Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

Water Glass

Matchbox Water Glass Digital 682 px x 1024 px

Matchbox Dump Truck

Matchbox Dump Truck Digital 682 px x 1024 px

Matchbox Hauler

Matchbox Hauler Digital 682 px x 1024 px

I will admit that I was leery of the whole digital-art-on-the-idevice concept. I’m not one to dismiss anything as lacking inherent value as an art form, but coming from a strict watercolor attitude, where physics, unpredictability, and an inability to edit ruled the roost, digital art was, for me, not too compelling. (Before I continue, I’ll point out that this isn’t a total Baptism story, only a partial Baptism, but you’ll see.)

I had downloaded Sketchbook Pro and Brushes for my iPhone some time ago, and when the iPad came out, it seemed an even more appropriate format for a sketching and painting app. Two iDevices, two copies of Sketchbook Pro, and after two years I had produced two shitty monotone sketches. Unimpressed. Totally.
Since that time, however, iArt has gotten a little more high-profile, David Hockney putting the final touch of legitimacy to the craft. And yet, for me, the field seems dominated by illustration. Even Hockney’s digital production was unimpressive, although I hear that I am wrong about that.
Yesterday, however, I found myself in one of those situations where I was at my workhouse ready to go, but completely unsure of what to do. This is a freshman problem for sure, one that we learn early how to deal with. The problem is that art materials are costly, and sometimes uncertainty is a bad place to start when a final days work could cost, conservatively, over 50 buckaroos. So there I was. And so was the iPad. You do the math.
As noted before, this is not a full blown convert story, but I will admit that I enjoyed working with the format, in particular knowing that I could do anything without that annoying cash register ringing in my head with every stroke. I ended up painting two classic Matchbox trucks from my childhood collection, as well as another quick stab at the water glass. Later, while waiting at the DMV, I continued sketch painting for a completely productive and enjoyable wait.
The biggest problem with digital painting is the palette. To paint traditionally is to paint in siennas, umbers, quinacridones, etc. This can be worked around, and I did so by replacing the default palette with a custom palette of RGB derived equivalents of standard paints. But then the issue became mixing. I have color swatches, but part of the joy of painting is the mixing, which as far as I can tell at this stage is not part of the digital realm (although while at the DMV I investigated some ways of cheating this point). So while I had gone through the exercise of researching and adding the RGB equivalent of Prussian Blue and Alizarin Crimson, come paint time I was left with just the tube colors and no real way to mix them. This may explain the heavy quantity of illustration output for these digital painting apps.
Another problem specific to me was the flatness. I’ve been painting sculpturally with acrylics as of late, which is in response to my typical watercolor flatness. Even watercolor has a physical quality. I thrive on that materiality in painting. Completely absent on the iPad. As noted, though, it is the lack of material expense that makes this appealing.
There you have it. Certain limitations, some correctable through development, others inherent, will keep iDevice art from being a “true” painting option for me. But I confess that I am in love with the freedom it affords, financial freedom, convenience freedom. Hell, I’m posting straight from my phone without the need to get the full Photoshoot equipment out. Nice.