A Couple of Plein Air Digital Paintings

For awhile now, I've been trying to come up with an easier take-with-me-everywhere method of plein air sketching. I have full plein air kits for pastels, oil and watercolor, but often I find that even though I keep one of these kits in the trunk of my car, I usually don't feel inclined to bring it all in to a restaurant, coffee shop or on an afternoon trip downtown. I wanted something MUCH more lightweight and accessible - and the iPad has been it.

Here is a sketch from a recent day trip to the ferry building in San Francisco, a busy tourist-heavy area of the city. 

My main objective with iPad sketching is to mimic plein air oil paint using the alla prima technique, direct painting, as opposed to more labor intense methods. The idea is to work quickly on site and get it all down in about an hour or so of working. That means everything from gesture, composition, hue, value relationships and light relationships.

About the hardware: I have yet to find a stylus I am completely comfortable with; I am currently using the Wacom Creative Stylus. I am not keen on recommending it, however, because it feels like painting with a giant crayon. I unfortunately purchased the Wacom Creative Stylus 2 and found afterwards that it is not compatible with many painting apps, including Procreate. A few friends have given good reviews of the Jot Adonit Stylus, which is far cheaper and compatible with a lot of apps. 

In the Procreate app, I created a set of swatches in the color picker that are the standard colors of my basic oil painting palette, plus a few white convenience colors so that I don't have to constantly mix the same color over and over. Using these swatches helped me in getting a similar look to traditional paintings, although I think I could still fine tune the set. 

In addition to that, I am still trying to refine my brushes to find a working method that mimics traditional brushes. Procreate provides a set of brushes that you can then customize, but  I have yet to find some that are to my liking.

iPad sketch videos

My partner, James Baker and I have been sketching lately from the tv, in an effort learn together as he trains to draw with his left hand. He had a stroke last year which left him without the use of his right hand, and while he recovers, we thought he might try adapting the left hand in the mean time so that he can still enjoy drawing. 

Its been a difficult challenge full of ups and downs. As artists we are so tied to our motor skills that we tend not to even think about it. It is especially scary if you earn your entire living on your professional art skills which have been perfected in a very personal way over the course of your life. As I watch Jamie improve his leftie drawing skills, I am heartened to see how much of what we must know about drawing comes from the mind. The rest is output, and although it is very difficult to train with a non-native hand, it can definitely be done.  

My own recent experiments with iPad sketches from movie compositions are in tandem with Jamie's. We figure out a show that we'd like to study, usually something gritty from the fantasy or sci-fi realm, freeze frame a shot we both agree on, and start drawing. Jamie is doing it old school with pencil, watercolor and paper while I am trying out a new (for me) sketch tool. The important thing is that we are having a blast together while learning. There really is nothing better. 

Thanks for stopping by!

iPad Sketching

I recently got an iPad air over the holidays. In addition to my tree studies, for some time now I've wanted to study the lighting and staging of various live action shows that I admire. So I thought I'd start with a few shows, freeze frame the shot I like and do an observational study. 

I've also played around with various apps. There are so many out there, and I'm pretty sure I've tested them all at this point. The app I like the most is Procreate. It feels like photoshop, but has the basic stripped down interface that I need for painting, and adjusts that interface to work well on a touch screen. Other apps are clunky for various reasons, but Procreate has gotten it right.

Violet Crawley, The Dowager Countess of Grantham in "Downton Abbey". 

My first few attempts were frustrating because it seems that I cannot get the brush size or shape working well enough for me. Also, there is a slight lag between touching the screen and the brush stroke that is a little distracting. Other problems include the color palette; so often the color I thought I chose in the palette is not actually the right value. 

Worf from Star Trek Next Generation.

The above painting of Worf was a little frustrating too because I felt like I was fighting the pen controls the entire time. Also, when I exported it to my photo stream, the painting became darker. 

I then tried a bigger scene to see how it works for capturing an entire shot, not just a portrait. I found the brush controls really difficult in that case. The city in the distance for instance is really rough, not all how I was attempting to paint it, but an ok study of the general set up and lighting. 

Game of Thrones, Season 3, episode 2. Daenerys Stormborn on her newly acquired ship headed to Astapor.

Game of Thrones Season 3, episode 3. Daenerys Stormborn after she unleashes her dragon Drogon on the leaders of Astapor. (that must have been supremely satisfying!)

I love the lighting in this shot. I struggled with the styluses in this painting, trying to use the brushes to obtain a likeness in the eyes, nose and mouth, but finally decided that I need to think of these studies as just that, color studies.