An interview with artist and blogger Michael Nobbs

Matthew Watkins

Michael, you have been an inspiration to me and other bloggers and artists for years. From your hilltop in Wales, even though you have an illness that saps your energy, you draw every day, blog and post links to the best art known to man. You have helped many other people ill or not, make better use of their time and energy or be, as you put it, Sustainably Creative.

Last time we spoke you were still waiting for your ipad and your daily drawing was with pencils and sharpie pens.

FP: So, how do you like the iPad?

MN: I absolutely love my iPad! I suspect I’ve hardly put it down since I got it about three weeks ago (which probably isn’t very good for my general health and wellbeing, but I am having fun with it).


FP: How has fingerpainting changed your drawing? Your daily routines?

MN: I don’t think it’s changed my drawing, I had already been moving away from those Sharpies you mentioned, and doing more and more work digitally, drawing in Photoshop with a graphics tablet, or scanning drawings on paper and then colouring in Photoshop. What the iPad has done is made the process quicker and a lot more fun. I really enjoy drawing on the screen and (after trying a stylus) am getting a lot of pleasure from drawing and colouring with my finger. The newness of it has reignited the joy of the drawing process for me, I feel rather like I did when I first picked up a pen and a Moleskine after reading Danny Gregory’s wonderful Everyday Matters.

I tend to reach for my iPad first thing in the morning and make a drawing, which is lovely way to start the day.

Definitely a boiled eggs and soldiers day

FP: What are you fave apps?

MN: I seem to have settled on Adobe Ideas. I like the simplicity of it. All I really want from an app is the ability to draw a line and colour and then be able to export a high resolution image. Layers are also important to my drawing process and Ideas now includes those. For it to be the perfect app I would stop it adding the thin lined frame it automatically includes with every image when they are saved to the iPad’s photo album (what is that about?), add a colour-picker and a flood-fill tool. Oh, and it would also be good to have the ability to export to Flickr, but I’m just being picky now!

I’ve tried quite a few other apps. I liked Sketchbook Pro a lot (especially the fact that it had a flood-fill tool) but the exported images aren’t anywhere near good enough quality. Brushes too is lovely to use. Again it lacks a flood-fill tool, and I also had problems with exporting images with large areas of solid colour which was the thing that made me stop using it.

FP: Do you prefer to use your finger or use a stylus?

MN: My finger.

Not just for breakfast

FP: Have you encountered any problems making art on your ipad?

MN: Physically I adopt a terribly posture when I draw, and I’ve been drawing a lot, so that is becoming an issue. I get very lost in making a drawing, so I need some sort of external reminder to make me stop and take a break. Because of my illness overdoing things can lead to very long periods of being unable to do very much of anything and quite a bit of physical discomfort, so I really do need to be careful. I’m hoping that when the initial excitement of having a new toy wears off I can get into a better routine with drawing (and learn to adopt a better posture!).

Technically it’s taken me a while to find a good work flow. When I first got the iPad I tried a lot of apps. It felt important to me to be able to do all the work on the iPad (including any sharing of the finished image I wanted to do online) and then be able to export the image to my main Mac for storage. Sadly no apps completely worked for me. Brushes was the closet allowing me to draw, post the final drawing to Flickr and Twitter easily, and then email the file to my Mac for exporting later. Sadly the problems I’ve had with solid colour when exporting meant I decided to stop using it.

Now I draw in Adobe Ideas, email the vector PDF to my main Mac, and then save the drawing to the iPad’s photo album. I then open the image in Zagg Photopad (great free image editing app) where I crop away that annoying frame that Ideas adds. I then open it in Brushes to upload the drawing to Flickr. All a little clunky, but it does work!

FP: Where and how do you publish your ipad works?

MN: At the moment I’m posting my iPad drawing to my Flickr account and also use some to illustrate posts on my blog, Sustainably Creative. I’m sure a lot of my drawings will also find their way into the next issue of my illustrated journal, The Beany.

FP: Thanks Michael, we will be looking forward to seeing more great art from you.

Michael Nobbs is a full-time artist, blogger and tea drinker (not necessarily in that order). He is the author of the popular blog Sustainably Creative and regularly publishes, The Beany , an illustrated journal of his life. In the late 1990s he was diagnosed with ME/CFS and, over the last decade, has learnt a lot about sustaining a creative career with limited energy. He recently published an ebook on the subject, Sustainable Creativity.

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