A Week in New York, beginning with live-sketching the Apple Keynote!

If you’d rather see what the trip was like, here’s a video with highlights, plus my thoughts on the 2018 iPad Pro, and advice as you consider which one’s right for you.

Apple Keynote, Halloween, NYC Marathon...all in 1 week. Whew!

No, I did not have a costume, and though the Missus and I wanted to to watch the parade, we made the mistake of deciding on a short nap before, then woke a little 1am after it was all over (thankfully, I got to draw some great costumes before that!)

And no, I was not running any marathon. We actually missed watching the race despite our hotel being blocks away from Central Park. This was our last day, and there were many things we wanted to do during our final hours. (We see massive crowds all the time in Hong Kong.)

Now the Apple keynote, though...! That was truly worth the 16hr 35min non-stop flight from Hong Kong to JFK! I’m not a member of the press, so when I was invited by Apple (for the first time) to attend a Keynote in New York City, the fanboy in me went NUTS!

 After many years of following events like these online, it was such a thrill to be invited to experience an Apple launch, live!

After many years of following events like these online, it was such a thrill to be invited to experience an Apple launch, live!

So, on the morning of October 30th, there I was, staring up at this huge Apple logo on the facade of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, also known as the Howard Gilman Opera House, amongst hundreds of members of the press, bloggers, vloggers, and influencers of all kinds....and to be honest, feeling a mixture of awe, delirious excitement, huge gratitude, and some uh...ineptitude, as everyone around me was expertly capturing the moment, especially via Instagram stories, which was never really my thing as... I, uh... didn’t know how. (I’ve just began learning after the trip to NYC.) Well, ok... I’d done IG stories maybe twice before, but I think the IG interface had changed, and I forgot how, which left me feeling really old as people everywhere were talking into their cameras, smiling and posing just so, looking very, very cool, their thumbs a blistering hashtagging blur...while I just grinned and grinned, pinching myself on occasion because boy, this was so surreal! In the best kind of way.

I was with a little group of press and influencers from Hong Kong, and although we’d never met before, had started to get to know one another quite nicely. We were becoming a tight band of bros, comprised of 2 hip young restauranteurs overseeing a growing Mac-run gastronomic empire, a social media maven, a PR maestro and me. (And they were all far cooler than I.)

It was pretty nippy that morning, and we were all jumping up and down and hugging ourselves, grinning a little silly, partly from excitement and partly from the cold, so it was incredibly welcome when a buzz of “time to go in” wafted over the crowd, and the entire congregation shuffled slowly into the building in the most amicable way, oohing and aahing at the building interior. Cameras in hand and necks craning, we ascended an escalator, smartphones panning and swooping to capture the moment, emerging into a waiting area with vaulted ceilings and...Yesss! Hot coffee! And snacks! Nothing like a tasty bite and warm, welcome beverage to steady the hand and get rid of the beginnings of the shivers... again both from the cold and sheer excitement.

Another aside for those of you who have no idea who I am or what I do, and (why should you, no offense taken)...I’m an urban sketcher, which means what I do, is draw on location. Ian Fennelly from the UK, coined the perfect phrase for this particular passion, “I don’t just sketch. I make art on location.” That’s what I do too. I create at the confluence of place + time + eye by absorbing the ambiance of a location and capturing its story on my canvas. And my media of choice for the past 5 years has been exclusively, the iPad. Naturally, I started sketching the scene as quickly as possible in an attempt to capture what was happening (on my 2017 iPad Pro); the energy, the crowd, the vibe... and boy, were there some vibes that day!

About 20 minutes of coffee and sketching later, as well as meeting some very nice people who were curious about what I was doing, another invisible signal went off, and at 30 minutes to showtime, we began heading into the auditorium.

I felt like I was attending a rock concert! Apple staff ushered us in, and I realized people had different colored passes. I don’t know the categories; only that those in our little group were red, which allowed us to “go right down”, and so our little band of bros did, making our way to the second row of the mezzanine level, which gave us an incredible view of the stage below. It was a little tight, but we were all cozy and buzzy from caffeine, anticipation and happy disbelief that we were there! A stranger left the row, which allowed us to scoot further in, giving us an almost dead-center view of the stage. I craned my neck and took the scene in; the ornate carvings climbing the walls and circling balustrades before framing the stage, the plush red seats, the whooping crowd, the sea of electronic devices glowing in the dim light, and of course, the big, bright Apple logo projected onto the stage backdrop. And I continued to draw.

As the countdown to 10AM began, the Apple logo on that backdrop began to animate, morphing into the many, many wonderfully creative versions of the logo that appeared on invitations to the event. That held everyone’s attention while effectively upping the ante. What would we see? What would they show? What would be upgraded?

The non-stop flight from Hong Kong to JFK is 16 hours and 30min, which was plenty of time to consider things. I remember looking at my 2017 iPad Pro, a device I was perfectly happy with and loved very, very much, wondering how on earth Apple was going to improve on it. Yes, a faster chip every year, and I’d read the rumors about thinner bezels and Face ID, all of which came true. But what else could they do?

Then Tim Cook appeared on-stage, and the crowd went wild. I went pretty wild too. I’m a fan of Steve Jobs and how he started Apple, his genius and all that, but there’s something about Tim - he just looks like a great guy; a level-headed, caring, responsible leader who is equal parts nice guy and strong, capable leader, fiercely protecting users’ privacy, even if it meant going toe-to-toe with the FBI. (And people I’ve met, who’ve met him, say it’s all true, and he really is a great guy.) And there he was, walking around on stage, waving at the crowd, which was SO loud, his first few sentences couldn’t be heard.

I have to admit, the initial product announcements didn’t really grab my attention as much. New Mac Mini!! Yay! New MacBook Air! Woot! I could see why people were excited, and I was excited for them, but these products weren’t for me. So I continued my sketch reportage of the event, attempting to capture the speakers and the main points they made. And then Tim said “iPad Pros” and I felt like a teenager screaming at some pop star. But I’m a Bass 2, so I can’t really scream and was more “yeaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!” in an Asian Barry White kinda way.

I don’t recall all the details of the Keynote, so I’m glad I sketched it and captured bits of key points. 12 billion transistors on the new A12X Bionic Chip! Wow!!! 8 core processing! Woooah!!! What the hell can 12 billion transistors do? I’m gadgety, but not really techie in a numbers kinda way, so I can’t really tell you. Make things go super fast! Like 92% faster than computers out there today, and from reviews I’ve read since, yes, it seems everyone confirms that the new iPad Pros are blazing fast.

What got me was how beautiful they had made the new iPad Pros. I mean, Apple videos are always pretty seductive, but boy, had they outdone themselves...this was sexy in an all-new way....the smaller bezels, the curved corners at the edges of the screen, the flat buttons and how crazy thin this thing is!!! After the keynote ended with Lana del Rey serenading us with a couple of songs, most of the masses headed over to the adjacent building for a hands-on look at everything that had just been announced.

Our little group headed over after the crowds and lines eased up a bit. Apple staff welcomed us like it was an iPhone launch. Cheery and pumped, they got us to wait our turn before releasing us into the main hall. We were met by another cavernous space, with gorgeously ornate vaulted ceilings, glittering with mosaics in gold, but I admit - I was just making a beeline for the iPad Pros, especially the 12.9” version. And omg....it was just as sexy in person as the video made it out to be!

And the Apple Pencil 2.0!!! Oh man...completely redesigned. Shorter... lighter! A matte finish, which feels so much better than gloss slickness. And the way it snaps on the top, which pairs, docks and charges the device automatically, so you never have to worry about topping it up - yes!!! Spot on, Apple designers!!!

For the remainder of the time, we walked about, checked things out, took photos, video and selfies.

Later that afternoon, I was invited to a little gathering of creatives from around the world, where we got to meet software developers and glimpse the future of possibilities, as well as be among the first in the world to get our hands on the latest and greatest iPad Pros. Ah! The excitement!!! Of note to me was seeing the crew from Savage Interactive again, creators of that amazing art-creation app, Procreate. They do an absolutely amazing (and sometimes thankless job) listening to their users, and are wonderful, wickedly funny people in real life too! It’s crazy how cheap the app is for what it does (a one-time purchase of USD 9.99 or equivalent), and these guys are constantly working to make it better, folding pro features of all kinds into a constant stream of wittily-written updates.

After that giddy high of unboxing all my new gear (like my birthday and Christmas had a baby), did several drawings in my hotel room; my first original Cronut, and a couple of quintessentially New York views. I mean, when you open the curtains and can see both the Empire State Building and Chrysler building in the distance, it’s a pretty awesome thing. Especially for a first-time visitor to the city!

Always a major treat when traveling is also the opportunity to meet and hang out with local urban sketchers, many of whom I’ve come to know and consider part of my global sketcher family. Being able to attend a local sketchwalk is also a top priority for me. I never tire of chatting with people and discovering the various ways we’ve all stumbled onto the passion that unites us. This time was no different, and made all the more special because I knew 2 local sketchers pretty well.

When in New York, you’ve gotta have a bagel, and we did, many times. Topped with good thick layer of cream cheese and lox is one of my fav ways to do it!

On the day of arrival, I met Ronnie Lawlor and her husband Neil, very briefly for a bowl of soup, while Louisa continued to chat with them over dinner. Ronnie has been on the faculty of many Urban Sketcher Symposia, and her amazing illustrations and reportage work is a huge inspiration to many.

Later, I also got to hang out with more urban sketchers from NYC.

Mark Liebowitz, who manages the NYC Urban Sketchers group, met the Missus and I one day for breakfast, then very generously proceeded to spend the whole day showing us the city he obviously loves. I wanted to stop at almost every corner to sketch and draw, but there was so much to see, and for once, our trip was short. So it was a day of highlights - we breezed past pumpkin piled high at Rockefeller Center, then did a whirlwind visit through MOMA, where Mark very kindly used his pass to get us in. We also sat and sketched quickly at the Sculpture Garden before heading out on the streets again.

Seeing Central Park has always been on my bucket list. Bonus when seen in the fall. Ding! Ding! All points scored this time. Mark told us that we were lucky - that its’ usually much colder at this time of the year, but the due to a long hot summer and late onset of autumn, many trees were still turning.

After exploring various corners, oohing and aching at foliage of blazing yellows and oranges, mottled with red here and there, we stopped at Bethesda Fountain to sketch. On our way to find a seat, we bumped into a little group of students and their teacher, who was showing them the value of learning to draw on location.

Lunch was at a lovely little lot close to the pond, and then we headed on to explore and see more. I began to realize how ginormous the Park was! We stopped again to have a quick look and sketch at the Guggenheim, which was closed. I did a sketch, but found myself more drawn to the foliage framing the building.

As it began to darken, my Missus peeled off to continue getting through her shopping list, and Mark and I resumed wandering the streets. We capped the sketching in front of the fountain at the Lincoln Center, before Mark showed me how to ride New York’s subway.

I clocked 21,316 steps that day, traipsing 13.51km and feeling like I had successfully burned all calories from the famous NYC bagels we’d been trying since arriving.

We also had a chance to attend a sketchwalk with NYC Urban Sketchers that Saturday, where we headed to the High Line, something else I’d been wanting very much to see and draw ever since watching a documentary on this gorgeous, ingenious urban park. And oh my! the explosion of color, just a few feet over the traffic below, was absolutely incredible!

It was also pretty darned cold, and plenty of wind was in the forecast. Branches waved, leaves fluttered and flew, like nature saying “Look at me! Look at me!” With a flourish before shedding its garments to herald the change of seasons.

Sketchers blew on their hands to warm up, and I felt very thankful that I had packed an extra scarf and touchscreen gloves, which enabled me to work fairly unhindered. Unless you count occasional bits of uncontrollable shuddering as a particularly strong gust blew through my many layers.

About 15 of us had lunch together at a lovely restaurant close to that spot at the High Line that looks like a sunken auditorium above the street. We chatted, exchanged sketchbooks, discussed techniques and after a bit, my iPad Pro made an appearance after I realized many people had not ever tried sketching with an Apple Pencil. This was my 2017 machine though, as I wasn’t ready to use my new baby on the streets quite yet.

Another familiar smiling face from several Symposiums I’d attended showed up to join us - Jason Das, former president of the Urban Sketcher movement. Hair perfectly tousled, and transformer biker helmet in hand, he joined us for lunch, and sketching as we headed back to the High Line for part 2.

The sky had shed its grumpy grey, turning a bright blue, which took the bite out of the winds, or at least made us more forgiving as the colors everywhere popped even more. By now, huge crowds were also admiring the views, the colors, and this glorious fall day on the High Line. Amidst much conversation, we got some more sketching done before wrapping at 3pm and heading to the third venue of the day.

I love it when sketchwalks end with food and drinks. The social part of urban sketching is hugely important. We get a chance to meet people, chat, and get to know one another much better. France van Stone, a.k.a. @wagonized met us at the fascinatingly eccentric Oscar Wilde pub for drinks, adding yet another highlight to an already remarkable day. it’s always such a treat to meet people who we only know by online handles.

Several sketchbooks made the rounds, passed between fistfuls of beer and ale. I was very happy to be able to participate for once. I had the foresight this time to print some of my work on thick, textured A4 sheets, and have them spiral-bound into books before the trip.

I can’t think of a better last painting to knock out before leaving NYC.

At one point, I looked up and saw 3 iPads glowing in the dim, amber light of the pub, and thought wow- how far we’d come! 5 years ago, my iPad Air was a novelty. iPad urban sketching is now an actual thing!

Our final day in NYC was a blur of food, sights and Uber shares to hit our last must-see spots, which include sketching the view from Dumbo, a visit and some shopping at that New York institution, B&H, and what better goodbye to the city than a sketch at Times Square!

Now I know why so many tourists wear those dinky I heart NY tees. I feel the same, and we’ll be back.

Sketching the 100th Anniversary Celebrations at Fátima, Portugal

Sketching the 100th Anniversary Celebrations at Fátima, Portugal

For a few days in mid-May 2017, I was a part of Sketch Tour Portugal, assigned with 3 other sketchers to document through sketch reportage, the 100th Anniversary celebrations at Fátima during the visit of Pope Francis.

Sketching Disappearing Hong Kong

My last piece of the day. Chinese signage and little bits of line work completed at home after I was chased off by stall owners cleaning up for the day. I've decided to leave this in black and white for now.

The last rooftop rendezvous at Shek Kip Mei from my previous post drew a lot interest among Urban Sketcher friends who missed out last time, so we agreed we’d go again. A date was picked, and on Saturday, 21 March, a whole bunch of them trudged up the dark, smelly staircase to sketch the view…only to find that half the rooftop was now gone!

I didn’t go that morning as I had a stack of work to catch up on, but was quite dismayed when I saw the photo the group shared, of the demolition crew crushing the building. That afternoon, we were due to meet at Graham Street, scene of yet another disappearing act of Hong Kong's oldest sectors.

I had just read about the URA's plans to 'renew' the area, but was really saddened to hear that this 170+ year old market, so unique, so Hong Kong, was slated for demolition by the end of the month! The Sketcher Kee group, also up in arms, had arranged to head down to Graham Street and sketch up a storm in order to preserve anything possible through their artwork. Many of us from Urban Sketchers HK also planned to go, and as soon as I was able, I headed down there as well.

There were many heads bowed before sketchbooks and drawing boards by the time I arrived. I walked up  from Wellington Street drinking in what I could. The narrow street was pedestrians only, and lined by stalls selling meat, vegetables, fruit and a variety of dry goods for completing a meal; noodles and rice, herbs and seaweed and spices. 

I watched the patrons too, and they came from all walks of life. Maids lugged bags of groceries for the evening meal. Tai-tais picked expertly through piles of dried mushrooms for the best morsels. Expat couples living in the area browsed, their shopping bags piled with produce from the various stalls. Locals bought their fruit, regulars traded news with stall owners, and tourists swiveled their heads constantly, eyes glued to viewfinders, or smartphones constantly raised. Click-click for posterity. Good thing too. I was updated by Gui and Alvin after bumping into them later. Apparently, scaffolding would be erected the very next day so demolition works could begin. 

To the right, a wall had been erected, blocking off the construction site that marked a block already torn down earlier. The tattoo of jackhammers filled the air. I guess that's part of the rhythm of Hong kong, like it or not. I couldn't help but feel a welling sadness at the loss of this place though. By 2017, Graham Street would be just another typical commercial-hotel spot.

My view for Sketch No.1 (below)

To the right, a wall had been erected, concealing the construction site that marked a block already torn down earlier. The tattoo of jackhammers filled the air. I guess that's part of the rhythm of Hong kong, like it or not. I couldn't help but feel a welling sadness at the loss of this place though.

I'm going to miss this place

Ben's familiar face was up ahead where the pathway opened up because some stalls had long packed up and closed, knowing their days were numbered. Looking up, I fell in love with the higgledy-piggledy facades of the block in front of me. I've been fascinated by the Kowloon Walled City since hearing about it, and looking, up, imagined that it might have looked a little like this. Balconies jutted at different angles, as did the facades. Different widths, different styles, different metalwork, yet all part of the character of the area; an unmistakeable identity that many of you reading this now, will never see in real life if you haven't already. 

My Walkstool is better than my Helinox One chair in spots like this. Easy to set up and able to squeeze into tight spaces, I set up in a snap, soaked the view in and put stylus to screen. All the line work for this piece was done on location, and color added later at home.

Wanting to make the most of my time, I packed up as soon as I was done, and headed uphill to where Graham Street intersected with Gage Street, taking several reference shots along the way. Up ahead, more sketchers could be seen at various nooks and corners, heads bowing and raising in that particular bird-like way. I had about an hour of daylight left, and eventually decided to spend what remained of that on the edge of Gage Street, in front of a closed up stall. Taxis sometimes whizzed past, honking and missing my knees by inches.

The market on Gage Street closes at 7pm, and it wasn't long before the stalls around me began to pack up for the day. I was ultimately forced to leave when a hoarse voice behind me declared that I'd be soaked if I didn't move. The fishmonger was in the process of hosing down the sidewalk at closing time. Ah well...by then, I'd gotten most of my line work done anyway.

Just before heading off, I took a final look down Graham St. There are upper sections that are also slated for demolition, but maybe not just yet. I know where I'll be sketching whenever I have some time off in the next few months.

Sketchcrawl at Sham Sui Po (and Shek Kip Mei)

Gary delivers the morning brief

I am fascinated by the area in an around Sham Sui Po.

Apliu Steet for instance, has been an irresistible draw for me for years; a Gadget-Geekland that pops to mind whenever I need a tool or little doodad of any kind. It's a rather local spot, devoid of the usual crush of tourists, apart from a few who browse the stalls festooned with LED torches, cheap binoculars, phone or photographic accessories, and other gewgaws of all kinds.

By day, there are huge sections of the area dedicated to the garment trade, and you can find here every kind of fabric, bead and button for whatever you might be trying to make. Amidst the eateries and stores that sell daily necessities, there are also little metalsmiths, hammering and welding away beside dark garages that look like rows of mechanical dentists, filled with open-mouthed vehicles, bended torsos disappearing into their cavernous maws.

Except for the vehicles in the distance, this could be Hong Kong in the 60s

It wasn't surprising then, when a couple of weeks ago, my ears pricked up at word of the Urban Sketchers Hong Kong Sketchcrawl at Sham Sui Po. Some of the buildings in the area are a hundred years old; and that's old for Hong Kong. We were going to check out some vintage signage that almost spanned the entire street that Gui had photographed wonderfully previously. That particular stretch of Tai Nan St at 10:30am is absolutely quiet on a Sunday morning. I liked the scene, but prefer to draw ones with more people, so moved on quickly.

My morning really began with curious crowds milling around a few of us who were perched on stools at a busy intersection. The locals were very encouraging, praising talent and urging on those who made attempts to tame and capture the thousands of details that popped before us. A few of us focused on an older 3-storey building at a corner, and a particularly chirpy resident of these parts volunteered the entire history of the place and the family that still owns it; how many sons, who did what, who treated the father well, the family trade (Chinese medicine), and how it's fared all these years. I only understood one in maybe 40 words, thus capturing only the broadest gist of things. (I should really bone up on Cantonese so I can fully appreciate what the locals have to offer.)

 To loosen up, I opted to work fast and really loose. This was done in about 40min

To loosen up, I opted to work fast and really loose. This was done in about 40min

At lunch, we looked to Chloe, who lived nearby, and she led us several blocks over, to a little Daipaidong (street food stall) on a quiet alley in neighboring Shek Kip Mei. This place was famous for its pork chop noodle, and was packed. It took a while to seat about 20 people, and we eventually split into smaller groups, huddled around folding tables. Naturally, most of us got the house special, a reasonable HKD38 set for a tall glass of iced milk tea, and a big bowl of noodles with tasty fried pork chops.

We dispersed after lunch, though I stayed on that street. It was unlike any I'd ever seen in Hong Kong. I felt like I had stepped 20-30years into the past, the illusion only shattering when one realizes that many little old ladies today have smartphones. After craning my neck and picking my scene, I stuffed myself into a little space between the main street and a barricade at a traffic crossing. The row of buildings before me were only 4 storeys high; a rarity in Hong Kong today, where 40 must be the average. Many of the homes here looked in various states of abandonment and disrepair, but they brimmed with wonderful character to me. I sat enthralled and did my first decent sketch of the day. 

I love these old curvy buildings! Wanting to make the most of time, I decided to skip coloring, or just save it for later.

A little over an hour later, our Whatsapp chat group alerted me to the fact that some of my Sketcher mates were on a rooftop around the corner. Their directions led me up several flights of dark, narrow stairs, reeking of decay. The lower floors were inhabited, but the upper levels were abandoned. It looked like the residents just chucked stuff they didn't want on the staircase, and I had to tread very carefully around battered furniture, broken toys and close to the top, a karaoke mic and maybe the player that once went with it.

This gives you an idea...it's more fascinating in reality, but I guess that also means I need to take better photos!

Emerging into the sunlight was something else. The rooftop spanned the entire block. Overgrown and strewn with discarded furniture, it felt otherworldly to be up there. Leftover sheds that once housed vegetable patches were now wild; equal parts spreading green and brown shriveled vines. And the flowers! There were copious amounts of a wonderfully spunky, showy red variety that looked like firecrackers ready to be set off. Huge bunches of red bristled everywhere. Look closer, and there were also smaller spangles of pink and yellow, a little shyer in the shade of the wall.

6 of my sketcher buddies were spread out, but many clustered around the parapet to the west. I wandered over to see what seemed to rivet them, and soon discovered why they were excited (in a way only urban sketchers can be).

Broad strokes of pastel and liberal splatter really help to bring out the deliciously grungy feel of the place

A narrow alley separated our rooftop from another block of rundown buildings. The rooftop there was even more overgrown. Several old ficus trees had taken root, spanning at least half the height of the 4-storey block. Green shot up from every crack, and there were many. Someone pointed out a group of lazy cats down below, sprawled and napping on the tin roof. To my surprise, there was food for them in copious amounts! At least 3 open newspaper pages held mounds of dried cat food. I wondered who fed these fat feral cats, but we never found out.

Thinking the entire building was abandoned, I suddenly realized that it was not when flapping laundry caught my eye. Two whole sagging rails of it! It was pretty grungy down below, and I first wondered if the clothing had also been abandoned, but slivers of bright whites and a fresh bit of orange winked from the murk. Right in the middle of the decaying structure, it seemed like people had made themselves at home in at least two flats on the upper floors of the block. The windows were either broken or off their hinges, and the balcony rail looked like it might give way at any point, but home it was to someone. I wondered if the toilet worked.

Whatever its condition as a home, it was an irresistible sight, and I, like the other sketchers busily painting it, set to capture it as best I could.

Every corner of that rooftop holds wonders to draw. We left that evening, vowing to return soon. 

 

The Best iPad Sketching Equipment for Your Mobile Digital Sketching Studio

I've been sketching exclusively with an iPad for the last year and a half. I've also conducted a few workshops on the subject now (just did one for an Apple Store last Friday), and been asked many, many times about the equipment I use. While I have written about some items before, I thought I'd do a post that summarizes my top-recommended gear and accessories for easy reference.

 The core of the Ultimate Mobile Digital Sketching Studio: An iPad and the app, Procreate

The core of the Ultimate Mobile Digital Sketching Studio: An iPad and the app, Procreate

iPad

I'm still using the original iPad Air and love it. The iPad Air 2 was released in October 2014, and is even lighter, and more powerful. If you're serious about sketching on the iPad, I'd suggest you get the latest model, with the largest capacity you can afford (Tip: don't buy 16GB iPads - you'll be wasting a ton of time trying to manage space). This will future-proof you for at least 2-3 years. 

If you have an older iPad and wonder whether you'll still be able to use it, the oldest you can use with a good pressure-sensitive stylus is the 3rd generation iPad, released in 2012. Apple started using Bluetooth 4.0 technology then, and this is the standard for all the best styli on the market now.

Guess what the pros use to create? After testing multiple art/sketching apps, I can confidently say that there's nothing like Procreate. Simple yet highly customizable, it stays out of your way while ensuring that all the tools you need are easily accessible in a clean UI.

 Still my favorite stylus! Remember that the nib is modified though.

Still my favorite stylus! Remember that the nib is modified though.

Stylus

After testing many (detailed reviews coming in the following weeks), my top favorite is still my old Wacom Intuos Creative Stylus. This is the first generation model, released late 2013. I have tested the 2nd generation model, and unfortunately cannot recommend it until Wacom fixes some of its serious bugs. The good news for you guys is that the old model is now considerably cheaper! The not so great news is that for best results, you should modify it with the Jaja nibs by Hex3 that I listed in my previous post. Fortunately, once you have the tips in hand, the modification is quick and very easy. (You could do it in 15 minutes tops.)

I have also tested the latest Adonit Jot Touch with Pixelpoint (what a mouthful!) and that's what I recommend if you'd like to get a good pressure sensitive stylus without needing to modify anything. This is a new release and is pretty good. Full review coming up in the following weeks.

 This tablet holder takes sketching on the iPad to a whole new level. Absolute awesomeness!

This tablet holder takes sketching on the iPad to a whole new level. Absolute awesomeness!

iPad/Tablet Holder

This one raises eyebrows wherever I go, and after using it every day for hours on end, I can also highly, highly recommend it. The Twist 360 is an extremely versatile universal tablet holder. I love that it can accommodate most larger tablets (sorry, 7" tablets - Kindles, iPad Minis - don't fit, but I'm testing one that does and will post that later). The Twist 360 is a wonder that allows me to hold my iPad in a myriad ways, stand it horizontally or vertically, with any degree of tilt I desire, even hang it. It takes sketching on the iPad to a totally different level and I'm totally dependent on it!

Sketcherman-agloves_capactive_gloves.jpg

Capacitive Gloves

I have hunted high and low for a pair I like and tested several that I didn't. These gloves from Agloves are awesome. Woven through with conductive silver in bamboo fabric, they're really comfortable and allow me to to use multi-finger gestures on my iPad while serving 2 purposes: keeping my hands warm in cold weather, as well as erasing smudges on the screen! haha! I like that the entire glove is capacitive, not just the tips. These are very light and pretty thin (exactly what I was looking for) and so may not be sufficient for you if your winters are very cold. Agloves has thicker, warmer versions for that.

Sketcherman-Helinox_walkstool.jpg

Great Seating on the Go

I've being doing a lot of urban sketching, and when you're out and about, good, solid, ergonomic seating is paramount. While evaluating my options, I decided that what I purchased had to fulfill 4 important criteria:

  1. my choice had to be as light as possible 
  2. had to be really well-made and last me at least 10 years 
  3. pack really small
  4. support my lower back! 

Here are my favorite options, ticking all the boxes and working better in slightly different situations. The Helinox One Camp Chair was my first purchase. It's really quick and pretty idiot-proof to set up, and packs to about the size of a sneaker. Weighing in at under 1kg and under 2lbs, I can pick it up with my little finger. This beauty is also so comfortable to sit in, and yet is strong enough to take 350lbs! It leans back a bit, and is probably not for those who like to be very upright. (I do find that slipping a jacket behind me is an easy fix for that when i do want to sit up straighter.) Another plus: the curve of the fabric cups my elbow, thus supporting my arm for the hours I spend outdoors sketching. When it's time to kick back, have a drink and swap sketching stories under the trees, wow- this is the absolute best chair to stretch out and relax in!

The Helinox One has a larger footprint and takes about 20-30 seconds to set up however. When I know that I won't have much space (think museum interiors and narrow sidewalks) and want almost instant setup and takedown, my seating of choice is the Walkstool 55 XL. It comes with its own handy mesh bag that you can sling over a shoulder. I really wanted something that would fit into any of my backpacks, however. Telescoped, it's a compact 14" long, and love that this stool can be used at 2 lengths: short and fully extended. There are several sizes, so you can pick one that suits your build. The seat is large and comfy, and I was delighted to find that (in addition to lightning fast setup) I automatically sit up straight when I use it. Slouching takes effort when I'm on it, so my posture instantly improves!

Neither of the 2 seating options is particularly cheap, but pick any up and you'll feel instantly that they're built to last. I've used a lot of bargain basement clunkers that were either bad for the back or heavy as hell. Truly, you get what you pay for, and as sketching outdoors is something I do so much, I realized I should just invest in solid, dependable options. These are light, strong, very durable and ergonomic to boot! I figured if I got 10 years out of them, these would each only cost me about $10 a year. When you look at it like that, they're no brainers, really.

Do you have other equipment to recommend? I'm always on the lookout for gear that improves my on location sketching experience. Please add your suggestions in the comments! :)