The summer stretched on. So did my anguish. Despite generating dozens of atrocious eyesores on my iPad, I was still no closer to getting the hang of things. So I made a desperate move: I started watching YouTube instructional videos. That the iPad is perfect for.
After a lot of painful grazing, I came upon a couple of useful resources. James Julier is the Bob Ross of Procreate — his paintings are mundane, his voice is soporific and his thumbs are strangely shaped — but he does go step-by-step through many features and techniques and this hour-long video was pretty helpful.
Brad Colbow has several great tutorials — I especially liked Drawing Comics in Procreate from Start to Finish. He’s funny, smart, and anticipated many of the pitfalls I encountered.
Under Brad’s influence, I decided to stop keeping a sketchbook journal and start making goofy cartoons instead. It was easy to simulate printing techniques like flat color panels and Ben-Day dot patterns so I plunged in and made a few comics:
I did not quit my day job.
Felix’s drawings seems so simple and his watercolors so clean, and for months I had vowed that one day I’d sit down with the book and really work out how he does it. Then I realized that I could kill two birds with one auto-didactic stone if I tried to reproduce 1) his drawings using 2) the iPad.
I knew Felix uses soft, squishy pencils and procreate has a squishy 6B pencil that’s lovely to draw with. (If you hold the Pencil® at an angle, it gives you fash graphite smeary lines just like the real thing). He also uses a soft, pliable technical marker and, of course clean watercolors. I began by drawing the art on the cover.
Next, I just started working my way through the book, drawing by drawing. I found I could copy his drawings pretty well and it definitely loosened up my drawing style as I’d hoped. But simulating watercolors on the iPad was a whole other deal. There are tools that let you paint in the shape of watercolors and you can create layers of color that sort of simulate glazes but they are much harder to use than a brush and palette.
I drifted from Procreate to Adobe Sketch which at the time had a better way of blending wet on wet and even included a little fan that would dry the layers and stop them from bleeding. I ended up making watercolor layers and then exporting them to send back to Procreate. It was fiddly and inexact and the results lacked the luminosity and character of Felix’s analog paints. Nonetheless, the project kept me busy for much of the next month and my chops started developed further — thanks to two great teachers with Xs in their names: Felix and Experience.
Here are some of the images I made:
Someone left a comment on the last post in this series, saying they assumed that in the next post I would reveal the a-ha moment that turned my iPad drawings from crap to genius. Alas, there was no such moment on the road to Damascus. Instead, a long slog through various small breakthroughs. Stay tuned for the next ones.
(To be continued)