Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Nomad Brush for iPad

My wife recently gifted me with my first Apple iPad, and I've been enjoying exploring the possibilities of this new tool.  Though I expect to use the iPad most often for reading, I could not help but download a few of the drawing and painting applications available, but not knowing where to start, I thought it best to approach someone with considerable experience on the device for recommendations - David Kassan.

Kassan, who purchased his iPad on the day of its release in 2010, made international news by using his considerable traditional painting skills to create digital portraits on the tablet's multi-touch display. Online videos of him "painting" from life on the iPad quickly went viral, and artists everywhere saw the potential for using this technology as an electronic sketchbook.  Although there are several talented people appearing online creating portrait work on the iPad, Kassan has been a standout on this device because of his textural approach to his digital art;  where others are creating slick, air-brushed, almost photographic images, Kassan has been making art that looks like conventional paintings and drawings.

Digital painting of Jasmine Commerce by David Kassan using Artrage

After watching several iPad demonstrations by Kassan, and reading online reviews, it was easy to decide which drawing and painting apps to download first, but I was still uncertain which stylus, if any, to purchase.  In discussions with Kassan, it became quickly apparent that he was very excited about a new product he had just tested - the Nomad Brush, a unique stylus made especially for artists.

The Nomad Brush is a paintbrush designed specifically for use on capacitive touch screen devices such as the iPad.   It was created by architect and artist Don Lee who had searched for the perfect stylus with which to digitally paint on his iPad, but finding that nothing on the market suited his needs, he decided instead to invent his own.  Combining highly conductive fibers with natural sable hair, Lee has produced 
a highly-responsive, virtually frictionless apparatus that mimics the look and feel of a regular paintbrush.

Each Nomad Brush is handcrafted to Lee's design specifications.  The brush, which is 7½" long overall, features a 5½" walnut and carbon handle with a soft grip, as well as the aforementioned flexible, natural and synthetic fiber tip.  Currently, it is available in only one size and color (black), but Lee promises more options in the near future.

I have read online where some people have criticized the look of the sketchy lines created by the splayed fibers of the Nomad Brush's tip, but I believe those people are confusing the aesthetic choices one artist used in a single painting, with the brush's full potential.  It must be remembered that the major characteristics of the digital brushstrokes are determined by the application software itself;  the brush does not posses an inherent calligraphic fingerprint.  What is most important in this new stylus design is the improved freedom of movement afforded by the longer handle and pliable tip, and how it interacts with the iPad's multi-touch surface.

Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to try the Nomad Brush for myself.  Pre-release reviews created such an interest in the $24 stylus/brush, that it quickly sold out, and is currently back-ordered.  However, if you visit the company's website, you can sign up for email notifications announcing when the brush is back in stock, or purchase the brush through PayPal with the understanding that order may take some additional time to fulfill.



Rob Rey said...

Hm, I got all excited thinking you were going to say that this brush somehow adds pressure sensitivity to strokes on the ipad, since that's what I'm really waiting for. Doesn't seem to be the case though? I guess I'm still waiting. I'm hoping Wacom will come out with a tablet that is pressure sensitive before too long.

Nori Tominaga said...

Hey thanks for the post

prrrszalony said...

"Kassan has been a standout because of his textural approach to his digital art; where others are creating slick, air-brushed, almost photographic images, Kassan has been making art that looks like conventional paintings and drawings."
I think that you should learn more about digital painting and see more digital works because, with all the respect, this is rubbish! There is a lot of people who paints in digital media in such a way for years!

innisart said...

@prrrszalony- Before I offend any others, perhaps I should clarify my opinion- As far as artists using the iPad for creating portraits, I think Kassan is a standout. Certainly, there are many talented digital artists who have been using more powerful painting and rendering programs to create amazing digital images with skeuomorphic markings. I am speaking here of the artists who have so far used the iPad (and who have subsequently put their art online for all to see). In honor of your comment, and to those artists whom you allude, I will edit my post to more accurately represent what I intended.

@Rob Rey - I've read about a lot of people wishing for Wacom to bring pressure sensitivity to the market. If they teamed up with Apple to make iPads specifically for the art market, it would be really interesting (plus cheaper, since capacitive screens are more costly to produce).

Harold Hugenholtz said...

There are tablets On the market for several years, are you all blind?? Touchbook(Panasonic) and Stylistic (fuijtsu) I use them for more then 8 years now. All wacom supported.
You all give Apple far to much credits.

Kendra Melton said...

Thank you so much for compiling all of these different reviews and videos. It can get quite time consuming digging through all the silly ones to find credible information.

thanks again!

Leah Waichulis said...

Thanks for another interesting post. This is the first time I heard about this iPad brush.

Sarah said...

In response to Rob Rey's post, Wacom does have a tablet that is pressure sensitive: Cintiq 21UX is an example. However, only certain default brushes are pressure sensitive.

In general, being an artist who uses both traditional and digital media, digital cannot come close to potential of traditional painting (when viewed in a traditional sense). Although these new tools for digital media are helpful in creating beautiful works, they're still within the realm of digital painting.

In my opinion, there is no substitute for the infinite factors that go into creating a traditional work, however digital works have a unique style of their own and are interesting in their own right.

innisart said...

@Harold - Are those tablets capacitive or resistive?

I know Wacom has capacitive screens which are sensitive enough that it is not necessary to actually touch the screen's surface to use them. If that sensitivity could be reined in and used to register minute degrees of proximity, that would make for an awesome portable tablet (in terms of art).

Juicyheart said...

Yes. There are PC laptops with built in pressure sensitive screens (I'm not sure if they are the models listed above), and I've seen them used in life drawing sessions I attend. There's also Axiotron which integrates wacom technology into MacBook (this does void your apple warranty).

I could see a pressure sensitive Bluetooth stylus, but it would need a battery making it heavier. And I'm not sure the iPad's processor is powerful, at this time, to take the pressure and directional input and render it in real time. Plus a program would have to support it, though I think this build the stylus, and the programs will come situation.