Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Product review: Sensu Artist Brush and Stylus

While I could have just posted pictures and a write up for my review of the Sensu artist brush and stylus. I thought this would be more interesting.

Please note: I wasn't sent this product and was compensated in no way from the makers of it. I bought this out of pocket for my own personal art endeavors and my opinions are solely my own. 

And if my review was compelling enough HERE is where you can order it and see some samples of what others have done with it.

It's about time!

Finally took the plunge and registered a domain for this blog...

You can update your bookmarks and feeds if you like but it's my understanding that you don't have to because I have automatic redirects set up to get you to land where you are trying to go.

For ease of accessing this site though, I figured two years was long enough to have this blog be identified as just another place within the blogspot world. Because it only makes sense, I selected DreamPrayCreate.com to be the official name for its place on the web.

Thanks, everyone, for continuing to visit my site, pin ideas from it, and virtually support my efforts to be a part of this great big wide world of online art making and appreciation.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Took my liberties with this one

I have done nothing but put off painting and finishing this up since my painting class ended almost a month ago. Not sure what my problem was/is but I think I just needed a break from my pouring myself into just one more thing. *shrug* Kind of sad that the very thing I love more than anything (painting) is the one thing that I couldn't bring myself to do for my own amusements, enjoyment, and/or refreshment.

This painting is for a wedding in two days. (I first talked about it here.) It is an oil painting. Thankfully I was able to sit down and not just push it over the hump I had stopped at before to get it to a reasonable midway point...

I was also able to actually finish it! Amazing. And I did this all in maybe an hour and a half of time.

Please ignore the fact that I could not fit the spire of the wonderfully decorative and iconic spire on top of the domain on the canvas and also the fact that structurally? Well, let's just say the Capitol building doesn't actually look like that! (Whatev. I am taking lessons from Cezanne. I mean I know I am no Cezanne but I am learning by imitating, OK?)

I think one of the major reasons I was able to get myself painting and actually finish this painting was the fact that I really forced myself to keep to a few things that allowed me a lot greater artistic interpretations...
  1. Capturing the essence of the Capitol building versus just doing a rendering of it
  2. Preserving the integrity and speed of the market
  3. Working the paint wet into wet and doing a bit of impasto stylings without making it completely impressionistic. 
I wouldn't have done anything of these things (meaning: I likely wouldn't have finished this painting) had I never taken the painting class earlier this summer because that's where I learned all of the aforementioned.

Overall I am 90% happy. What's up with the 10%? Well... I am a little concerned the paint won't dry in time. I seriously slathered on the liquin but... well, it's almost physically impossible for oil paint to dry in two days. What am I gonna do? Can't win 'em all that's for sure. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Book Review: Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun [Kindle edition]

When it comes to art books - instructional, reference, etc. - I have an abundance of them but don't exactly like all of them all that much. The majority of them are even mediocre (to me) at best and I reserve them for cross-referencing things for lesson planning OR to bring them in for my students to look at. To date I have probably spent well over $500 on all of those books. What a waste! I am almost embarrassed at the hoard of books I have but don't really ever use.

Well, I'm learning from my mistakes. I have been looking at the book Drawing Lab for Mixed-Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun for a little while and I finally decided to get it (well, the Kindle version because for whatever reason digital books work better for me *shrug*) and I am LOVING it!!!! 

Because I am such a junkie for reviews of any sort, I pored through the amazon ones and now that I am halfway through the book (reading it only, I am going to use it to inform some creative exercises soon enough with my new iPad art apps), I am thoroughly convinced that I might even want to buy the physical version of the book and take it into school because it might actually be one that would do more than just take up space and collect dust!

The book is written very matter of factly (something that I LOVE so much) and it really points out not only very good instructional pointers and clarifications about certain techniques and creative processes but it also has a few personal anecdotes from the artist herself. 

The drawing and inspirational exercises are VERY approachable without being dumbed down to something that could/would bore a more advanced artist/illustrator (that which I am not!) and I especially like a number of the approaches that are suggested that really spin old ideas for lessons/projects in new ways. As an art teacher and working visual artist, my battle is always trying to figure out how to reinvent and refresh things to keep things interesting but it gets hard! I can't lie about that. 

One of my favorite things about the book is the insistence within each exercise to do repetitive exercises and to NOT erase things. The author fully encourages you to not be afraid to make little mistakes but if you do? There are suggestions of how to work it into the design/drawing itself. She also talks about different ways to do mastercopy and master inspired type works. I LOVE looking at masterworks! I honestly feel like it's an essential part of being able to become a successful visual artist. 

Something else that is so great about the book is that it definitely starts you from a good square one type place but builds and scaffolds to things that are definitely more challenging and complex within the design ideas themselves. In this way, it is really possible to look at your linear progression with every inspiration prompt to see that you are actually accomplishing things and the stuff looks pretty good! Seriously. I am convinced all of the creative prompts could inspire, instruct, and support most any level artist and even any age artist though there would definitely be some that would have to be modified for ability level in terms of fine motor skills/dexterity and abstract/non-objective understanding and vision. 

All in all though? If I were rating this book with the five star system of Amazon, I might even venture to give it 5.5 stars or even six stars. Seriously. I think it's a pretty solid book and like I said, I might seriously order the paper version of it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

iPad art Apps nutshell review: Art Set vs. Artrage vs. Procreate

Officially I have had my new iPad for less than 24 hours and though I feel like I am still managing a sharp learning curve (despite the fact that I have always considered myself to be very "tech savvy") I am really understanding the pluses to having it for the purposes of digital art and the art classroom.

Now, to be completely fair, I have railed against using the iPad for art classroom purposes since... well, last night before I downloaded a whole bunch of really art cool apps! One of my seniors from the recent school year mentioned a couple of these to me and I must say that I was completely dismissive to the point that I was unfair. What can I say? For as much as I might claim to be a forward thinker, I can be very stodgy and set in my ways. *shrug* Anyway, that's quickly changing and I am fast becoming convinced that I need to have a class set of iPads for my art classes OR (better yet) they should be made standard so every student will be equipped with them. All of that being said? Let's dish on the apps!

Right now Apple is running a great promo where you can get a new Macbook or iPad and they will give you a complimentary iTunes giftcard - the larger the purchase the larger your iTunes giftcard. Because I just got an iPad, my iTunes was for $50 and that could be used in either the app store or the iTunes store. Now, while $50 doesn't seem like much compared to the $100 I could have gotten for one of the Macbooks, $50 can really be stretched pretty far in terms of getting just apps alone. I think I have a little more than $25 less on the card and that's even with me loading up my iPad with art apps for me as well as almost a screen full for my little girl! (I plan on reviewing some of the apps for her in time just for fun.)


Now, my major motivation for finally taking the plunge and getting the iPad in the first place is because it's a learning accommodation that came strongly recommended from my educational psychologist. (He got zero kickbacks for my purchase so him pushing the device so aggressively said a lot about the iPad I think!) (I also plan on doing some reviews on the iPad as an aid for learning disabilities when I get that figured out as well.) Still, just because I got the iPad for work doesn't mean I have to make it all work and no play!

Over a month ago, I stumbled upon an amazing paintbrush stylus for digital tablets called the Sensu brush. I was admittedly very skeptical about the possibility that anything digital could imitate real-life painting enough to make any kind of investment in it worthwhile. I totally ate my words on that though once I did a little research and found out just how on point the Sensu was though! Now, I don't have one yet (but it is coming - YAY!! - ordered mine two days ago and have been anxiously awaiting its arrival since getting shipment confirmation).  All of that being said? As soon as I was sold on the Sensu, I was that much more sold on getting my hands on an iPad ASAP. My cashflow just wasn't permitting such a thing though and I had to strategically plan and wait patiently until just last week! So yeah. I finally have an iPad, I will soon have a Sensu brush, and sorry for my long-winded way to get to the Apps reviews.

The Sensu website recommended half a dozen art apps but I opted to try out only two of them - Artrage and Procreate. Other people's reviews (in the App store as well as elsewhere online) heavily informed my decision to do so. also ended up picking up Artset in the app store because it was less than $2 to do so and it got really decent reviews because of its simple functionality. Here are all three of them in a side-by-side comparison where I just tried out some of the tools they have within them. The most simple of the apps is on the left and then as it goes right, the apps get more complicated but also have that much more technical range. I was mostly interested in just comparing the marks for this review.

****OK. Here are the actual reviews****
 From left to right there is Art set, Artrage, and then Procreate.

Now, I haven't had time to use any of the apps outside of preliminary poking around of them (meaning, I haven't made any full pieces of art yet) but I cannot help but tell you I am already impressed but one thing of all three: how closely they imitate real marks of studio tools on supports like canvas, paper, etc. Definitely there will never be anything like the REAL thing of pencil, pen & ink, paints of any type, etc. but for these to be digital renderings? I'd say they aren't bad at all. Above you small shots of what I will present to you for all three. For each one I took blank document and then just applied the digital tools in black/dark grey and wrote out (with each of the tools) what each one was for labeling purposes as much as seeing what they looked like when they were applied. (Does that make sense? Kind of a confusing way to explain it but that's really what I did.)

First there is Art set. For quick and easy purposes, I think even my daughter could use it well enough, Art set is pretty nice and the digital marks are pretty close to being like the more expensive/intense art apps.
Art Set for iPad
Another really nice thing about Art set? It's easy to navigate. The actual workspace with the tools seem very realistically design. Your color picker/palette is literally a row of colors (in artist color names) in whatever medium you are using - meaning if you are doing coloring pencils, it's a tray of pencils. Then the different tool/mediums that are there are also lined up in a tray for you to pick what you want. It's definitely very intuitive in feel and then saving whatever you do for purposes of sharing later is just as easy. Pretty much all of the user reviews said what I found to be the truth so that's good to know too! I like having reliable reviews. This app was not included in what the Sensu makers recommended and while I can understand it doesn't have quite the range and functionality for a more advanced user/artist, I feel like it would have been worth a mention at least for getting your digital art "feet" wet.

The next app up is Artrage. This one was recommended by the Sensu makers as well as assorted other folks on the web. Here is the rundown of what it offers...

Artrage for iPad
Now, Art set did allow for you to adjust the width and shape of the stroke but not nearly to the incredible degree that Artrage lets you do it. Also, Artrage has greater range in letting you determine what your surface/support looks like as well as giving you a bucket-fill tool. The tools themselves have a more refined functionality to them but once you lay the marks down, I almost have to say I prefer the way the Art set marks looked. I could change my mind once I get into more advanced functionality because Artrage allows for layer manipulation and effects and filtering of marks (kind of like Photoshop) so we'll see.

The last one I have up is Procreate. This is by far and away the most complicated and advanced of the three apps both in the available tools/mediums as well as the finer adjustments about picking the shape of the stroke itself.  It also has pattern options that you can use (see the wood grain at the bottom and weird geometric thing to the side). It has all of the same tools that previous two had and so I didn't include those in the samples of the marks and tried to include the more unique ones like the gel pen - there were at least four or five other types of pens.

Procreate for iPad

That about sums it up for the preliminary looks at all three apps. I will definitely be experimenting more with them each in time - there definitely seems like specific reasons for each of them considering what kind of artwork I want to work on/mess around with - so I don't forsee deleting any of them just yet. I will say also that I didn't think a stylus would be all that necessary - even though I already bought one but I really just got it for the paintbrush - but I get it now after trying to use each of the apps. For each of them I feel like it would have helped to have that instead of just dealing with the pad of my index finger. So, what I also figured out is if you want to just do your index finger and don't want to deal with a stylus, I would recommend going for Art Set, Procreate, and then Artrage.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Decompressing from decompression


My brief and very necessary interlude (as mentioned here) is gradually coming to a close and I'm hoping to reinstate my blogging-legs within the week. Thanks for bearing with me and keeping the blog hits coming despite my lack of posting anything new.

While this is not a promise, some things I am considering sharing include the following:
  • Thoughts/overview of my graduate summer studies and/or the distance learning experience in general
  • The big word and conclusion of my learning disabilities issues (including the testing process, what it revealed, and how I am dealing with it)
  • The whole business of me finally plunging into the world and wonders of iPad amazingness including some of the apps (for art and not) that I like and don't like
  • Discovery and review of the Sensu stylus and digital paintbrush
  • Thoughts/review of the book Imagine by Jonah Lehrer and how it has utterly transformed my approach to teaching art and the creative process
  • My continuing adventures of giving handmade 
  • Discipleship as it applies to fostering talent within the art world and providing individualize mentoring to fledgling artists
  • And, of course, some of my planning process and supplies ordering for the upcoming school year
Now, let me just fully acknowledge my own flakiness that (easily) the aforementioned could hardly come close to any type of fruition. I mean, I'm sitting here (mostly) rested and reasonably inspired from an impromptu family vacation that took me out of the country.  The "everyday" of a whole house needing to be cleaned, massive amounts of laundry needing to be done, groceries needing to be bought, and a preschool child underfoot all while I am still doing graduate studies is completely and totally a reality as well. Still, I believe in thinking big and trying to accomplish as much of that is possible and I know if I just open my mind and heart, step aside, and let the Lord know my deepest desires and aspirations, He could very easily accomplish not only the aforementioned (with me as His vessel) but also much more than that. Truly, that's why I am here blogging/sharing to begin with.

All of that being said? I am still in my pajamas and my child is fussing at me to help her make a pretend picnic in her playroom. My goals for today include attending to that, getting to the grocery store (so my family has something to eat at all) and hopefully making it to the Apple store to pick up my new iPad. So, this is it for now. Just wanted to say "hey" I haven't completely disappeared and hope you are well. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Coming to you L-I-V-E!!

Yesterday I packed my bags and jumped in the car to head to my first ever intensive week-long study course for my graduate program...

There are my bags with my study Bible topping the whole pile off. I cannot do this without THAT.

The drive was reasonable from the DC area where I live and it was also very pretty as I opted to take the most scenic routes available in order to work my way down to central VA where Liberty University is located. (That's where I am doing my studies. Not sure if I have mentioned that before.)

Before I arrived at my hotel, I made sure to pit stop at Target in an effort to pick up some things that would help make my room for a week more like home. I picked up snacks, lots of Dr. Pepper (so shameful that this was on my list of must-haves!), a single pretty bowl to eat out of, and a set of real silverware to eat with. My rationale was that I would already feel pretty displaced and out of sorts so if I did small things (like having real flatware and stuff at least to eat with) I wouldn't feel quite so far from home where I would much rather be.

I arrived and made really good time, checked in, set up my space, and got right to work as I still had to complete (and submit electronically) one mandatory item and then tie up lose ends for two other items (that worked in tandem) that would be submitted today and later this week.

Here is a view from the door of the place I will call home this week.

My hotel room for the week is probably the best that of what I could have gotten for the week. I thought very intently about what would be the best possible set up for me (knowing my work habits and specifically my diagnosed learning challenges) and intentionally sought out a living space that would separate the work area from the sleeping area. I was so happy to find a place that offered what you see above! What is not pictured is a very modest food storage/prep area with a sink, refrigerator, and microwave. Pair that with what you see above and you have a really cool little efficiency type studio apartment space that is a little more home-y and a little less hotel-y. 

I am so delighted to report that I was able to make a lot of progress with the immense amount of work that I have had to do for this class and though I was up until a little beyond 1am last night, I got everything taken care by what I know was the pure grace, endurance, and strength of my Lord God. 

Snapped this shot at a little before midnight when I still had a couple of hours to go.

I was also able to do some FaceTime with my husband and daughter and that alone motivated me and helped me to feel a little less far from home than what I actually am. I am looking forward to using that to its fullest extent for the entire time I am here doing my studies because I know it will help offset my homesickness that kicked in yesterday when I finally got here.

And right now? Well, I'm actually sitting in my class waiting for it to start. :)

The people so far seem really nice and I am looking forward to finally be able to make some (literal) connections with people versus having them be strictly virtual as this course has been predominantly online for me thus far.

Will continue to try and update with what I learn this week! Happy Monday.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

All play and no work makes me a grad school dropout

For as much as I want to keep painting and have updates for you all about that, I also have to actually do all of the bookwork/paperwork that goes along with graduate studies. *SIGH*

So, as it happens, now starts the interlude for me to do all of the not fun but completely required work that I have to focus myself completely on - something I have only been juggling and not completely focused on. Consider this the big FYI that the blogging is going to stop a bit (at least until next week) and I'm going to do stuff related to the art that is teaching and not the teaching that is of art.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Life as an art student | Day 17 of 20

Weird start to the day and week (the last one for this class - boo!) as this area was hit in a seriously bad way by all of those storms that hit the huge chunk of the mid Atlantic coast. I was blessed enough to lose power no longer than 24 hours but had a place (my parents' house) to stay in that had electricity, wifi and central air. Others in my area have not been so fortunate and are sitting at day three without any of the aforementioned. It has been projected that many of them might not even have power until this coming weekend! No bueno especially with regard to the record breaking temperature highs this time of year.

Anyway, all of this had me completely unsure if I would even have painting class. This last week was going to be focused on more landscape work created en plein air like last week because (with the 4th being no class) we only really have two days to paint since the last day (on Thursday) we are going to do a bit of a presentation of each of our collectives of work. Well, when I went to the picnic grove on campus where we have been working, I found the place looking pretty much like a war zone. Trees done, metal picnic tables damaged beyond repair, and nobody in my class (including my professor) there. I started emailing my professor and he eventually showed up to look at the damage and then made the executive decision to just go to the studio classroom. Thus, it was decided that we would do self-portraits after all. So, that's what we did today.

We started it all with a big discussion about what the expectation was for our output and then talked about how we get to that point. Today's working goal was to do a straight line drawing in charcoal of ourselves on paper with a focus on only the planes of the face.

Tomorrow we are supposed to be able to get right into painting. I am really jazzed to paint vs. do charcoal work and I am finally going to get to use the canvas I stretched on the second day of class.
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