From paper to virtual canvas: How the lockdown encouraged me to return to sketching, in a new, adventurous form
In the latest from our series 'How I became a boss at', an account of learning to make digital art. Virtual sketching can seem intimating at first, but the diversity of options and ease of working can pull reluctant artists back to the (digital) easel
In part 5, learning to make digital art.
Drawing and sketching has always excited me; since I was a child, I’ve been drawn to creating something or recreating experiences, while adding my own nuances. I would doodle on the last page of my school notebooks – I still find myself doing it, at any chance I get. Sketching is also the way I express myself; I’m not adept at writing what I’m feeling or thinking, so I choose to draw instead.
Like many others who find that growing up and getting a job has made it tough to pursue hobbies, I couldn’t find the time either. At other moments, I’d find a reason to not sit down and sketch – I didn’t have the pencils I needed, or that the exact colours were missing, or that the right kind of paper was out of reach.
But the lockdown gave me a reason to return to this passion. At every juncture when I have needed motivation, I have looked for new tech: If I needed to be more active, I'd invest in a digital weighing scale or a fitness tracker. If I wanted to learn how to cook, I’d look for a fancy set of knives. Some people may term this approach a shopping disorder, but I find that it always helps.
This time around, I looked to the app Procreate for motivation (available on the Apple app store). It has all the brushes, colours, papers, pencils and a plethora of other tools – which leaves no room for excuses!
I find subjects in everything around me – portraits of friends and family, the food I enjoy eating the most, the places I’ve loved visiting.
Although I have been sketching for a long time, I found that it was quite difficult to draw on a glass surface, where the effect is not the same as a regular pencil. I was used to using different pencils, for different strokes and sketch gradients. With a tablet and app, there’s usually only one pencil at your disposal, and you need to adapt to using it at different pressure levels.
What makes the app convenient and fun can also make it intimidating: tools about which I had no idea, or an option that allowed me to make digital brushes. I could compare this experience to switching to an e-reader after reading physical books all your life, but the truth is that reading requires minimal engagement with the screen. Here, on the other hand, you are constantly learning and must make several choices.
Once I was no longer intimidated and I got a hang of the process and the multitude of options it came with, it became quite easy. I could rest my hand on the sketch, minus the fear of pencil smudges. I could also zoom in as much as I liked, to perfect the finer details. I made my own brushes for the purposes I needed. There’s a definite learning curve – mine was a month long. Three months later, it feels natural to draw this way.
The experience is no different than drawing on a paper for me anymore. Professional painters may have a different take, but I find that many artists have now taken to making art digitally, and endorse the medium too.
With the lockdown and all the free time that has accompanied it, illustrating has proved to be a boon, because I like to keep busy and be productive. If you are into making art and it is the lack of resources that is holding back, this may be the best alternative. Procreate may sound like an expensive hobby, but there are several apps and devices (tablets, especially) available which you can use similarly. Making art digitally also means you can share it instantly, and your device may be the only canvas or sketching book you ever need!
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