My iPad has joined forces with my drawing book and they are now both my constant companions. I prefer to say drawing book, because of the implication that a sketch has been knocked off and, consequently, of little value. A sketch is often defined as a rough or unfinished drawing or painting, produced to assist in making a more finished picture. A drawing made on the spot may well be an incisive observation, which captures the spirit of a moment with as much validity as a finished painting.
The preparatory works by Rubens I saw in an exhibition at the Royal Academy recently had more energy than the highly worked finished paintings. Rembrandt’s drawings also stand-alone from his paintings; they have their own language.
At the mention of iPads I can see traditionalist mouths shrinking and lips curling, but I urge you to read on. When I first saw, Bradford lad, David Hockney’s large iPad works I thought them an exciting new departure, although graphic artists had no doubt been using tablets connected to computers for a long time. It was, however, the ready availability of tablets, usable as portable journals and battery-powered drawing books that caught the collective imagination. Eventually, my own curiosity got the better of the sceptic in me and I acquired the basic version of iPad. I encased it inside an old drawing pad cover to make me, or the iPad, feel more at home!
I am not good at following step-by-step instructions and am intimidated by the plethora of newly invented computer terminology and abbreviations. I knew, however, that I would need an app (application) that was compatible with my tablet. I trawled the internet and sampled various top ten apps, recommended by other artists. Sketchbook Pro came high on their lists and worked well for me, but it was the easily accessible array of tools and the wide ranging colour palette of Artrage that appealed to me most. Most starter apps are free to download or no more than the price of a coffee and its worth spending a little time playing around with them. The dpi (dots per inch) resolution is not important at first.
The current apps do not yet replicate the sensitivity to touch and variations in pressure of a pencil, nor the scratches of a dip pen or the twists, turns and subtleties of a brushmark. However, with time and skill on the part of the artist, together with the synthesised painterly effects of digital tools, images can be created to look like oil or watercolour paintings.
The iPad does not replace the pleasure I have from paint, brush, pen, pencil and paper. I have stacks of journals filled with drawings. I paint in watercolour, egg tempera, oils, acrylic and in oxides on large ceramic tiles. Tablet painting and drawing is not a substitute for any of these, but with my new companion I can paint at night where there is no other light source, and I can make coloured images in places where cameras or paints are unacceptable. I can paint in airports to kill then resuscitate time. There is no mess and I can lay instant areas of a flat colour with the tap of a finger, fill dark skies with pinpoints of light, with no painting skill needed; just click on the bucket to fill and it is done. Is it cheating? Who cares? Knowing that I can go back if not happy with the last decision can be liberating and encourages more vigorous mark making.
The drawing can periodically be saved as a copy (see Klezmer Concert, below), or wiped out at the click of a button.
Be watchful, however. If lines do not join up or cross to form secure boundaries, the colour will find its way out through minute gaps and make unexpected connections. Such accidents can be eradicated with the reverse arrow button, or happy mistakes saved.
Klezmer Concert (below). Here are the three stages of a drawing made from behind the Regent’s Park bandstand at a klezmer concert. At each stage, they might be considered finished, however, I saved copies and carried on drawing.