Art Monday: practicing with Brushes

The Brushes app on my iPod Touch always makes for an interesting diversion in those odd moments - standing and waiting for a friend, a short streetcar ride.

I've been practicing a bit to get more detail. The control over opacity and the colour picker are terrific. My one grumble with this elegant little program is in using small brushes.


(Click to enlarge - probably to bigger than it appears when I'm working on it!)


There are three brushes, smooth to coarse, and a slider to alter the width. The problem is the slider is real touchy at the narrow end. So duplicating a "pencil" sized line becomes a real challenge.

I've been working on this face off and on, trying to play with wrinkles and textures, and generally get a handle on the program. A lot of the proportions are off, (and the purplish glowing eyes are possibly a bit creepy) but it's for the sake of the exercise.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery
*** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Art Monday: sketching with iPod Brushes

Still getting used to it. Brushes is a pretty powerful program for digitally painting on the iPod Touch. I'm hoping to grow in skill with Brushes as I go - perhaps I need a stylus. Right now, I'm using my fingers.

When the idea for my Major Billy Barker & his Pterosaur Squadron hit me,
I was walking in a park and tried to sketch it out. The final colours ended up looking pretty different. But it caught the perspective and clouds.

Here's a slightly more detailed sketch for a new piece I am working on about the accomodationist / science communication uproar that's been happening on science-based blogs for the last little while.
It was again, one of those ideas that I needed to sketch immediately. I filled a couple of pages of my sketchbook, and this image before beginning the final piece. It's a great way to do a quick colour study without the mess. Not sure if the DNA pawn will make the final image though.

The stuff at the Brushes site is pretty inspiring, and illustrator Eric Orchard did some nice work with it recently. I think the key is to spend time with it, as you would any painting medium, rather than solely for sketching as I have done so far. I'm sure I'll be posting new images as they come.

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Original artwork on The Flying Trilobite Copyright to Glendon Mellow
under Creative Commons Licence.

Flying Trilobite Gallery *** Flying Trilobite Reproduction Shop ***

Hyperferrule - a painting device

Brushes are much like pencils, in that they are a simple and effective design, and they have changed little in conception since they were first made.


Most brushes consist of a handle, usually wood or plastic, followed by the metal ferrule, and finally the bristles or hairs that contact with the surface. Artist-scribes in ancient Egypt used reeds, and spread apart the fibers to lend flexibility, binding the brush at the point of of the split fibers to make a ferrule that way. There have been some variations of design, constrained by local materials and ideas.

Sometimes I toy with a sci-fi novel that warps and moulds inside my head. One of the ideas I drew for it was this piece, called The Hyperferrule. Paint tubes surround the forearm, using vacuum-suction and a tiny valve to release paint. The crinkled, discarded tubes are popped out. Microservomotors control the teeny robotic arms while delivering the paint into the brush-hairs. Directions: Make a fist, hold forearm parallel to the painted surface, and concentrate on the image in your mind.

Some artists enjoy the process of making art more than the result. For better or worse, I am not in that category. I enjoy painting some of the time, but much of it is a struggle, (I've talked about my
Ugly Phase before), and much of that struggle is against time. I have lots of ideas, but it takes me time to put them down onto paper or canvas. I'd love a wired-up ferrule that could take the image in my head, and manipulate multiple brushes to quickly scatter and refine the paint. Happy accidents would still occur, as the image in my head and the image on the canvas would grow together, and my internal concept image would refine with the picture. The same device could be used by hyper-adept trauma surgeons.

Perhaps after the transhumanist movement finishes making everyone immortal, idle body modification like cyborg paintbrushes will have their day. (Thanks for George Dvorsky over at Sentient Developments for introducing me to the modern concept of transhumanism...radical and hopeful and strange, like the future. )

Of course, to lend the artist that tragic air, the Hyperferrule would not be able to be removed. I find the image above a bit steampunk-ish in my execution, which I think comes from drawing organic rather than industrial forms most of the time.

Okay, now Paleo-Future can bookmark this, wait 40 years, and laugh at me after all art takes place inside Matrix-style virtual galleries. Or wait 3000 years for us to use nebulae gases to make portraits of Carl Sagan across the night sky.

Uh-oh. Speculation is running rampant. I'd better finish packing for my trip to Montreal.