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.


Various Sizes, Charcoal/Acrylic, 2012

After the MLK critique, I felt that the idea of the “sketch,” blemishes and all, as part of the final product didn’t go over so well. Similarly, the act of painting without the specific concerns of painting fell flat. Otherwise, I think the power of the multiple, as well as the meditative/compulsive potential of the process has merit. A good series needs a good balance between repetition and variety. So I decided to continue the search for a banal object to repeat over and over, just with more painting finesse, and a more flexible format.

I began by making observational sketches in charcoal and acrylics of coffee mugs on the premises.

Train Charcoal

This one is hot off the press, drew it just today start to finish. It’s a big one, about 4′ x 5′ done in charcoal. This is a train configuration I saw a few months back at the cement factory a couple blocks away. The graffiti I embellished from another train. With a graphic design background, a little text in an image always makes me giddy.

Train, train

First of all, my apologies for the poor image quality. This was taken with my phone camera. But I wanted to go ahead and post this image. For one thing I needed to shake things up a bit around here before completing these abstracts. But I also have a project in the works for an upcoming show at Three Hounds Gallery in Wilmington, and I have been intending on posting progress reports anyway.

I’ve gotten a lot of requests for works similar to my Kansas series I did a few years back. So far that has been my most successful set of works in terms of popularity. But I have been resistant to doing more from that set. I wanted to keep trying new things and move forward with thoughts on the image making process. But that series has continued to follow me around in requests and interest for more. I’ve said no a couple of times and forwarded examples of my current work, only to never hear from them again. Or I would say “let me see what I can do maybe” and then I never follow back up. But then Kate at Three Hounds Gallery in Wilmington contacted me over a year ago, and although I was initially resistant, I did cave in some time later. For one thing, having emailed and spoken on the phone with Kate, I liked her, which is important. Plus, the gallery is in a great location in a beautiful town, the show will be in October at the beach. It all seemed appealing.

Even more important, though, is that I thought of a new twist on the theme, a way to move it forward. The previous series was on the “experience” of Kansas, and I couldn’t make a long-term commitment just painting Kansas all the time. But I think the appeal to the series more about the composition. So the problem I needed to resolve was how to appropriately reuse the big sky composition while perhaps improving it’s use in a new theme. This is what I came up with. I will write about the various ways this theme came together as I post progress on the work.

This image is a preliminary for the series done in charcoal on a big sheet of drawing paper, 44″ tall I think, not sure about the width. The plan is to do the entire series in watercolor, but I can work quickly in charcoal, and I wanted to flesh something out to gauge it’s potential. It’s a shame I promised watercolors, because charcoal really seemed like the appropriate medium to use, as if the image was created from the soot of the environment it depicts.

Tonight is Open House at McColl Center for Visual Arts, so I have a big evening ahead of me. I will post some of the work I am showing for the first time next week. Until then…