Resident Interview – Julian Vilarrubi

Julian Vilarrubi is a painter and iPad artist who lives and works in Brighton, UK. He has Catalan heritage and visits the region often, so we were keen to share tips and learn more about iPad drawing in particular from an expert (he really is an expert, he wrote the book!)

Odette Brady: You are the first iPad artist to come to Cel del Nord, and in fact the first I’ve met. What is the first thing I need to know about iPad art?

Julian Vilarrubi: I use an iPad, an iPad pencil and an app called Procreate. 

With the app my iPad offers me a version of any other tool you would use to draw and paint, so brushes, pencils, charcoal, pen and ink, pastels and so on. The iPad pencil is pressure sensitive so the mark I make is affected by how hard I press down, and there is no latency, so it feels as accurate as traditional art methods.

Like you would with paint or ink, you pick a hue and then you can adjust it however you like, including the tone and saturation.

iPad art can be called iPad drawing or iPad painting if you prefer but I don’t care for the term digital art, as that seems to imply something else. 

Untitled artwork (view from Cel del Nord), Julian Vilarrubi, 2019. Created on iPad using Procreate.

OB: And how did you come to try iPad art for the first time?

JV: I started as a traditional artist, using oils, watercolours, charcoal and lots of the other usual mediums. But I saw the paintings of the Yorkshire landscape that David Hockney did on an iPad and I thought it was a great idea, so I bought the iPad specifically to draw.

OB: What special things can you do with the iPad that you can’t do in a traditional artwork?

JV: I think the best, best thing about iPad drawing is that you can create the different layers separately. When you look at anything in real life, the image you see is made up of layers of distance. The first layer is whatever is closest to you, and then behind that, everything builds up. In traditional art you have to reproduce all those things in a single flat layer, for example on a sheet of paper. With iPad drawing you can create each layer separately, and then you can bring them together and adjust them at the end. 

You can duplicate, so if you have to depict something repetitive like 100 green bushes, you can draw three or four good ones and then duplicate them. Then, to capture each of the bushes’ unique qualities you can adjust, recolour and flip them around, so it doesn’t remain a duplicate of the originals.

You can also zoom in to draw detailed sections, and then zoom out again to see the overall picture.

OB: And what about the downsides?

JV: It’s entirely possible to print iPad drawings on archival quality paper in as limited a run as you wish and I have printed my work on up to A1 size and the quality was flawless, which is a good thing. However, what it lacks, as with all iPad drawing, is that there is no tactile quality. It’s flat, which is a downside. And, the size I work on is never bigger than my 11.9 inch (just over 30cm) iPad screen. But I carry my whole studio with me everywhere I go, just in the iPad, and with all the other things I love about it I don’t mind the downsides.

Of course one other downside is that iPads are not cheap to buy. You could, though, buy the smaller iPad Pro, which is about half the price of the one I use. It would be a good way to try it out.

Life Drawing on the iPad by Julian Vilarrubi, published by Crowood Press, 2018

OB: Tell us about your book.

JV: It’s called “Life Drawing on the iPad” and I wrote and illustrated it myself. There are 167 illustrations, and really it tells you everything you need to know about using an iPad, Procreate and how to look at and depict the figure.

Have you read Barcelona by Robert Hughes?

OB: I haven’t, no.

JV: It’s one of my favourite books of all time, published in 1992. Hughes began by wanting to write about architecture and Catalan modernisme, but he soon realised that it was impossible to write about a figure like Guadí, for example, without looking at Catalonia and its people as modernisme’s backdrop. It’s a great book for understanding Catalonia and “Catalan-ism”.

Life Drawing on the iPad is by Julian Vilarrubi, and was published by The Crowood Press in 2018. 

Julian also teaches iPad drawing and is willing to give private lessons. For more information see his website:

Exciting news for writers everywhere.

Our online writing group is free and anyone can join.

Sign up:

Every Thursday, at:
– 8pm Central European Time
– 7pm British Summer Time
– 2pm Eastern Standard Time

What’s a group writing session?

Multiple writers commit to sit down together and write for a specific amount of time. Writers groups give busy writers an incentive to schedule writing time. The power of the group encourages members not to back out. Group writing sessions boost productivity and beat procrastination. Online sessions, like ours, don’t require that you travel, get a babysitter or buy overpriced coffee just to get your writing time.

How does it work?

You need an internet connection and a Google account to join the session. Sessions will be hosted on “Google Hangouts”. It’s very easy to use and you will get instructions when you sign up.

At the start of the group writing session each writer introduces themselves and gives a little information about what they’re writing. Then, you write for four twenty-five minute bursts. After each twenty-five minutes there is a five minute break. The time is monitored by the host, all you need to do is bring your inspiration.

Five best day jobs for fiction writers

Five writer-friendly money spinners to fill time until you get your six-figure book deal.


Because the internet would have us believe that writers run on coffee (not food) and because the constant flow of people gives us lots, and lots, of material.

Library Assistant

Because it’s quiet, there are lots of opportunities to read or write while you are pretending to work, and because there are millions and millions of books to browse.

Bar person

Because it’s similar to barista but better for the writer who prefers a more dysfunctional subject. It has the added advantage of being night-work, which leaves days free for getting words on the page.

Checkout clerk

Because shifts can be great if you like to write at different times of the day. You get access to lots of people (inspiration) and you can hide a notebook behind your till.

Cinema ticket checker

Because you spend hours and hours in the dark, getting inspired by films or writing in secret by the light of your torch.

Do social media accounts single you out as the creative genius that you are?

If not, perhaps it’s time for a change.

Social media for artists. Where to start. At its worst, a distraction that draws creative energy away from the real work. At it’s best, a platform to share our creativity, and even get paid in return.

If you are a total novice and you have no idea where to start, or if you have started but are are failing to succeed, you want to get more followers – or better yet, more relevant followers that will form a meaningful community – here is one very simple tip.

In your social media account profiles, next to your name, write what you do. For example, change your instagram or twitter description from “Odette_Brady” to “Odette_Brady_Author.”

From instagram

We love self-declaration here at Cel del Nord. Your creativity is a gift to the world and something you should be proud of. The more you say it out loud the more it becomes a solid piece of your life and your identity.

If you struggle to tell people what you are in real life, and revert back to calling yourself by your day job (“I work in a cafe”, rather than “I am a writer and I also work in a cafe”) then start with your social media profiles. Not only does it help with your self image, but when people are looking for what you are offering, they will find you.

The perfect writing space for even the smallest home

If you live in a tiny space and find yourself in need of a space to write we have an idea to share.

A kitchen table becomes a writing desk in thirty seconds flat

It’s easy, affordable and will work in the smallest of homes.

A good writing space can make a huge difference to the way you feel when you approach the page. Not everyone has the space to set up an inspirational desk space in a spare corner of their house, in fact hardly any of us do! But that doesn’t mean you have to write in bed, or on the toilet or break your back writing on the couch.

All you need is a box.

Collect together the items you like to have on your writing desk. Here is a list of suggestions:

  • lamp
  • coaster
  • dictionaries or writing prompts
  • notebooks
  • favourite pens
  • a photo
  • a small, hard-to-kill houseplant
  • a magazine file of your notes.
Box of creative inspiration

Keep these things in a box and when you are ready to write, convert an existing chair and table area into the desk of your dreams. When you’re finished, pack it all away again and set the table for dinner.

All the items from your desk can be packed away onto a shelf and the space is free again for eating, or whatever else you usually use it for.
All packed away until tomorrow.

Pomodoro – beat procrastination and find time to create with a simple solution

Waking up in the middle of the night on the quest for extra painting hours? Or, do you wedge yourself in at the back of the bus with a laptop trying to write on your commute? You share your struggle with millions.

The pomodoro technique beats procrastination every time.

Especially if, when you find those precious minutes, you waste them staring at the out the window because pressure is too great. Or worse, you just scroll through Instagram wishing you were as good as the next person.

I have been there!

And, as the resident creativity coach here at Cel del Nord, I have a few ideas I always turn to beat almighty force of procrastination.

The pomodoro technique is an old 1980s hack that some readers will have heard of, and some may even roll their eyes at. Old time Cel del Norders might remember it from a much earlier post on this blog.

I’m bringing it back. And not only that, but I want to share a version that we have been using with a group of writers here in the studio.

The technique

Time twenty-five minute bursts of productivity with five minute breaks. A solid fifty minutes of output for every hour with the help of nothing but a timer.

The hard part

You have to respect the timer. You have to make a pact with yourself that absolutely everything else (text messages, email, social media, going to the toilet, making a cup of coffee) can wait until the break.

If you can get that first part down, you will be laughing. It works great in a group too as there is a little whoop every time the timer beeps.

My favourite Pomodoro hack

Plan out your twenty-five minute pomodoro blocks in advance. I am a writer, so this is a writer’s example but it could work for any discipline: Spend the first pomodoro free-writing and making notes. The second might be on a single character, what are they doing since you last checked in with them. If the third, fourth and fifth pomodoro are when you begin in earnest, you are approaching the page with momentum.

The art of asking for help

There are mindsets that stop us from asking for help.

  • I can do a better job of it myself
  • I don’t want to be indebted to anyone
  • I’m worried people think I’m taking advantage
  • I don’t want people to think I’m not capable
  • I am scared the answer will be no and that’ll be awkward

Some of those feelings have truth in them, others not so much. Either way, there are many good reasons to accept help into your creative practice. Expanding your capability by inviting people to help you is neither weak nor cheeky, as long as you go about it carefully.

Problems become opportunities when the right people join together

What kind of help are we talking about?

If you are working full or part-time and have other personal commitments your time is possibly your most precious asset.

Time-saving help can come in the form of:

  • Child or elder-care
  • Errands
  • Social arrangements that don’t require travel time (they come to you)
  • Low-impact creative help (donkey work)

Other forms of help are more creatively oriented and can be equally valuable:

  • Low-impact creative help (donkey work) take two!
  • Rubber duck role – asking someone to listen while you explain an idea to them, with the purpose of making it clear in your own mind.
  • Honest critique and feedback
  • Tech support
  • Showing up to something, like a reading

There is an art to asking. Master it and you open yourself up to possibilities. Possibilities mean the chance of more work, better work and a happier, more fulfilled creative life.

Be specific, bold and clear

Ask for something that has clear parameters, or a defined end point. Then, everyone understands what’s expected of them. It’s especially useful for help with creative work, as it prevents unwanted tweaking, outside of what’s required.

Why does it feel easier to ask for something in an apologetic way? As if whining a bit is going to make a request more appealing. When the tables are turned it’s just annoying. It’s far more respectful to just ask outright, be clear about your specific task. Think about whether or not you, were the tables turned, would rather help a straight talker or a whining baby, and let that inform your approach.

Accept that the person may say no, and make that option clear to them. By asking well you allow the person to make an informed decision and give them the option to say no.

Don’t say:

I was wondering, I hope you won’t think I’m cheeky, can you look after my mum for a while sometime?

Can you come and help me with my sculpture, if it’s not too much trouble? I know you’re really busy.

I need a website, can you help? I’m completely useless!

Do say:

I need to finish varnishing my paintings for an exhibition and it would really help me if you could spend two hours with my mum on Friday morning so I can get it done. Can you do it?

I have to stick 1,000 glass pebbles to the sculpture I’m working on with cement. Are you able to help me for an hour or two on Saturday morning?

I have written a plan and the text for my new website, and I’ve selected the pictures. I don’t know how to make it live. I saw what you did with Bambi’s website and loved it. Can you help me?

Who to ask and when to ask them

A bold request is not devoid of sensitivity. There are good times to ask, and there are good people to ask.

A good person to ask is someone who:

  • Respects your work
  • Has an active life and understands the value of help
  • Might ask you for help if they needed it
  • Is feeling strong and stable in their current environment (i.e. not vulnerable and won’t be timid about saying no)
  • Has the ability to do something you can’t

A good time to ask is:

  • In advance
  • Not straight after they have told you how busy or stressed they are
When a team of dedicated individuals make a commitment to act as one…. The sky’s the limit!

Say thank you

Saying thank you, in person, with eye contact and a smile is usually enough. Don’t get so lost in what you’re doing that you forget to say it, it undermines the whole practice of allowing help into your creative life if you don’t close the circle.

With that said, don’t feel obliged to offer something in return straight away, especially not your time if that was the reason you asked for help. There may be a point in the future when you can return the favour, and it’s fine to wait for that moment to arise naturally. Tread carefully when it comes to extravagant gifts too, as they can make it difficult for the person to ask for your help in the future. Often a little piece of your own work is the best token there is.

Resident Interview – Liv Solberg Andersen and Janet Brady

Artists Liv Solberg Andersen, from Rjukan in Norway and Janet Brady from Bury in Lancashire, UK joined us for a week at the end of October 2018.

When two artists book together with matching dates they both receive 30% off their stay.

Liv and Janet at work in the CDN studio, October 2018

How did you meet?

LSA: We met at the Slade School in London at an Easter course in 2017. The name of the course was ‘The Expanded Field of Drawing’ and it was my first course in London, my first at the Slade. We worked side-by-side.

JB: We worked side-by-side, just by chance.

LSA: I remember Janet asking if I’d like for her to take some pictures with my phone, for example, so that I’d have some good pictures. From there, we talked about a lot, and in fact Janet is the only person I have kept in contact with since that course.

Did you stay in touch because there were similarities in your work? Or was it more that you became friends?

JB: I think both really. (To Liv) What do you think? Do you think there are similarities in our work?

LSA: Maybe in approaching our work. I think we are both open, and also not too confident in our work. We both want to investigate… curious. We are curious.

JB: And it’s good to share ideas and then to find that other people are thinking the same way, and having the same problems. I think you enjoy a vast landscape and so do I, and not everybody does. There were others on the course with a similar attitude but their work would be – I don’t know – meticulous designs based on flowers for example, or people’s faces, or abstract, but your work stood out as being very large and vigorous.

LSA: I guess we are both interested in landscapes. Maybe you because of your geology background?

JB: And maybe you because you live in the shade of an enormous mountain (laughs).

LSA: Yes, both the good and the bad. It’s beautiful and the seasons change the mountain, like they do here I guess, snow / not snow, pink sky, clouds…

JB: Like this hill here at the back (of the CDN studio), with the chapel on the top. It changes enormously according to whether it’s first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It’s beamng and golden in the morning and then it’s closed in and perhaps threatening – looming over the village – later on and I personally like the way such strength of scenery can dissolve away to a golden glow when the mist comes down.

LSA: That sounds really poetic.

JB: Well actually, I do think think painting poetry is really what I want to do, in a funny sort of way. We’ve had many discussions that really helped me to see that you have to get behind the words used to describe something, to get to the essence of what you might have felt as a very young child, or right at the beginning of time, before words were pinned on these things and the things we’re constrained by vocabulary. It’s not necessarily feeling, it’s the essence of the thing.

LSA: We were talking about that inbetween thing, not this, nor that, but something in between.

What do you think makes a good studio buddy, the person working at the table beside you?

LSA: A person who asks questions and is open, and who is interested. They’re the main things I’d look for.

JB: Someone with the quality of empathy, without being too forceful.

LSA: Especially someone interested in the work, who wants to talk about the work and how to make the work… well, work.

JB: It helps you to understand, having to express your thoughts to the other person, and if that person is just telling you all about themselves your mind shuts down. It’s really nice to be able to be open like that.

What are you working on this week? Did you come completely open, or with a plan? Or are you continuing something that you’d already started?

JB: Having been here before, and explored and got to know and really love the area I wanted to push that forward – to think, what is it about it here that I really love?

LSA: I’m not sure. I’m very much between exhibitions at the moment, about four this quarter, so to breathe and not work so seriously. I’m serious, but I’m a bit calmer and sleeping a bit longer in the mornings and enjoying the sun and I feel a bit lazy. I get bothered by my conscience if I don’t work, and I feel I should work. I’m trying to tell myself that I’m allowed a vacation.

Do you think that it’s a good idea to have a fallow period, or at least a low productivity period?

LSA: I think it’s important, and I think it’s important to have something to do because then I feel like I’m working but I don’t know what it’s going to be. I think it’s lovely just to try things. For example the gelli plate (we have a printing plate called a gelli plate in the CDN studio). I didn’t know about that, and it’s an inspiration to get to know new techniques, making collographs too, that’s really inspiring, so I hope I will do something with it when I get back.

If anyone reading this interview is thinking about spending time on their work with us here at Cel del Nord, what advice would you give them?

LSA: Bring good walking shoes if you want to experience the beautiful landscape. And, bring paints and big paper or canvas to work in the landscape.

JB: Make sure you get Google Translate on your phone and visit the local shop.

LSA: Bring other things you want to work with too, some different materials.

JB: And bring good quality watercolour paper, I think some good rolls. I like to work large, so having a large roll that you can take on the plane, that would be good.

Portes Obertes ~ Open Day

Diumenge ~ Sunday 25-11-18

9h – 16h

Veure i comprar art dels nostres residents d’art d’aquest any
View and buy art by our residents from the past year

Pinta la teva pròpia vida morta
Paint your own still life

Un parte d la fira d’artesana d’Oristà
Part of the Oristà Annual Art Fair

Plaça Major 4, Oristà, 08518 Barcelona