I am pleased to introduce to you my guest blogger and artist Alison Jardine. We are so fortunate to be able to hear her journey on the iPad as she creates her daily drawings. For further information on Alison check her out at her website and flicker. She is also can be found on Twitter as @alisonjardine
In December 2010, I began a year of iPad sketching. I committed to create one each day, and share them via flicker and twitter. A year before, the twitter #draw365 hashtag had been launched, and I had initially joined it, but dropped out very quickly. This time, I decided I would complete a full year of this project, for my own satisfaction and to be able to look back on a year of creating, comparing the initial sketch with the final one. I am currently on sketch 300, and mostly I have managed to make one each and every day. I have had times when I have been unable to upload them, and missed a day or two, but largely I have managed to push through.
I have sometimes been prevented by the lack of available connection, but there are other obstacles than purely technical ones, of course. The worst kind of block for me is when I’ve had such a bad day that the thought of making one is the furthest possible from your mind – I have pushed through these and created, nevertheless. The bad day sketches are pretty obvious as you look at the sketches, in fact!
One of the things I have learned from this process is that there is a real, tangible benefit from working each and every day on art that is tangential to your main body of work, rather than core to it. Each sketch helps connect me between the days, bridging the ideas and feelings of yesterday with those of tomorrow – but the result of doing so every single day adds to up to a greater impact than I expected, even than the (on average) twice-weekly paper sketches I already made.
When I began, I had never used digital sketching before, although I felt an initial attraction for several reasons. One was David Hockney’s exhibit in Paris of his iPad sketches. Hockney is a hero for me, in part because he comes from the same part of England as me and reminds me of my late father, and also because I find his search for the truth of an expression of an image – often a simplified one in the midst of his seeming complexity – to be similar to my own aesthetic.
Then, there is the back-lit nature of the iPad; my work has always been about painting light, and the iPad seemed to me to be painting with light.
Of course, as an artist with a busy family it also offered me unrivalled portability, in that I can use it anywhere, in any situation, without mess or charcoal getting smeared on my hands and clothes. I can draw and remain unnoticed by those around me, in museums or at soccer matches, in bed at night (my most common time to create them) or in a coffee shop. The one caveat I have discovered is that it is almost impossible to use in bright sunlight, where there is little shade.
I have, however, made some successful en plein aire sketches with it, but each time I had to find significant shade to sit under. I will add here that I do live in Texas at the moment, which has possibly the brightest, unmodulated daylight I have ever seen.
I also liked the fact that with digital painting you can achieve a plethora of styles and appearances for your work, with the same toolset, for example I can make it look like oil paint, charcoal, or like canvas that has been stitched together with twine
I choose to use Brushes, which Hockney uses, and, although I have also used Inpsire Pro and ArtStudio, and tried several others, it remains my favorite. Drawing from life (especially figure drawing) has been the art form I have pursued for the longest time in my life – I return to it for my own pleasure frequently.
Brushes in my opinion best replicates the feeling of sitting with a bunch of pencils and some flaky, messy pastels and charcoal – and a blank page. It feels artistic, rather than like a piece of software. I don’t like the programs where there are more buttons and gadgets than space to draw. It is too constrictive for me. It is not what I want from my sketching and drawing experience.
In terms of artistic possibilities, the most important tool for me in iPad sketching is the ability to layer translucent colors and lines on top of each other. Most of my work over this year has this technique at its core, and I love the effects it can produce. If there is one tip I can share to other artists interested in creating on the iPad – or any digital work – it is this one. Use the layers and use them well!
Along the way, my iPad project has drawn a lot of attention to my work, and I have been gratified that many people have enjoyed my sketches. Unexpectedly, I was featured in Digital Artists magazine, who subsequently commissioned an article from me introducing Abstraction. I was also commissioned to create artwork for a digital book, a project I thoroughly enjoyed.
This recognition has been an bonus, because I truly didn’t know how this project would go, in part because I decided early on NOT to have a theme, or to explore any particular motif or idea.
I wanted separate it from my current paintings, and to look back on what would be essentially a visual diary, as diverse and eclectic as I am. Sometimes the drawings express what I have felt or experienced, or they explore a new facet of the technical capabilities, or they are from life drawings.
By clearing the field, as it were, I hoped by the end of the year to see themes, to find what it is that, when there are no expectations, I actually end up creating. I hoped for insight into myself, as an artist. And I have.
Early on, I realized that it would provide me, as an artist, a way to store my painting ideas that pop into my head all day and every day as full-color sketches with ease and speed. I found I could distill all these exciting and sometimes chaotic images that pressed themselves into me onto my iPad, and, thus diverted, I could focus on the core images that I wanted to develop into my paintings. The iPad helps my energetic and sometimes scattered mind to focus, and order itself. (Below is a drawing dedicated to Steve Jobs)
As a direct result of this project, I have discovered that I have capability in digital art that I want to explore further. I’ve added digital collage and painting to the body of professional work that I create, as shown in several works in my PixelNation series, and it has also led me back, for example, to monotypes, as I searched for ways to achieve the images possible on the iPad and in Photoshop in a physical, painterly medium.
My understanding of my aesthetic has grown also, with a greater development of my use of line as a sometimes anthropomorphic, expressive compositional device that comprise the object and subject of my work. Before this project, I knew that my Trees in my Natural Abstractions series were, for me, lines that occupied and divided space, and represented the sensations of the physical body. After starting this iPad project, I dug deeper into expressing this as pure abstraction in oils with my Intermittent Light series. Both the PixelNation and Intermittent Light series were both created this year, during what I am calling my Year of the iPad.
I am very proud of the results of my year, and of keeping to my rule of spending no more than 30 minutes on each sketch, to keep it impulsive, and light-hearted. When my 12-month quest is over, I shall continue making art on my iPad. Digital art is now an effortless and integral part of my general body of work. I have greater insight into my own artistic process as well as into the truths I am trying to express. While this is often the result of daily practice, of course, the iPad is now an essential part of my art, as planning for paintings, and as an artform in itself.
Alison Jardine, November 2011