25 September, 2018


Having invested in a Surface Pro 5 (Microsoft have actually ditched the numbering system and just called this model the Surface Pro), it was only right that I should look for a more powerful painting package than ArtRage 5. Why, I don't know, because I'm no professional, LOL.  I could probably spend the next 10 years using ArtRage and never even come close to understanding or using all of its features! Anyway, I like new software and so I examined all the options and ended up getting Corel Painter 2019 which has just been released.

The Surface Pro is a powerful tablet/laptop running Windows 10. I opted for the Intel i5 processor with 8gb ram and 256gb storage. I would have gone for the i7 processor but that model comes with a fan built into the tablet and that really didn't appeal to me at all.

As far as I'm concerned, an Intel i5 CPU is more than capable for the sort of stuff that I do on a PC. And besides, the i7 starts getting incredibly expensive, especially when you upgrade the ram and storage! At the end of the day, I have to remember that this is a hobby. Well actually, it's a tool to help out with two hobbies - painting and photography!

After using an iPad Pro 12.9,  the SP5 takes some getting used to. In the beginning, I started to get a little frustrated because it wasn't working as intuitively as the iPad, but then I realised that without the keyboard attached to the device, I needed to switch from Desktop Mode to Tablet Mode. Kinda dumb really, because it should change modes automatically as far as I'm concerned as soon as it detects that you've removed the keyboard! Ah well, maybe there's a way to activate that option and I've just not found it yet.

The BIGGEST advantage that the SP5 has over the iPad Pro is the filing system of Windows. You can create directories whenever and wherever you want on a PC and that is incredibly helpful (and normal)! The iPad on the other hand is incredibly awkward in terms of storing files away. Apple won't give you the freedom of creating folders willy nilly and I found it ever so troublesome understanding where various files were physically stored on the device. Grrrr. That's one of the biggest reasons I bought the SP5 and gave my iPad to the Mrs.

I could, of course, have used my laptop, but that means using a separate drawing tablet like the Wacom Intuos Pro, which I find gives you a very "detached" drawing experience. No, I had to be able to draw directly onto a screen.

The SP5 has a screen ratio of around 3:2 instead of the iPad's 4:3 and at first I though this was a negative feature but in reality it means that the over-wide screen lets you comfortably place toolboxes to the left or right of your image. The screen does feel a bit on the small size after using the gigantic 12.9 inch iPad, but you soon become accustomed to the small size.

So, down to the software. ArtRage is an excellent piece of kit (see earlier review) but after seeing lots of online videos showboating the all singing, all dancing Painter 2019, it seemed like it was the only way forward. After all, if you're going to invest a lot of your precious leisure time learning how to use a piece of software, I guess it makes sense to invest your time in a professional program.

Painter 2019 initially looks pretty daunting and normally I'd steer well clear of such software, but the truth is, it has amazing colour mixing abilities which really do mimick the actions of real paint. Their Thick Paint brushes are just unbelievable! Needless to say, everything is in the wrong place and difficult to understand after a couple of years on ArtRage, but I'm slowly getting my head around the basics.

I remember when I first downloaded the free ArtRage app and recall how God-Damned awful my first attempts were. Well it's the same with Painter. I need to keep on going until I become comfortable with it.

I very much look forward to learning and creating some images worthy of printing.

30 August, 2018

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I saw this painting online somewhere and it really appealed to me so I decided to give it a go. Although it's not a patch on the original, I am really pleased with the end result and have even gone to the trouble of printing it for framing! Best of all though, it taught me a few more lessons in ArtRage and that's always good because it gets me more comfortable with the interface and the tools - which in turn should get me closer to making my very own creations from scratch instead of having a go at someone else's work.

ArtRage 5 on Surface Pro 5

I used 6 layers for this piece and I created them right at the very start....

1) Background Sketch
2) Background Colours
3) The Cat
4) The Mouse
5) The Cake
6) The Flowers

What I SHOULD have done, was to have another layer inbetween 5 and 6 called The Vase! That would have been real helpful - one of the lessons learned.

20 August, 2018


I started painting (using watercolour) in 2004 at the grand old age of 46 :-) and although I was pretty darned pathetic at it, I persevered until I became slightly less pathetic! And when I won a 1st Place Trophy at a local painting exhibition, I was locked into the hobby good and proper!

 After a while I switched to oils and then acrylics, but never really had much success - needless to say, I'm my own worse critic. Then a found a blog called 120 PAINTINGS by Jim Mahorney and he taught me to accept my failings, learn from them and move on. So that's exactly what I did. I started this blog with the intention of producing 86,  8x6-inch quick paintings and post every single one, good or bad. I started out with the intention of doing a 'painting a day' in order to learn quickly, but that didn't quite work out for me.

Over time, I got slightly better at all three mediums but being an expert procrastinator, I always found reasons not to paint and most of the reasons were based on the fact that it was a bit messy or I didn't have enough room or my wife wanted me to be with her, etc, etc. The biggest excuse for not starting to paint though, was that I am not a natural drawer. Sure, I can sketch roughly and can get something down on paper, but if I wanted to commit to a bigger painting, I found the drawing aspect to be a real challenge - and was usually very reluctant to even start! I always had three battles on my hands (in addition to preparing an area to paint in and setting up an easel and laying out the paints, brushes, mediums, cloths, etc)...

1) Stop staring at the blank canvas and sketch!
2) Start applying paint!
3) Finish the painting!

As much as I wanted to paint (and I always wanted to), I found it to be a bit of a chore. That is until I found Digital Painting. I had an 8" Samsung Galaxy Tab tablet and just out of curiosity, downloaded a painting app called ArtRage. Soon enough I was producing small sketches using my finger and then later using a passive stylus. These sketches were extremely basic and I pretty much gave up on the idea until I bought my wife a 10" Samsung TAB-S with built in active pressure-sensitive stylus.

The TAB-S was a bit of a revelation. That stylus made all the difference to the digital painting experience! The screen too was dramatically better than my older tablet and ArtRage was a dream to work with. My wife started to quickly produce some good work on the TAB-S and I was showing more and more interest in it.

Soon after I invested in a new iPad Pro 12.9 (2nd Generation) with an Apple Pencil. This bad boy was big and professional and used by many established artists, so surely this would make me a great painter, yes?? Well no, actually. But it did give me a great high-resolution screen with the ability to work on larger canvases than the TAB-S. The Apple Pencil was obviously pressure-sensitive and even the lean-angle of the pencil was detected. All good - so I started to search Amazon for an ArtRage For Idiots book, but there was none. In fact there were no guide books on ArtRage at all which was a bit of a disappointment, but thankfully, there were plenty of Video Tutorials on YouTube.


When starting out learning to paint, many people set off on their journey by copying what other artists have done. I was no different. I would find paintings on the internet which really inspired me and then 'have a go' at them. Now there's a hell of a lot of people who will tell you that this is a bad thing to do, insisting that you find your own style. Well that's fine for them, but I didn't have any style of my own (see my tailor), so I had to develop one by studying other people's work.

By copying the work of other artists, I believe that you can learn a lot in a short space of time. Especially if you vary the styles you are copying. Soon enough, you will find that you have to study less and that you make your marks on the canvas without referencing the source image.

As mentioned previously, I am not a natural drawer, so I tend to use whatever tools are available to me in order to get a decent outline sketch onto the canvas. The old Masters used the "Squaring Up" method and some even used a form of projection in order to get that all important perspective right. Some used tracing paper - yes as far back as the early 1800's.

Fortunately, ArtRage has a tracing tool built in, which allows you to superimpose an image onto your canvas so that you can accurately sketch an outline. Once you're done, you switch it off and you're left with a decent sketch on which to build your painting.

Is tracing an outline cheating? Well it certainly feels like it! Despite the knowledge that the 'Old Masters' traced in one form of another, I would feel much better about myself if I didn't need to do it! And the fact is, I often don't need to do it - especially if it's a landscape scene. But sometimes, the scene you want to paint is extremely complex - so much so, that you decide not to even bother!

A good example of this would be my decision to paint my all-time favourite camera. I had already painted cameras on small canvas panels using my own hand drawn outlines, but they were very impressionistic and didn't need lots of detail. I was happy with the outcome...

Hand-Drawn Oil Sketches

But when it came to doing a more detailed painting, it was essential that I got the perspective and detailing right. I needed the buttons to be in just the right location. I needed to make sure that the multiple rings around the lens were going to be inline. A little bit like making sure that the eyes of a person are in exactly the right part of the face.

Traced-Outline Digital Painting

When it comes to tracing, I personally make as few marks as possible - just enough to help me get the overall proportions right. Sometimes, I do nothing more than draw dots to indicate the width of height or position of something. I guess it's up to you to decide what you feel comfortable with.

Anyway, the fact is, ArtRage has the facility to aid you in your initial sketch, and as far as I'm concerned, that's a good thing! Use it or don't use it. It's not cheating - it's just another artists' tool.

So with that out of the way, let's move onto the actual painting bit. Having a sketch onscreen is just the first step. There's a hell of a lot do do from there! And it's not easy - far from it. Getting familiar with the virtual tools needs practise and patience. Repetition is the best tutor, I've found. The more you play around with ArtRage, the better.

And don't try to produce a winner from the get go. It's not going to happen. Start off by drawing simple objects and learn how to shade them. Maybe work in Monochrome to start off with. Go through the various tools one at a time and get familiar with it just by doodling.

Do some unimportant sketches using the pencil tool and then switch to the marker pen and then the airbrush, etc. Don't rush from one thing to another though - stick with one tool until you understand how it works in its basic form and then how all the settings effect it. You can alter things like size, opactity, pressure and a lot more.

Only move on to a new tool when you really feel comfortable with the previous one. This part of the learning curve is really important and although you will probably feel eager to try everything, resist the temptation if you can.

One of the best tips I can give you is to USE LAYERS!!!  I kept saying this to my wife and she kept resisting. And then eventually, it clicked with her and she just can't do without them now.

When you open up your new blank canvas and start to draw on it, you've actually created a layer - it's the background layer. If you carry on painting on top of your sketch (as you would in a normal painting scenario), you would lose your sketch under the paint. But with ArtRage (and most other painting apps) you can create a new layer over your background layer and although it looks like your sketch has been lost to the paint, it can easily be brought to the top of the painting. OR you can use your sketch-marks as guidelines for your painting and then delete the sketch layer completely to hide those marks from your work.

The fact is, the more layers you have, the better. You can work on your piece without causing damage to the underpainting. Think of it as a non-destructive glazing technique - at least!

There's lots of painting/sketching tools in ArtRage and they are all displayed on the left side of your screen. This tool-palette can be shrunk away when you want to declutter the screen, as can the paint-palette.

When you make a wrong move, it 's easy to hit the undo-button (multiple times if required) or you can click on the Eraser and go rubbing out. Thankfully, you can also have a "Reference Image" up in the corner and it's even resizeable...

Another tip for beginners - think about print sizes!! It's all too easy to start painting and find that your wonderful creation is a really odd shape and you'll have to have a custom-frame made for your print. Start every painting (unless you don't care about custom-frame costs) with a particular format in mind.

Needless to say, the most flexible format is Square! You can print the resulting painting to whatever size square frame you fancy - 8x8, 10x10, 16x16, etc, etc.

If you are opting for a rectangular format (portrait or landscape), then choose a suitable size. For example, if you were thinking of an 8x6" print, then you need to create a canvas size in the 4:3 ratio, say 4000 pixels wide and 3000 pixels high.

Bear in mind that the higher the pixels, the higher the resolution of the image. Higher resolution means more options to print big! If you chose (for example) a canvas size of 400 x 300 pixels, then you would only be able to make a very small print of your work before it became pixelated.

But bear in mind too, that any brush size will be smaller onscreen (and canvas) the higher the resolution you choose. Conversely, a brush mark will seem huge when you use a very small canvas.

If you have no intention of printing big and just want to produce paintings for your own enjoyment on your Tablet/PC, then don't worry about it.

So there you go - Digital is fun and relatively easy. I say easy because whatever you do wrong, you can undo at the touch of a button and have another go at it. There's a lot to learn and it will never replace tradtional painting in oils or watercolour, but it's an alternative and best of all, it can be done anywhere - even on that long flight to your holiday destination.

And it's a fantastic sketchbook too! ArtRage makes it so easy to take a photo of your chosen scene and sit down to create a wonderful painting from it. Give it a go!

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I was left home-alone this morning and so I made a pot of Italian coffee and started to doodle with my iPad Pro using ArtRage. Before I knew it, I'd completed 5 pieces and started 2 more (to be revealed later). Here's the first five....






25 July, 2018

169 of 86


This is a place which Turner actually visited to paint - it's called Ruskins View in Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria. In the distance, you will see a small farm holding (Kirkfit Hall, Casterton) which has very oddly painted outbuildings! 

The story to this unusual sight is that the farmer applied for planning permission to make some changes to one of his barns and the local council rejected the plans on the basis that it would spoil the look of the area. The farmer's response to the rejection was to apply a garish looking paint scheme to the existing building!  Hahaha, I quite like it, hence this painting.

I used Griffin Alkyds to complete this work and really quite enjoyed it.

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BELMONT - Oil - 8" x 6"

This is a local scene looking over Belmont toward St.Peters church with the sun setting in the background. I used Griffin Alkyd Oils for this and it's been a long time since I've used them. Hmmm, more practice me thinks...

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THE STEPS - Pen, Wash & Pastel - 14" x 11"

Another gorgeous weekend, so I did some more painting. This didn't come out quite as I wanted but hey-ho.

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THE WOODS - Watercolour - 8" x 10"

Quick watercolour sketch....

04 June, 2018

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KIRKBY LONSDALE - Pen & Wash - 8" x 6"

Gorgeous weekend, so I decided to do a spot of painting before going to the pub for a few cooling drinks :-)

30 May, 2018

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HOT & COLD - Acrylics - 8" x 8"

Two small acrylics which I enjoyed painting and which I enjoy having on display at home in white box-frames.

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FLORAL MEADOW - Watercolour

Just realised that I've never posted this painting that I did in 2016! This one is hung up in my lounge - I like it!

11 May, 2018

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GOLDEN OPEN ACRYLICS! Test-Painting, 7x5"

I had the opportunity to try out some new Acrylics tonight, called Golden Open. They differ from normal acrylics in that they have a longer drying time. I was only given the three Primary Colours so I had to use a tube of System-3 White. The full range of Golden Open paints extends to 40 colours.

As usual, I added a little Flow Improver to my water and everything seemed pretty normal when I started to paint. The viscosity was a little on the thin side for my liking, but not vastly different to say, W&N Galeria.

Within a short space of time I began to get a little irritated at the drying time, because I'm just so used to acrylics drying very quickly. I thought that the Golden Open had a slightly longer drying time but for me, it was just way too long! Even when i returned to the painting the next morning, I was unable to complete it because areas were still wet, preventing me from getting the effect I wanted. 

I'm not sure I'd invest in a set of these paints because I have an "in-grained" expectation of acrylics and if I wanted to have a drying time of 24 HOURS (much longer if applied thickly), then i would probably switch to using Griffin Alkyds instead. Another point worth noting is that you cannot varnish your painting for something like 30 days! Now I normally varnish my acrylics a couple of days after completing them, so this is a big bugbear!

Having said that, I can imagine these paints would be quite popular with artists who do a lot of Plein Air painting on hot summer days when the paint usually dries way too quickly (or even dry windy days).

Photo to follow.

08 May, 2018

160 of 86

GOUACHE!  Blue Moon, 7x5"

I recently purchased some Gouache paints and decided to have a play with them this weekend. Bad idea, because it was BURNING HOT in the garden, so the paint was drying as quick as I could paint! I found it all very tricky and I need to watch some videos of better Gouache Artists on YouTube.

16 April, 2018

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We went for a weekend away to Kirkby Lonsdale last Friday and in my sister's apartment I found an old sketchbook that I must have left there some time ago (well 2016 to be specific). Here's the contents....

12 April, 2018



Because I've just posted a load of my digital paintings, done on my iPad Pro, I thought I'd show you my Fiancee's work done on her Samsung TAB-S3. As you will soon discover, there's no difference in the quality of work which can be achieved on either tablet. The only real difference is that I can create a bigger "canvas" because of the higher resolution of the iPad Pro.

Liana normally paints acrylics but she's taken to digital better than me!

156 of 86


DIGITAL - ARTRAGE ON IPAD PRO.  After buying an iPad Pro 12.9" tablet, I was soon downloading all the various painting apps and trying to get to grips with their complex array of tools. It was pretty confusing and eventually, I settled with ArtRage because it is very simple and intuitive. I have recently purchased Affinity Photo and hope to master its complexities, but for now, ArtRage is the paintbox of choice.

If you've never tried Digital Painting, you really should give it a go. I hear many people say "Yes, but it's not real art is it"?  Well I'm not getting into that debate - all I will say that even if you don't approve of it for a final painting, it is absolutely superb as a Sketch Book for producing full paintings at a later day. You can take your tablet with you wherever you go and your work is usually automatically uploaded onto the iCloud and available to you wherever you are in the world.

I am lucky enough to own an Apple iPad Pro 12.9 with an Apple Pencil, but you can use ArtRage on virtually any tablet. My wife has a Samsung TAB-S3 which comes with a SUPERB pencil which doesn't even need charging!! 

Our Own Art-Club!

Each Friday we go to the local Art-Club in Horwich. It's a thriving club with a broad range of people of all ages and skill-levels. Apart from the regular painting sessions, we have many professional artists visiting us to demonstrate their skills and to run workshops.

But sometimes, it's nice when just a few friends get together mid-week too, and so here we are in Simon's "studio", benefitting from the skill and experience of his father, Brian Waddington. It looks a bit cramped in there, but we were just huddled together to fit in the photo frame :-)

And you can drink beer in this club! :-)