Pad and i: 5. Surf, Dave and cartoons

In early August, we once again packed up our swimsuits, fat novels, and sunscreen and headed south to Surf City where the Kane family compound sits a few blocks from the beach.  The summer before I’d watched enviously as Tommy drew broiling semi-nudes in his sketchbook and I was determined to spend the idle hours working on my iPad chops.

I didn’t feel like focusing on drawing sunbathers — I’ve done it before and it always makes me feel a little pervy. Instead, I wanted to draw the water and the sun-bleached houses, to continue the exploration I’d been doing with my urban sketches in Manhattan.

I used a similar technique, constructing buildings out of simple shapes, bright colors, flat lighting. I tried drawing people too but with less success. Overall the thing I liked best was the colors. More than watercolors, the iPad captured the bright August sunlight.

I‘d been studying Hockney a lot in the weeks before vacation and I was channeling his palette  I’d spent an hour or two in the McNally-Jackson bookshop, poring through his new book called Current which contained hundreds of iPhone and iPad drawings. There’s a simplicity to each stage of his work which builds up to an intense richness to the final results. He attacks the screen with clarity  and bold colors and keeps layering on detail. I tried to use a similar approach but I still didn’t dare to use colors as cartoony and bold as he did. Inexpertly done, they can just look garish and amateurish.

David Hockney Exhibition at the NGV

The last painting I made hinted at a new direction. I’d woken up early on the last morning in Surf City. The room was still dark but little fingers of dawn thrust themselves around the edges of the blinds. I picked up my iPad and started to construct the shapes of the window, the air-conditioner, the blinds, the bureau and then to suggest the variations in light. It was simple, crudely drawn through bleary eyes, but it was not a bad piece of observational drawing. I could still put aside style to draw just what I see.

I was still feeling a little defensive about these new drawings. That’s what happens when I am around a master like Tommy who is cranking out work that is so much more careful and labor intensive than mine. Tom’s not one  to hand out unearned praise and he was just grunting at the various iPad pieces I showed him. A little petulantly, I decided to try some thing one can’t do in a plain old sketchbook: make the pictures move.

I downloaded a few different animation programs and began to experiment. I never found an ideal program, something as well-designed as Procreate is for drawing Most were for little kids and had clumsy interfaces that were very restricting. The best is called Animation Desk and I managed to wrestle a few little samples out of it.

I tried rotoscoping some short pieces of video which is a laborious and mechanical process that delivers somewhat synthetic results.  Here’s a little film of my dogs walking through the study:

Then I tried drawing more from my imagination, a chicken running around:

And finally I took a couple of the drawings I’d done at the beach and made them move:

A fun experiment. but not really what I needed to be spending my time on.  It’s nice to know I can make a small bit of animation now and then but I was far from doing what I wanted with static drawing on the iPad.  I came back from the beach a little browner and wiser but with still a long way to go.

(To be continued)


I’d love to know anything you think about this process — with one exception. Please don’t tell me you still prefer the analog drawings I did with ink and watercolor. I know that and it just make me crabby to hear it from you. I already own a large monkey to share that sort of insight.