Apple iPad Pro with Apple Pencil for Artists

Since March of 2018 I have been drawing and painting almost exclusively on my Apple iPad Pro 12.9” and I have not looked back (so far.) I ordered my Apple iPad Pro 12.9” and Apple Pencil sometime in late 2016 and my drawing and painting have never been the same since (in a good way.) However, the first time I really took to trying to draw something that resembled a finished piece of art was in February 2018.

I clearly remember being in Maui at the airport with my wife at our gate waiting to board our plane, departing for home. Our flight was delayed and I decided to kill some time by playing with my iPad Pro. Given the circumstance of being stuck somewhere with nowhere to go and having a good chunk of free time on my hands, I was actually forced to entertain myself with the iPad. Previously, I used the iPad to read some comic books I downloaded from ComiXology. I did not have any music or movies stored on the iPad because I knew I wanted to conserve memory and resources for strictly making art.

But this time, I didn’t feel like reading and so I decided to sketch instead. I launched an application I previously just fiddled around with, the drawing and painting application called Procreate. Without really trying to create anything of significance, I began doodling this strange looking character:

Yes, this is technically the first full blown illustration I created on my iPad Pro. I probably spent an hour on it and about another 30-45 minutes on it while on our flight back home. When we returned home and I had a few days to let the drawing sit. In fact, I almost forgot about it completely. However, upon revisiting this drawing, it struck me how truly awesome this piece of work was. Not because of what I drew, but because of the manner in which I drew it.

With nothing more than two tools (the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil) and one drawing application (Procreate) I was able to produce a decent drawing with color. I was able to sketch as if I were using a pencil. I painted colors almost effortlessly. And all while working from a remote location. I was suddenly looking at my iPad Pro in a new light. It was at that point I realized the power of this device and the potential for me to really start using it for my own art.

I have had years of working with traditional media: pencil, ink, brushes, pens, watercolor paints, oil paints, acrylic paints, etc. I’ve taken art courses in color and design, figure and perspective drawing, expressive drawing and introductory illustration courses at the local college and state university levels. I think I’ve got a decent handle on working with traditional drawing and painting methods. Working digitally now opened up a whole new world where I could put my previous studies using traditional art mediums to practice using a tool that allowed me to create almost as fast as I could think.

I have mostly focused on creating comic book artwork most of my life. Specifically, drawing in pencil and inking with india ink. This is where my passion lies, and creating any kind of art in this genre is what I aspire most to do. However, I also really enjoy working with color and painting. The issue with working with real world materials is the handling of the materials themselves and, quite frankly, having the space to work. I don’t live or work in a tiny space by any means, but my work area has definitely been the victim of the clutter brought on by accumulating a lot of various art supplies.

What I like about the iPad Pro is the freedom from having to stock, file, catalog, etc. such art materials. As an artist, I love to buy tons of art materials…some of which I never used! Maybe that’s just me, but I have a collection of pencils, brushes, pens, paint tubes, notebooks and other art paraphernalia that clutter up my work space. I think much of these art supply purchases were impulse buys I made when I was younger. An attitude of “…one day, I’ll use this art thing for that type of drawing/painting…”. Nowadays, I like to streamline as much as possible. Less is more and as such I feel my iPad Pro has helped me to do two major things:

1) Focus more on concepts

2) Work much faster

While it’s a fact that I now have to concern myself with such things as battery life and internet connectivity, I really have come to enjoy drawing and painting digitally and uncluttered. I can launch my favorite drawing/painting app and get straight to work. Making changes or adjustments, especially with color work, almost feels like cheating! When it comes to “painting”, I have found since I no longer am setting up a traditional painting space, I can work almost anywhere I want to. When I’m at home, I work at either my drawing table or at my desk near my iMac computer. On occasion, I have sketched at the dining room table. If we’re on the road, staying at a hotel, I can use my Elevation Lab Draft Table to work on almost any stable flat surface.

All this allows me to focus on ideas, concepts, roughs, etc. almost right out the gate. The ease with which I am able to grab two tools (the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil) and sketch, storyboard, create a color rough, make a painting or drawing and upload online almost instantly is so worth the price of iPad Pro and Pencil.

fantasy art on ipad pro by Rene Arreola

On speeding up my own process and increasing my art output, I can only relate my own experiences. After that initial drawing made with my iPad on February 13, 2018, I continued to explore painting with the Procreate app. My first full blown, completed painting was on February 24, 2018. Since the first digital painting, I’ve completed 16 paintings. As of this article (October 2018) I’m working on my 17th painting for the year. For me, that is a significant increase in my paintings output.

The original pencil sketch for this painting (shown below) was done sometime in 2003! The plan was always to turn it into a painting. But year after year, it just kept being put on the back burner. Working on it to make it a full painting meant having to enlarge it, transfer it onto a canvas or illustration board, and begin painting in either oil or acrylic paint. A long and drawn out process for me personally. But I loved to paint, and the process is what the process is and I did it to the best of my ability.

fantasy art on ipad pro

On the iPad Pro, I completed this digital painting in just over 26 hours (the Procreate app is able to track my time painting, and it will even record the number of paint strokes I make!) I think that’s pretty cool. For me and my process and how I like to work, the amount of preparation time is drastically reduced by working digitally. I can essentially get right to the painting, when I’m ready to paint.

The iPad Pro and Apple Pencil has made a significant impact in the way I produce paintings these days. It has helped me to create more paintings in a shorter period of time. Which is good because I like that I can complete a painting in a fraction of the time it used to take me. I work on a painting until I say I’m pretty much done with it. My paintings are as perfect as I tell myself they are, but the fact is that I am now able to finish them and move on to the next one in record time. “Finished, not perfect”, my mantra for what has been, thus far, a paintings-filled year!

I’m excited to see where the iPad Pro goes from here. I know tech hardware has a shelf life and that advances in the apps as well are coming out faster and faster. But overall, it’s a great time to be an artist in the digital age. If you’ve ever thought about going digital, I highly recommend it. Click here to see the all the paintings I’ve created so far from March 2018 to October 2018.

Rene Arreola © 2020

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