I Won An iPad! iHappy.

I guess it pays to use Twitter.

This past June I attended the third annual Creative Freelancer Conference. I rave about it often. It’s a must-attend event for anyone who makes a living as a freelancer in the arts (illustrators, photographers, graphic designers, etc.) This year to promote the conference the organizers ran a contest: Whoever could get the most people to sign up for the conference via Twitter would win an iPad plus free registration to next year’s conference. I’m a big fan of the conference and I happily promote it every year anyway, but this year I decided that just for fun I’d plug it a bit more than usual (while giving full disclosure that I was taking part in the contest.)

Then the conference came and went, I had a great time, and I pretty much forgot about the contest.

Last week the conference people called to tell me I had won! They were very apologetic. In all the craziness of organizing the event they just now realized they never got around to announcing the winner. I would imagine it takes an enormous amount of time and energy to put together an entire conference and then to clean up after the dust has settled so I can’t say that I blame them. Besides, its hard to look a gift iPad in the mouth.

As an extra bonus, we got the phone call on my wife’s birthday and it arrived on our anniversary, just in time for us to take it with us on an out of town trip.

Not too long ago I wrote a blog post explaining why I had decided not to buy an iPad. In a nutshell, while the iPad is an amazing device for me it didn’t fall into the category of a “must-have” (unlike my iPhone or my laptop). Now that I’ve had a couple of days to play with an iPad I may reconsider. Too early to tell but you might see an iPad review popping up on this blog in the near future

In the mean time I want to say a big “thank you” to everyone who signed up for the conference as a result of my two cents here and there. I hope you got as much out of it as  I did.

The next Creative Freelancer Conference will be June 23-24, 2011 in Chicago. The conference is designed to help educate, encourage, and inspire artistic freelancers in all things business; to help them work smarter, get better clients, and as a result boost their income. If you are creative and self-employed this conference is a must.

If you want to get a taste you can purchase mp3s of the 2009 conference to listen to at your leisure.

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Why I Haven’t Bought An iPad…Yet.

I’m a big fan of Apple products and, like many digital artists, I see a lot of potential in the iPad. It’s sleek, fun, stylish, practical, and best of all you can draw and paint with it. Quite a few digital artists have already posted work online that was created with the iPad and some of it is amazing. So what’s not to love?

Unfortunately, there are a few things:

Low Image Resolution. The iPad’s screen makes images look amazing but the resolution is currently capped at 768×1024. For me as an illustrator that’s a concern. To create a quality image for print you need at least 300dpi. That means that on an iPad you won’t be able to create a truly professional print-ready image that is much bigger than a baseball card.

Sure, you can create some terrific low-res sketches and then bump them up on your desktop computer. But for me as a professional illustrator it means the iPad can really only be a fancy sketchbook, not a true art-making machine. I certainly wouldn’t be able to create much client work with it.

Lack of Pressure Sensitivity. When you draw on a Wacom tablet or a Cintiq the pen responds to the pressure of your hand. Push down hard and you get a thicker, darker line. Sketch lightly and your lines will stay thin and light. It makes for a very natural way of drawing but unfortunately the iPad currently lacks this feature. When you draw a line on the iPad it stays the same thickness no matter how hard you press. For some artists that might be fine but for my particular drawing style that would be frustrating and problematic.

Lack of a Good Stylus. The beauty of the iPhone and iPad is that all the power is concentrated in the tip of your finger. For most apps that’s terrific but when it comes to sketching I find it awkward. I’ve done some finger sketching on my iPhone and my hand always feels clumsy. Also, my finger tip is too blunt making it hard to be very precise when putting down a line.

There are a couple of companies that make styluses for the iPad but so far the ones I’ve seen are too wide and blunt. It’s like drawing with lipstick. I want something that tapers to a point so I can see exactly where I’m putting down my line.

Also, when I draw I tend to rest my hand on the page. I imagine that the side of my palm pressing all over the screen like that would wreck havoc on an iPad. I suppose I could wear a fingerless glove but that feels to me like more trouble than its worth.

The folks at Ten One Design have written some impressive-looking software to get around some of these issues. Unfortunately the software uses something called private frameworks which is against Apple’s policy. That means you won’t be seeing this in the App store any time soon:

It’s a 1st Gen Apple Product. There’s no question that Apple makes amazing products. When they’ve introduced new products in the past (iPod, iPhone, etc.) the 2nd generation model has usually been vastly superior to the original version. To a point that just makes sense. Technology is always advancing and improvements are to be expected. But with Apple I always have the nagging feeling that they are purposefully “dumbing down” their 1st gen models so that when the 2nd generation model is released it will look so much more amazing that all the early adopters will immediately want to replace their now-clunky hardware. More money in Apple’s pocket.

Of course if the product is amazing enough then even the 1st gen version is worth the cost. I bought a 1st gen iPhone only a week after they went on sale and it was worth every penny. But for me the current iPad isn’t quite in the same league. In this economy I’m choosing to hold onto my cash a little longer until I can get a better value with the next version of iPad. I’m also hoping the next model will address at least some of the issues I’ve raised here. If it doesn’t, I may wait even longer.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not knocking the iPad. Far from it! In a lot of ways its an amazing device and I’d certainly love to have one. But for me the current model isn’t quite awesome enough to justify the cost, especially when I’m sure the next model will be that much better. For now my iPhone does the job just fine.

What Do You Think? Since I don’t own an iPad (though I do own an iPhone) much of what I’ve written in this post is gleaned from other articles I’ve read online. If you have a different opinion, or if I’m flat out wrong on anything, please leave a comment and let me know. Likewise, if you’ve had success drawing on the iPad and want to extol its virtues by all means go right ahead. I’d welcome your input.