This week I finally added a new piece of equipment to my art supplies. I got an Apple Pencil for my iPad. I’ve had an iPad for years and though I do a bunch of photography work on it I’ve never done much drawing on it. Before the Apple Pencil was invented I saw examples of artists who could draw with their finger or a regular stylus on the iPad but I was never able to do that. I couldn’t crack it. I wasn’t particularly good at digital drawing in general.

I use a regular Wacom tablet all the time. That’s the one where you use a stylus on a plastic tablet and look at your computer monitor to see what you’re doing. I sometimes draw with it but I mostly use it for digital coloring. That’s sort of a separate thing to me. I make art on paper, scan it in, and them make a finished color piece out of it. Sure there is some drawing involved but not nearly as much as if I drew it all with the tablet.

I just checked and it was way back in 2008 that I bought a 12 inch Wacom Cintiq. I would have guessed five years ago. Time flies. The Cintiq is different from my regular tablet in that it has a screen. As a matter of fact it is a screen that you draw on. So the stylus goes right on the tablet/screen and the drawing happens right under the stylus. No need to look at my monitor. I thought the Cintiq would change my workflow and I would use it all the time. It didn’t and I don’t. Because of various inconveniences with it I barely use it. In the end it was probably my biggest waste of money on a piece of equipment. I still have it but it’s attached to my backup computer and is hardly ever on.

One of the things I never liked about the Cintiq was the feeling of drawing on glass. The stylus was nice and was pressure sensitive but the feel of the plastic tip on glass didn’t feel right to me. I also found the thickness of the glass to be a distraction. The image I was drawing didn’t appear right under the stylus it appear under the glass of the screen so it was about an eight of an inch away from the tip of the stylus. I found that hard to get used to. I know tons of artists who love their Cintiq so it’s always bugged me that I didn’t like mine.

I’ve tried out the Apple Pencil before and it seemed really cool. The iPad has some advantages over the Cintiq. The main one being that it’s portable and doesn’t have to be attached to a computer. That last part is bigger than you could imagine. Both my Cintiq and my Wacom Tablet are old now and take a lot of fussing to keep running. Both Wacom and Apple have abandoned any support for them so I had to look online for ways to keep them running so I didn’t have to buy new ones. At least the iPad and Pencil will run for as long as I have them. Even if Apple abandons support for them and I can no longer upgrade them they’ll still work.

I’ve bought a few different drawing apps for my iPad over the years. None of them grabbed me but I didn’t have the Apple Pencil then. The two I’ve been trying out for the last couple of days have been Procreate and Affinity Designer. Designer is a vector based app like Adobe Illustrator is on the computer. That means it makes lines by connecting dots. I like making vector based art because that means I can “Build” things. It’s all about constructing shapes. I’ve been trying to get things goings in Designer but so far haven’t been able too.

Procreate I’ve had a little more luck with. It’s a bitmapped based program, like Photoshop is, and does its best to duplicate the feel of working with pencils, ink, and paint brushes. It’s really deep with a lot of tools to choose from. Too many for me at this point so I’ve been sticking mostly to the pencil as I learn to draw on the iPad.

So far my problem with digital art on the iPad comes down to technique. Turns out when it comes to digital drawing I have none. I’ve been drawing with a pencil all my life. It’s second nature to me now. On my drawing table I have at least ten different pencils that I use for many different tasks. When I need to draw something I grab the appropriate pencil. I don’t even think about it. With digital drawing I have a thousand pencils at my fingertips. But which ones do I use? And where are they? There is one pencil tool but it has lots of adjustable settings. Which one is best for the task at hand? I don’t know. It’s frustrating to have to learn something that is second nature to me with real tools.

Then there is actual technique. I know how to paint with gouache, watercolor, acrylic, and oil paints. Not to mention markers and inks. I know which one to pick for the outcome I want and how to physically paint with them to get to where I’m going. With digital I have no clue. Do I want a fake oil painting? Watercolor? Ink? I don’t know. Even after I choose I don’t know what brushes and colors to pick. I don’t know the destination or the road. It’s very confusing and I’m not used to that.

The final thing I think I’m having trouble with is the size of the “Paper” I’m working on being virtual rather than real. I’m used to a 5×7 inch piece of paper being 5×7 inches. It doesn’t change. Of course with digital I can zoom in and zoom out to my hearts content. But that makes the drawing constantly change size. It’s weird. Plus one of my habits of drawing is that the first thing I draw is a border around the paper. My most nature artistic talent is for composition so I like to define the edges of the paper to compose against. With a digital drawing that I can zoom in on the edges are constantly different. I find that a bit disconcerting.

So far the best thing about the Apple Pencil is that I like the feel of it. Everything else is going to take time and practice.