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Embracing Digital with Microsoft


It’s time for artists to embrace digital

With the right tools, old traditions can be preserved and new possibilities envisioned

By Ashraf Ghori

Art AG wall


For artists world over, the canvas is changing. Even the most immovable traditionalists are grudgingly starting to accept that, just as the automobile superseded the horse and email supplanted snail mail, digital forms are assuming their rightful place in the realm of art.

But I firmly believe that, unlike horses and snail mail, we do not have to bridge a gap between conventional and digital media; rather, we should look to eliminate the gap altogether and create a smooth spectrum of harmony between the traditional and the technological.

This was my position when I spoke recently at World Art Dubai. I shared my own experiences as I had migrated from my comfort zone to a digital workspace, where I could create just as freely as I had done previously. My aim was to instruct and motivate, by making my fellow artists aware that digital tools do not need to be cold and cumbersome. As with waters and oils, practice can make one an expert and while concepts such as hardware and software might appear to lack the warmth and passion inherent in our craft, beauty, as always, comes from inside the artist.

So I believe it is entirely unnecessary to take sides on the issue of traditional vs digital. It should not be a battle; or even a debate. My experiences taught me that mastering digital techniques allows the artist to expand their comfort zone, as opposed to actually leaving it.

And the journey can be rewarding. Of course, just as conventional art requires careful selection of the right brush, the right pencil, the right canvas, so success in the digital world demands similar evaluation.

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, I found, was ideal for what I wanted to achieve. I suppose many in my field look upon it as something you use in a business context, but as I evaluated it alongside alternative tools, I came to a different realisation. As with any tool, the practitioner needs to study how it is put together to know if it is up to the task at hand. With the Surface Pro 4, I noted that its screen resolution and size were optimal. You need a hefty size of screen if you want your work to breathe and 12.3 inches meets this demand. And the Pro 4’s pixel density is 267 ppi (pixels per inch), which, I discovered, is greater than any of its market rivals.



But perhaps the most significant aspect of the Pro 4 for artists, is the versatility of its pen. When we leap from traditional to digital techniques, our greatest concern is likely the loss of that tactile sensation we get when we apply our stylus to the canvas. Be it a pencil, chalk or brush, we feel a connection between our creativity and the surface we are laying it upon. It is encouraging then, that the Surface Pro 4’s pen recognises 1,024 levels of pressure and, even more significantly, that it is able to detect shifts in that pressure during a single stroke. I believe devices such as these are helping to dissolve the resistance and misconceptions surrounding digital art. Changing the minds of traditionalists in any field is never easy, but once doubters are exposed, first hand, to emerging tools, I expect they will start to get excited about the possibilities open to them. The reason our species moved on from snail mail and horses was not arbitrary – we did it to become faster and more efficient. And more effective.

But, just as in the traditional era, even after you select the right tools, you still have some practice ahead of you. Some of the most common pitfalls in digital art involve not only a poor choice of platform, but a lack of awareness of how your vision will look in its final version.

Experimentation is key, as it is all too easy to become confused, or even demoralised by the sheer number of menu options present in some graphics packages. At World Art Dubai 2016 I discussed the process I use in my own work, from conceptualisation to initial layout, and ultimately to the stages I follow in building the piece into a final compelling product. Digital artists enjoy so many advantages, not least in the pre-production phase of a project. When working with software canvases, it is considerably easier and faster to stage quick compositions using obscure references for shape, form, lighting and colour.

An exceptional artist is most commonly one who has knowingly thrown themselves into unknown abysses for the sheer joy of finding out what happens next. They are explorers, adventurers and pioneers. They do not fear embarrassment or ridicule. They challenge, they persist and they achieve. The flexibility and accessibility of digital art is perfect for such mavericks.


– AG

Reviews Technology

Lenovo Phab Plus Reviewed

Lenovo‘s product diversity means pleasant surprises could come in all sizes. This time it’s not just a phone or a tablet. I am talking about their latest Phablet offering, Phab Plus. Lenovo had the tech-savvy millennial generation in mind with this device, seeing there’s a noticeable shift from making phone calls to staying socially connected. So if you’ve been stuck in the costly-phone-or-large-tablet dilemma then this one’s for you.

“It’s big”. That was my first reaction. “And it’s not so heavy” was the next. I expected to see a thick layer of protective padding all around the phone while opening the box, but no, that’s how big the phone is, all 6.98 inches of it.

With a pleasing Full HD screen canvas, I could not resist putting it to some creative good use with a quick-sketch test drive and here’s how that went.


Playing with it for the past couple of weeks I’ve grown quite used to it by now. People just assumed I was carrying an iPhone 6 Plus till they noticed otherwise.

You’d think for a phone this size navigation would be a problem, but not to worry, the one-hand use feature steps in to make your life a little easier. However, I did not find myself needing it much.

It’s got a good battery life lasting well over a day with moderate usage. Cameras are respectable (13 MP rear and 5 MP front cameras) but not the main draw for this device. I found the photos, especially low-light shots dark and lacking in visual detail. The Audio is fairly sharp and loud, but the rear-facing speakers take away from the aural experience. Its sturdy metal constructed body houses dual sims – one of them uses a Nano sim.

You’d expect the Phab to retail for higher but with a launch price tag of AED 999 at GITEX Shopper Dubai, it just adds to its appeal.

Add on all of the above and it’s easy to see why we really like the Phab. It’s just good value with a great performance. In the mean time I’ve done a good job to not drop or scratch it, seeing that the chances of finding a protective casing or fancy accessories for it any time soon are minimal.


– AG
Reviewed by @AshrafGhori