I just bought an iPad Pro and I’m suddenly having an internal artist conflict.
I restarted my artistic practice last year, picking up watercolors and ink and making art again for the first time in nearly two decades. There is something about working tactically with a physical medium—a somewhat unforgiving medium that has a lot of randomness to it. The fluid nature of watercolors is unique and something I don’t think a computer program will be able to reproduce any time soon.
But as this year has progressed, there’s times in my daily work where making illustrations digitally would be handy. My day job of designing and art directing magazines is done 100% on the computer and when I need quick little illustrations or designs, having an iPad Pro with a pen sounded like an awesome solution.
That said, an iPad Pro is not cheap and I am extremely frugal so figuring out if it was really worth the investment is difficult. I have been kicking around the idea of making a picturebook the past few months and I thought the iPad Pro might be the best tool to use for it because of the versatility and endless toolbox.
So I bit the bullet. I bought an iPad Pro and the Apple Pen.
At first play with the device, it makes all of the parts of my brain fire off the same way as when I started my watercolors practice. There’s a lot to learn and possibilities. Maybe too many possibilities.
Using the reputable Procreate program, I first tried doing a portrait, similarly to what I do almost every day with my watercolors and paper. In a way, the tools are fairly intuitive (I have used Photoshop for work for over 20 years, though, so take that into account if you’re new to digital tools). The pencil works like a pencil. The pen works almost like a pen. The brush works sort of like a brush. There’s learning curves to every tool so I won’t get into this as it’s only been one day using the program.
As I kept using it, I had all of these questions circling my head. The following are a few thoughts that came to me over the last day:
- Time. I only have so much time in a day to dedicate to my art practice. Splitting the time between two mediums is not easy. One could say both ways is continuing the practice, but I can’t help but think that spending time making art on the iPad will not hold up the same way my watercolors may.
- Self-Identity. I’ve built an internal story around my journey into watercolors. It’s part of my identity at the moment and switching to a digital medium feels almost like cheating on watercolors. If I start presenting work using this other medium, will that completely change what I’ve built for myself over the past year of practice?
- Too many tools! I didn’t think this was going to be something I thought negatively about as it’s one of the reasons I wanted the iPad Pro in the first place. Having this huge toolbox at my disposal of all the brushes and pens I could think of sounded great, but it quickly felt overwhelming. Working with my watercolors and inks, the limitations help me push forward in my technical skills without a lot of distraction. Too many tools can be very distracting.
- Devaluing my craft? I haven’t really hung out with a lot of artists a I don’t care much about the fine art world and the conversations of if digital art is real art, etc., but there was something that felt… I don’t know… cheaper about the medium? The odd thing is I don’t think that way about anyone else when I see their digital art; it’s an internal conversation with myself.
- Imperfection. I love the imperfections that come with working on a physical medium. I love that I don’t know what watercolors will necessarily do when the water dries (even though the more you practice the medium, the more you control even the imperfections). It’s something that gives character and authenticity to a piece. I don’t strive for perfection (which is why I love sketchbookers more than the fine arts).
- Documentation. Am I losing the physical document of my creation and how much is that really worth? Is there a value in it? It’s really making me ask a lot of questions about why I’m creating other than to scratch that itch to make something interesting (and pretty) with complete autonomy.
The reason I’m writing about this in such detail is because I didn’t expect it! I am from the generation raised with home computers and the Internet (and have fully embraced them my whole life) but I’m still having these thoughts.
For others who have gone both digital and analog, what has your experience been like? Have you had similar thoughts or has it been a completely different experience for you? I’d love to hear from you all as I’m personally delving into these topics.