Over the lovely sunny days of July I have enjoyed some grand days out on walks in beautiful Yorkshire! Now, whilst I totally get the benefits of drawing en plein air I really don’t like carrying lots of stuff when out on a general day with my family. I like to travel light! As light as possible! (I am not one of those ladies who always has a bottomless bag that carries everything bar the kitchen sink!). However, I get frustrated when out on such a day and I come across a scene I just have to sketch and I haven’t got anything with me! Demanding or what!!
So, I started exploring whether I could use a drawing app on my phone. I always have my phone with me, partly for obvious reasons, but also because my husband and I find that the camera on our Samsung is excellent and often nearly as good as an SLR for general scene photography ( I realise more professional photographers may be spluttering with indignation – but it works for me!).
I tried a couple of free drawing apps from play store and was quite impressed with how you can use an app with lots of different ‘tools’ and effects. I purchased a battery operated drawing stylus which helped somewhat with fine detail but often just resorted to my finger as the app allows you to choose the width and tone of the line. The app allowed you to choose pencil, pen, or different brush effects, and the more complex one had some texture effects too. In the end I preferred the simpler app which seemed to produce more the effect I wanted and which I could quickly navigate around. It is just for quick sketching after all! The thing I had to keep telling myself was that my purpose was not to produce a finished masterpiece but to spend some time noticing and recording the shapes of the land, the layers in the landscape and any particular colours that might not come across as well in a photo.
A big advantage of using the drawing app was being able to build up layers that are independent of each other so that you can edit each one as you choose. If you mess up one layer, you can delete that without affecting other layers that you are happy with. The range of colours was not too bad either – sometimes I found it difficult to get the colour right (for a colour study for example) but that could just be my lack of experience with digital art. I think what it did provide for me was a way to sit and observe the landscape closely for 10 – 15 mins to take in more visually than just snapping a photo. I am hoping that, combined with a photo, my memories will help when developing a painting back in the studio.
One of the disadvantages I found with using the app on my phone, especially on a bright, sunny day, was glare on the screen preventing me from seeing properly what I was doing. Not to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ as it were, I have started experimenting with carrying, as well as my phone, a small, home made sketch book, the same size as my phone but just a couple of pages, with a retractable pencil and a few small coloured pencils. I am determined not to be beaten in my quest!
Of course, if I was going out on my own specifically to sketch I would still prefer to take a larger sketch pad etc.