Wednesday, April 30, 2014

To App or to Sketch? That is the question....

Like just about everyone else I know, I have a smart phone and an iPad. I got the iPad to collect and store photos when I travel, and to sketch and paint from when I can't do those things from life. Now, there are some incredible apps for artists to use, but I am beginning to question whether or not they are really 'artist friendly' or whether they are taking the place of actual sketching with our eyes and hands.

There are many things I like about the apps I have and am using. I use Snapseed at lot. On my iPad and iPhone, it is like a travel version of Photoshop for me, allowing me to crop and fine tune a photo, just as a photo. The photo at the top is one I shot on Easter in my son's church. The photo just above has been cropped and brightened a bit in Snapseed. The photo below was also altered in Snapseed, changing it to a black and white photo with a 'frame.' I might use either of these to post on my blog or on Facebook, or to send family or friends. I love Snapseed, as it helps me make a photo just a bit better, as a photo.

One of the first 'sketch' apps I got is the AutoPainter app. The 'sketch' above was altered in that app, using the Aquarell option. I confess that I do not often use AutoPainter anymore. I do not sketch this way; it is looser than I work, though I have taken the resulting 'sketches' and layered them in Brushes (an iPad painter app) with the original photo. Brushes lets you use layers, an option which I do like.

If I want a 'watercolor' sketch anymore, I use Waterlogue, a newer app. It has a number of options and looks. The image above was created using this app. I love the looseness of the 'sketches' done in this app. I feel like it 'gives me permission' to be looser in my sketches, as well.

As I only use watercolors to sketch, anymore, it is fun for me to see what an image looks like from these apps in comparison to what I would do in my sketchbook. Like Photoshop, they get rid of details, and they can help loosen my vision up a bit. But I sometimes think the app version is so good, why should I bother to sketch it myself? Maybe I should just print the image and glue it in my sketchbook! (A choice I believe some 'artists' are making.)  I occasionally do print out one of these app sketches, to put in my handmade calendars or journals, but not in my sketchbook.

As I also use oil paints, I like to see what the apps can do in that 'medium.' The above image was from AutoPainter, using the Benson option. It is my favorite look from that app, possibly because Benson is one of my favorite painters!

This 'sketch' is from another app, called Glaze. It has a number of options to make a photo look like an oil painting, ranging from very abstract to very realistic. I do like this app. I think it will be useful for plein aire painting, to capture fleeting images for studio work and to delete overwhelming details.

I find all of these apps fascinating. Sometimes I find them so fascinating that I spend my sketch time playing with apps, rather than painting in my sketchbook. After all, these images are just what I would love to paint, if I could! However, when the iPad is doing the sketching for me, I may not notice the lovely curve of the lily's petal. I may overlook the bit of stamen peeking out of the center of the flower. I may not feel in my brush the sharpness of the leaves. I do not experience the image for myself, and my own version of how it looks to me as an artist is, I think, negated and even lost.

I know this sketchbook sketch of mine is not as lovely or as perfect as the apps 'sketch' the image. That is OK with me. Doing the sketch is an act of creation, by me, not by my iPad or iPhone. It brings back to me the appreciation I felt for the beauty of the lilies on that sunny Boston morning, for the light shining through the window and back-lighting them, making the white lilies glow. As I compare my own sketch with those above, I also learn that I regret not putting the cross shape of the window panes in my own sketch, as it seems appropriate, since the image was a church window on Resurrection Sunday morning. but, oddly, I did not even notice that cross shape until I had done my own sketch, leaving it out. That's why the process is more important to me than the product; the things I learn from doing the work myself.

What apps do you use, and do you think they enhance your own creative work, or detract from it? I would love to know!


Angie Willis said...

I think your painting is far better than any of the photographs and the reason I say that is because you've painted what matters, ie. the flower, and taken out all the attention grabbing little things that exist in the photograph like the window frame and the slightly disconcerting view behind the window. I love apps too and am apt to spend too much time playing, but absolutely nothing can beat looking closely at an object, especially something from nature, and reproducing it with pencil, pen and paint.

Snarled Yarns said...

I like having both, the photo gives me the colors, and I can us an app to change it to greyscale for dyeing and choosing colors and shades. I then draw mine to get a clear understanding of what I'm seeing and to focus on what I want in the tapestry. Oddly enough in the end I use a greyscale photo blown up to be the cartoon for the tapestry that I've drawn over in marker to emphisize certain things. The color photo then is beside me to give me a better idea of the whole piece.

Mary said...

Not coming from a particularly artistic background, I do not draw, it just has not been my first (or second) means of coming up with a design. I have learnt a bit about Photoshop and found that I tend to use it, and the different effects, to come up with images for my work. But … I draw even less than I did before! And now I tend to use photos for all my designs. So I have tried to make myself draw - not very successfully as it is not something feel confident with - and I have decided to try to learn how to make more abstract designs and move right away from realism. So my Brushes app is now in disuse, mostly. The apps can make lovely effects possible but I feel as if I haven't produced the work, the programmer deserves just as much credit. I still use Photoshop more than my app, partly because I can do some design tasks better with it than with the app - that could be my unfamiliarity with using the iPad. I think I am saying that the technology can help to produce some lovely work but that I need to keep trying to do more hands-on, personal work to develop my ideas.

Don West said...

Hi Kathy, I think your own sketch is far better ;) But it is an interesting diversion to sometimes tinker with the apps. I've done it too but there is something less organic about it, less studious of the subject :) I am always left with feeling less attached to the subject if I don't sketch it myself.
You did a great job on your workshop sketching. I'm glad it was a little vacation for you ;) and thanks for the link! You're on my blog roll now :)