Discovering digital

Recently I purchased a new iPad. Of course I rationalize it by saying that it’s because I need a bigger screen and a keyboard to write with, but the real reason is that I want to draw with Procreate and the new Apple Pencil.

If you’ve never tried Procreate the first thing you’ll notice is how many types of brushes there are. Last time I tried drawing on an iPad I was using the old Brushes app and a fat stylus to draw, so this a completely different experience. The new pencil also has a double-tap feature which makes it really easy to switch from brush to eraser and back again.

In my usual methodical way, I feel I have to get to know each tool individually, so I’ve been trying out the brushes one by one.

My first experiment was to see how close it could look to a drawing on paper, so I used the 6b pencil. This iPad is pressure sensitive so the harder you press the darker your line will be. And you can use the side of the pencil too, which is really cool.

My second experiment, still in monochrome, was using some of the ink brushes to draw Alice. From there I moved on to my version of toned paper by adding a grey background layer and drawing with both black and white pencil and then adding a bit of ink texture.

And finally colour. The painting tools are harder to get to know since my tendency is to want to blend, but I guess I’ll learn eventually. So far what I like best after all this is drawing with a good old fashioned soft pencil, albeit a digital one.

You might be wondering if this will replace traditional painting for me. It won’t. I love watercolour too much. But it’s nice to have the digital option for my daily sketches, for value planning for larger paintings, and of course for travel.


Signs of the city

I’ve been busy these past few weeks — creating prints of my work and working on commissions, most of them gifts for the holiday season. What could be nicer than a gift of art, whether it be print or original?

The series below are sketches I created for friends who wanted to give each of their three grown kids a sketch of Montreal. They asked me for this last April, but of course I put the project off until now since winter is my favourite painting season (and because I’m a procrastinator). My intention when I finally got around to starting the project was to find some sort of theme to tie the sketches together, and after spending a morning taking some reference photos, the images I liked the best were the ones with lots of signage in them.   

I had so much fun painting the windows and signs that I thought I’d share some tips for painting them:

  • For windows begin with an overall wash of the lightest colour, preferably warm. In St. Viateur Bagel Factory (above) I used yellow and burnt sienna to create a warm glow, especially since the lettering on the window is yellow. Then I painted around the letters (negative painting) with darker tones, leaving the lettering as the lightest element in that area. 
  • Work towards the darkest tones, like in the dépanneur scene below. For these windows, my starter wash was yellow, green and red. I also left a few white highlights for interior lights.
  • If you have a sign with a darker background and light lettering, like the red Coca Cola signs, use some Titanium White watercolour to do the letters. I dip a small brush directly into the tube of paint and use it full strength with almost no water.
  • All the lettering doesn’t have to be legible. Suggest some of it, like I did on the street signs. And don’t paint it all at full strength. Paint parts of the letters. The eye will fill in the rest. I use a small flat brush for this. 
  • Use a bigger brush than you think you need for this, since you don’t want to get caught up in too many details. Again, be suggestive with shapes and colour. And at the very end, go in with a fine rigger brush to add the final details with the darkest paint you have.