Sketching With Astropad

nelson-monumentThis image is a sketch I made of the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill in Edinburgh.

I wrote about the Nelson Monument and about the folly on the hill in an article on the Quillcards Blog.

Here I want to talk about how I made the sketch.

I have a Macbook Air for when I am traveling, and the only reason I might be tempted to buy an iPad is for the reduction in weight.

Against that there is the loss of a real keyboard.

For a longish while the only option for connecting between Photoshop on a laptop and some kind of stylus was the Wacom range of touch-sensitive boards and some competitors who made similar boards.

Then a little while ago I saw a review of the Astropad. It is an app that links between the iPad and a laptop.

So, no more need for the Wacom because the iPad takes its place. That sounded very good and gave me reason to want an iPad.

In a nutshell, Astropad enables you to open Photoshop on the laptop and sketch so that the effects appear on the laptop while you draw on the iPad.

The big attraction is that you have the full range of tools that are available in Photoshop. That’s because Astropad is effectively just an extended link between the iPad and the laptop.

Now fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when Astropad for the iPhone came out. Yippee!!!!!!!

I think Astropad can link via Bluetooth or wifi (not sure), but why bother when you can just pop the USB into the port on the Mac? Astropad for Mac is free (here’s the download link for iPhone to Mac) so all you need to buy is the $5.00 iPhone app.

So that is what I have been doing and it is great fun.

Strangely, or perhaps not, it has given me more reason to get an iPad so I can take advantage of a bigger screen area than I get on the iPhone.

REMs and EMs

Website designers can set type absolutely or relatively. Absolute measurements don’t take into account the size of the browser viewing the web page. So text will be the same size on a phone as it is on a large screen. Relative sizes take into account the device on which they are being viewed.

Assuming a designer wants to make the type relative – to what should it be relative? I have been setting font size with ’em’ for a while.

But a couple of days ago I came across the ‘rem’. I came across it when I changed the font for block quotes in the Make theme from The Theme Foundry.

As an aside, the Make theme is free and there’s a child theme on The Theme Foundry site. I like using child themes so that any changes are not overridden on an update.

Also on self-hosted sites you can ‘install’ a ‘custom CSS file by using Jetpack. Either way, you can make changes at will and that’s what I wanted to do. I thought the font for blockquotes was too big, so I used Firebug in Firefox to track down the setting. And that’s where I saw that the font was 2.4 rem.


This article Confused About REM and EM? explains it. In a nutshell, em is relative to the font size of its direct or nearest parent and so on in a series of steps from the base font size, while rem is only relative to the base font-size and jumps the intermediate parents and grandparents.

There’s a link in the article to Type Scale. If you like messing about with type, take a look.

Dithering On The Diving Board


I stole the idea from an ad for ‘Yo Contraire’ from comedian Andrew Maxwell that was on the billboards dotted around in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

I say stole, except on the ad it was a man in a dress suit with a bow tie, standing on the board and he wasn’t considering jumping in – he was standing there one hand in his trouser pocket, surveying his domain.

This Much, or an act of violence towards the institution of marriage


He was on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh during the Festival Fringe, advertising This Much, or an act of violence towards the institution of marriage – a play by the Moving Dust company about relationships and how we express our true selves.

The blurb reads:
Gar can’t decide between the man who plays games and the man on one knee with a ring. In fact, Gar can’t decide on anything because every choice seems like a compromise. Everyone wants answers but nothing lives up to the image he has in his head. Facades start crumbling into a violent mess as the world implodes around him but Gar… Gar just wants to dance with his friends.

It got me thinking about the debate about knowing what we want, what we want to want, what others want from us, and what others want us to want.

Coincidentally I am reading Freud’s Civilisations and Its Discontents. I am early on in the book and it gets me thinking at every paragraph.

What I read is that Freud derides the religious fervour that springs from an ‘oceanic feeling’ of connectedness. He sees religion as a way to keep loneliness, death, and the void at bay.

Rather nicely, he reserves his most damning criticism for the vague, impersonal, abstract God. At least the immanent, involved father figure is nearer the real motive for religion, he argues.

Recently I read an article by David Bradley on ScienceBase on emotional responses to music. The argument goes that music evokes feelings that are not real in the way that feelings arising out of relationships are real.

Freud would go further and say that true feelings arise out of need – one of those needs being to attempt to deny death, insignificance, and the void.

It got me thinking about Freud and his feelings/attitude to music – about which I knew nothing.

Here’s a passage from Freud on his reaction to music:


Does that mean he didn’t get off on music? It seems like maybe that is what he is saying.

I had a friend who used to put together albums on tape. He would pick and choose from different artists and make a kind of emotional rollercoaster out of the mix. Mix DJs do that but usually in a dance setting, so there is less room for taking the listener here, there, and everywhere.

When I am moved by music, I know I am being played and yet at one and the same time I can feel that something in me has been tapped into that is more than just a massage for the soul. It’s a perennial question.