtler Pigment Liners and I have the four pack in the plastic case. I find that I go for the 0.01 size most often and use the 0.03 size on a limited basis. I very rarely use the larger 0.05 and 0.07. For this sketch, I decided to do the opposite and use primarily the larger sizes and the smaller sizes only for the details. I also broke out my Pentel Pocket Brush Pen which is great for laying on black areas very quickly with juicy ink.*
Interestingly, I just came across this blog post from Brenda Swenson, where she discusses taking risks and trying out new things.
*I found that the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen bleeds a bit on the new moleskine paper and saturated both sides of the paper, but it did not soak through to the page underneath.
These are the first two pages I did in my new moleskine (a black one, this time). I immediately noticed a difference in the paper (it was advertised to be improved for paint). A short time ago, Roz Stendahl wrote an extensive review of the new paper.
My thoughts were that the paper was definitely whiter than the previous version, which I appreciated. I also noticed less buckling with watercolor. The paper handled ink nicely. The only thing I dislike about this paper is that it is noticeably thinner and “see through,” so that I cannot comfortably draw on both sides of the page. The paper also seems to wrinkle more easily. I am planning on only using one side of the page and I probably won’t do many double page spreads.
The reason why I like moleskines are that they look neat when closed and the elastic band keeps everything well contained. The large size is the perfect size for me to carry in a purse while still having a decent enough area to work with. I also have had a number of moleskines over the years and I like how they look stacked up. In the past, I have disposed of old sketchbooks, but I have decided to keep new ones going forward as I think my daughter would like to have them when I am gone. Also, I have more space to store them now, thankfully.
I always get a feeling of accomplishment when I finish a sketchbook, especially one that has been in progress for the better part of two years. I am so happy to move on from my red large moleskine. It was an unexpected gift that I originally began hesitantly. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I really got into a groove and began filling it up with more vigor. When I flip through the pages, I also see a real progression in my level of artistic risk taking, which pleases me.
Oftentimes, finishing a sketchbook coincides with moving onto a new season of my life. I have the rest of the summer before I start school again and I’m hoping to break in my new sketchbook by then.
Recently, I had the unfortunate opportunity to experience a concussion firsthand. It is not a pleasant experience. The doctor warned me not to make any “life altering decisions” or major purchases until it was completely resolved. But since I felt sorry for myself, I decided to treat myself to some new art supplies and I ordered a set of gouache paints. Specifically, I got a custom set of 10 tubes of Schmincke Horadam gouache hand picked by Roz Stendahl. The price was good, and I trust Roz’s judgment as far as colors go. Most importantly, if I am going to try out a new medium for the first time, I don’t want the experience to be spoiled by poor quality materials. After doing a lot of research, Schmincke is always one of the recommended brands. So now I will wait until my paints arrive. Thankfully, I am already feeling a lot better and I will be ready to get started.
Although I have generally been avoiding TV, I have been enjoying watching the four part Moving Art nature documentary series on Netflix. I love that there is no narration, only peaceful background music. Flowers is my favorite (not surprisingly).
I got a white (and silver) Sakura Gelly Roll pen recently and tried it out in my sketchbook. For the fantasy landscape, I used it for the stars and on the teapot, I used it for the floral design. I haven’t used a white pen since I was a child but I remember the same frustrating feeling of inconsistent ink flow, ink that wasn’t truly opaque and visible scratches in the ink from the metal nib. Even still, it is satisfying to see the white lines on a dark background. In some of the facebook sketching groups I am a part of, the Uni-ball Signo Broad UM-153 Gel Pen is recommended because the ink flow is very smooth and opaque. I think I will definitely try the Uni-ball pen out in the future. If you have another recommendation for a white gel pen, please let me know in the comments.
I switched out the ink in my Lamy Safari fountain pen from Noodler’s Lexington Grey to Noodler’s Luxury Blue. I’ve had this ink for some time, but it has been a few years since I’ve used it. Luxury Blue is more expensive than the other Noodler’s inks and it comes in a one ounce bottle instead of a three ounce bottle. The ink is waterproof, which is useful for both drawing with watercolor wash and also for normal writing. It works nicely with washes of Winsor & Newton French Ultramarine. I also want to try it out with turquoise and violet.
I splurged and bought a Winsor & Newton compact paint box and I took it for its first test drive today in my sketchbook, trying out different mixes and seeing how colors look when they are layered over other colors. The photo below was taken with my phone, and the colors don’t appear as vivid as in real life. I’m looking forward to painting some pink roses with the lovely pink peachy colors in this set. Overall, the palette seems very suited to the natureish type of things that I love to paint.
I also had a custom stamp made for myself (1 x 2 inches) which says: “From the Studio of Carolyn A Pappas.” I felt very official with a stamp with my name on it and I’m already thinking of some things to stamp up.
Here are some links I have come across recently which interested me and may interest you as well:
Take a peek inside the sketchbooks of J.M.W. Turner. I love the urgency in his sketches.
Danny Gregory is looking for people to email him their stories of their encounters with their personal monkey (inner negative voice).
I read some interviews of designers/freelancers discussing money and how they manage it which I found very interesting. Read them here and here.
I wish I had done more ink drawing in October. I have, however, started going to the gym again after over a five year break, so I am proud of myself in that regard. Already I have noticed a huge improvement in my sleep and clarity of thought.
Below are some more sketches I made in my new gray toned sketchbook. I really like this book because of the soft feel of the cover (almost a silky feeling), the general substantial feel of the book in my hands, and the color of the paper. There is some drag on my fountain pen which I don’t like, but I enjoy the color of the gray ink on the gray paper, so there are tradeoffs. I tried out colored pencils but I would like to do some experiments using black and white colored pencils for drawing.
Part way through drawing this I realized that I was using quite a “vice grip” on my pen. Afterwards, I made a conscious effort to hold my pen more gently and I could see how this made a difference in my line quality. I will be thinking more about my posture and grip when making my next drawing.
I really love the Epsilon Series paper in the Stillman & Birn sketchbooks for pen and ink. The pen glides over the paper with no resistance. Unlike other papers, the ink dries quickly and doesn’t sit on top of the paper increasing the potential for smudges. I wish this company sold this paper in tear out pads though. They do carry it in 22″ x 30″ loose sheets, but I don’t have a good way to store paper this size.