The first question you’re likely to ask after a first flick through this is “where’s the iPad?” It’s a pertinent one, as this is the least technology-based book about on-screen painting I’ve seen and it’s all the better for that. Right at the beginning Diana Seidl quotes David Hockney, “The iPad is a very serious medium. It’s just a new one and affects the way you do things.” This is pretty much the book’s manifesto and it would make a good one for digital art generally. Hockney is nothing if not perceptive.
This is not something for the tech fan, nor for the beginner. Rather, it’s a serious look at tablet-based art as a medium in its own right and, as far as I’m aware, the first of its type. Just as books about traditional media don’t get hung up on the physical properties of brushes and paint, but rather their potential and use, so this treats the digital medium as simply another way of creating artwork. I did manage to spot a pop-up menu in the section on working with layers – one of the main differences between physical and virtual media – but it’s a rarity. Instructions on what to do in this context are only there when they need to be.
In terms of content, the book is both comprehensive and well-structured. There’s a short introduction to the hardware – just 5 pages that tell you all you need to know because it’s little more than you’ll already know if you’re familiar with touchscreens, which you should be. This is followed by 18 pages in two chapters on ArtRage, the app you’ll be using. I’ve noticed that recent books on iPad painting tend to concentrate on a single app. This is no bad thing as previous books on computer-based art tended to try to be inclusive and deal with half a dozen or more software packages, making for no little confusion and endless repetition. True, if something better comes along, the whole thing will go out of date faster than a fresh cream cake, but that’s technology for you and, anyway, who leaves cream cakes lying about? When I did, the cat ate it. Cover the said half dozen programs and they’ll still all date at the same time. Tablets are developing all the time, but the speed of progression seems to have slowed and the platform in general to have stabilised. Brighter screens and faster processors will help, but they’re not the game changers they were.
But back to the art. The next chapters are, as they really should be, subject-based, covering still lifes, landscape, flowers, portraits and abstraction. That’s a lot for a book as serious as this, but we aren’t quite at the stage where each one gets a book on its own; in spite of what I implied before, the medium does still tend to be the message here. The final chapters deal with working with layers – and I like that it’s been left till the end when you’ve had a bit more experience – and from photographs. There’s also an overview of some of the other apps available, should you wish to shift allegiances. I do like the fact that Diana majors on her favourite, though. Software choices are a personal thing, but you’re likely to be coming to this at least relatively unprepared and unprejudiced, so a targeted approach is no bad thing.
I’m amazed by how much is packed into 144 pages here. It’s comprehensive, very much art-based and has the nice mix that Crowood provides of text, illustrations, demonstrations and projects. All of these are integrated rather than being broken out like a series of magazine articles, which you’ll either love for its consistency or find frustrating for its less broken-down structure. This publisher’s books tend to be ones to read before rather than while working, so I don’t think it’s a major problem.
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