2020 has pushed us, willing or not into a new type of digital age. Every day across England, Wales, and Scotland, almost 50 shops, restaurants, and other leisure and hospitality venues close forever. Artists have relied on places like galleries, coffee shops, and cafes to showcase their art, but with many of these businesses closing and no public to show to even if they were open, the only place left is in the digital space. It is no surprise that online visual platforms such as Instagram saw an engagement increase of 25% just in April last year and the internet giant Amazon saw sales increase by 40% in the run-up to summer. Those numbers tell us a lot about our behaviour over the last year, we are clearly doing the vast majority of our viewing and our purchasing online, so doesn't it make sense for us to be creating there too?
Last year I stumbled across a documentary about an exhibition of paintings David Hockney created on his iPad of Yorkshire landscapes (which were especially interesting to me as we are from the same place - Bradford, West Yorkshire). It was fascinating seeing something go from a small image on a tablet to a large and beautiful print, displayed in a prestigious gallery, framed and embellished as any other traditional painting would be. There was a particular discussion about the term "hand-painted" where David was adamant that there is no difference between his digital and tradition creations, they are all hand-painted, just using different mediums.
It sometimes takes people like David who are well established in this industry already to bring those whose opinions have a lasting effect on artists' careers around to these new ideas and modern ways of creating, and also to carve the path for the amateurs who are looking for someone to show them the way.
My interest in digital art had been developing for a while and I had been trying to save for a second or third-hand iPad for many months. I began experimenting with digital art but in the very unorthodox way of just using a mouse and keyboard. I was convinced an iPad was exactly the tool I needed, especially for travelling and sketching on the go, then when Christmas came around, there was the brand new iPad pro sat waiting for me under the Christmas tree.
At that time I was very invested in The Mandalorian and with Antony's (my fiance and gifter of said iPad) birthday on the horizon I decided to make him some fan art for his home studio. I started with Baby Yoda, it's the first time I have ever drawn any type of alien creature and I loved using such a different colour palette for the skin than I am used to. With this portrait I used the feature within the Procreate App where you can use your reference photo somewhat like a palette, dipping in and grabbing the colour you would like and seamlessly sliding over to your canvas and painting with it
For Jin, I used a more traditional approach and "mixed" the colours myself to improve upon the reference rather than recreating the photo directly. I found this gave the painting more of a vivid and vibrant finish than my Baby Yoda but I am yet to decide which one of the two I prefer.
Then in February came the sad passing of Sir Thomas Moore. I have always loved painting older people, the older the better, so I created this memorial portrait of him using the iPad, and never have I painted such a detailed portrait so quickly. It was such an enjoyable portrait and I must admit, I painted the whole thing from the comfiest areas of my home; in bed, on the sofa, and at the kitchen table.
Now that I can work anywhere, (minus all of the wet places of course - feel free to challenge me on that one) I can be more sociable whilst painting than I usually could. I can sit in front of the TV in the evening and unwind with a film my other (better) half, I can paint whilst I enjoy my morning cup of tea (Clippers Organic Breakfast Tea at the moment with Plenish Organic Almond Milk) and even better than that, I can take my work to the sofa comfortably whenever the moment takes me and draw away to my heart's content - or at least until the battery runs out! I can work in the dark, I can work in the sunshine, I don't need to position myself in front of a perfectly bright but indirectly lit window. The iPad has well and truly released me from the uncomfortable body-binding shackles I didn't even realize I was being constricted by.
Art supplies are notoriously expensive and if you work with pens and pencils, that cost can probably be up to 100x that of someone working with paint, so having a drawing tool that comes already pre-loaded with a fully stocked and organized studio complete with all of the art supplies you could ever wish for and in every colour, you could ever imagine is an enormous benefit to anyone, and it certainly negates the asking price of the tablet in the long run.
I would suggest to anyone who is feeling a little overwhelmed by everything that the iPad has to offer to start very small as I did. I am 3 months in and have still only ever tried 2 of the brushes and with so many to choose from you could spend days trying to find your favourite. My go-to brush at the moment for paintings is the hard round, it is the first brush on the list so without sampling any other I just selected that one, and off I went. When I am doing a traditional oil painting I often use round brushes so it a brush I am familiar with.
When sketching and doing studies I love to use the pastel brush. For this study, I used the colour dropper on one of my real-life favourite pencils and sketched on top of a photo of a flat lay I had taken the previous week of my real-life art supplies. The day I made it I had woken up feeling quite terrible and it was also very snowy Sunday so Antony and I stayed in bed ( for the first time in years ) whilst binging last years "The Great British Bake Off " and I made a few studies of some adorable squirrels I had photographed on a walk from the week before. I had been able to make a day that would otherwise have been only productive in the means of rest into a day that I could create and it felt liberating.
It has been almost exactly a year now since we here in the UK were put into a lockdown and though some people might feel otherwise, I don't feel like we have even been out of it. No museums or Art galleries for a year, no cafes or gift shops, no antique shops, charity shops,no cosy bookstore or libraries that we can float around and soak in all of the wonderful history and inspiration they have to offer. The only place for that at the moment is online. And whilst we are appreciating the beautiful offerings that other artists have out there for us to enjoy, why not make some of our own?
David Hockney - Drawing from life
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