In 2008 I wrote an article for MacFormat magazine about artists who have started painting on the iPad and iPhone using apps like Brushes and SketchBook Pro. I met some fascinating folk like Corliss Blakely, Jonathan Garuel and Susan Murtaugh who were creating amazing pieces of artwork with just an iPad or iPhone. I also interviewed comic artist Dean Trippe (www.deantrippe.com) but unfortunately his answers didn’t make to me in time to make the article (due to them getting waylaid in spam filters and the cyber-netherworlds!), so I thought this might be a great chance to finally have his words see the light of day as he has some really interesting stuff to say about creating artwork on his iPhone and iPad.
How did you get started painting on the iPad/iPod touch? Which program do use and why?
Dean Trippe: I injured my back recently, and after seeing the demo the Brushes folks did at the iPad announcement event, I finally decided to check it out. It looked like it would give me the chance to do some drawing even while I was stuck either in bed or in line at the doctor’s office. So I downloaded the iPhone version that day. I love Brushes. I’ve tried Sketchbook Pro as well, which also seems pretty cool, but the Brushes felt more familiar to me as a longtime Photoshop user. It’s got layers and a simple, but reasonably customizable set up brush shapes and effects. I’ve just started using the iPad version as well, which is even more capable, with layer effects and a built-in replay feature in the gallery mode.
Tell us about your work process, from sketching through to final artwork.
DT: I tend to start a sketch with small light gray brush on a layer I’ll eventually discard. On a second layer I’ll lay down the color shapes, then another for the linework. There’s no pressure sensitivity on capacitive touch screens, so when I’m doing the linework, I have to draw dead weight lines and then shape them with the eraser to get a more familiar tapering shape when I want one. My usual style is fairly cartoony: simple line weights and flat colors, but I also play around with more painterly effects, since the app is pretty capable at rendering using low transparency brushes and multiple layers.
How does this differ from your more traditional workflow?
DT:The only major differences are the lack of a stylus–I’ve tried the Pogo Sketch stylus, and like it a lot, but I haven’t gotten one myself yet–and the lack of pressure sensitivity, which is simply a limitation of the current hardware. When I draw with a Wacom tablet or a real brush, the pressure I exert on the stylus affects the weight or thickness of the line, which is an extremely important ability. It’s the difference between using a brush and a simple marker. Both are fine, but the brush offers more options at all times.
I should note that Brushes has recently added optional simulated pressure-sensitivity, but it’s currently wired a little backwards, with an increase in stroke speed creating a thinner line. The reverse would be more natural.
What tools do you use alongside the iPad for drawing?
DT: Right now, I’m not using any, but I am planning on ordering a Pogo Sketch stylus soon. I fashioned a homemade one this week using an emptied aluminum pen, but I haven’t drawn anything with it yet. On the iPhone, a stylus feels a little clunky, just because of the size and handling, but on the iPad, a stylus feels perfectly natural.
Does the iPad encourage or restrict your creativity?
DT: It’s definitely an encouragement to have such a capable device with you for creating. As a writer as well as an artist, the iPad is perfect for jotting down ideas for either medium. You really can’t overstate how useful the iPad is. It’s a touchscreen mobile computer you can write and draw with anywhere.
Do you think the iPad will be long lasting tool for artists or is it just a fad?
DT: Touchscreen computers are changing everything. I consult for a software company in California, and we just keep finding more useful things to do with the iPad. As more touchscreens come onto the market, it’ll just get better. As a sci-fi fan, it’s the realization of a long-desired gadget from the future, seen in countless stories and films. And selling over a million units so far seems like a strong start.
Will it ever replace traditional ways of drawing?
DT: Of course not. The allure of original art will always keep breaking out the graphite and inks, just as live music will never die. But for commercial art, computers have already become the preferred tools of various industries. Even traditionally-made works have to be scanned or photographed for digital reproduction. The Brushes app has been used to create covers for The New Yorker already, and as the hardware and software continue to improve, I think we’ll see touchscreen devices become far more common. Presently, the best touchscreen device for artists, the Wacom Cintiq, is wonderful, but requires a connection to a computer to function, and the most inexpensive models cost twice as much as the cheapest iPad. Hopefully the technologies will converge in the middle at some point.
What do you see as the next step for your artwork using the iPad?
DT: Well, now that I’ve got a Mac and can use the free Brushes companion application, Brushes Viewer, to export high res images from the iPad, I’m thinking I’ll try to do a pinup for print in an actual comic book. I’d also like to try to create a comic page on the iPad, but I’ll miss the accuracy of more full-featured programs I use on my computer for things like lettering and panel borders. But I think if people like me try to push the boundaries of the art apps, the developers will respond with improved features.
Are there any new features Apple could design or apps that you would like to see develop that could help you achieve these goals?
DT: Personally, I’d like to see Apple and other hardware developers explore options for realistic pressure sensitivity on capacitive touch screens. That’s the number one thing that’ll make iPad and mobile touchscreen computers a more viable option for professional artists.