This summer I finally made the leap to working digitally and I've discovered from my DM's and emails that many other artists have the same questions as I did. So I'm writing this as it might be helpful for those folks who are thinking of doing the same.
First, let's start with the hardware. After a bunch of research trying to decide between a Wacom Cintiq and an iPad Pro, I opted for the new 12.9" iPad Pro & Apple Pencil. I won't go crazy with tech specs, but for me the iPad was the better decision because it was more suited to how I wanted to work: It was more portable. I could access my Dropbox or Creative Cloud from it. I could use the camera to help make reference material. I was intrigued by many of the new drawing apps. And since an iPad does way more than just act as a drawing tablet, that was also very appealing. (ie: movies for my kids to watch on long car rides). I also went with the larger iPad because it's pretty much the same size as an 8.5"x11" piece of paper, which I normally sketch on anyways.
Secondly, the software. I use Adobe Sketch and Procreate quite often since they're both excellent for drawing and painting. I also use Astropad Studio quite a bit since it allows me to easily use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator directly on the iPad. Basically it mirrors your desktop. Here's a review video that I found helpful. As for brushes, I use Kyle T. Webster's Photoshop brushes, and most of them also work in Sketch. I haven't tried making my own brushes yet, but I kind of feel like I won't need to because Kyle already did such a wonderful job with making them feel like traditional media.
How was the learning curve? Not bad at all. I was very worried about this because for the most part I've worked very traditionally up to this point: Sketch, scan, more sketching, more scanning, adjust sketch in Photoshop, paint, scan, send. Personality-wise I'm not one for easily introducing new things into my process but this was very natural. I was expecting it would take a few weeks before I felt comfortable enough to use it in my daily workflow, but it was only about 3 days. After a few weeks it felt like home.
How has it changed your workflow? It's streamlined it A LOT. If there's one thing I hate doing, it's scanning. I'm scared to guess how many hours of my career have been spent scanning. Since my sketches are now done on the iPad, it's eliminated at least half the scanning on any given project. How much I use it for final art varies as sometimes my finals are created 100% digitally, and other times it's approximately 50%.
How do you like drawing on glass? It was weird at first and kinda slippery, so I added a matte screen protector and it made a big difference. It added some tooth and now it feels more like paper.
Has it changed your work? The way I look at it is this is just another tool and it's up to me how much I want to use it, or how well I'll learn to use it. Generally speaking, if you want to change the look of your work, one way to do it is to change the tool. However, the work still comes from the same place so it still has the same voice. Overall my work still looks the same as it did before. Other than my process being streamlined, I do find I'm a bit looser now because I think about building projects differently as it's easier to mock-up an idea or try a new idea with less fear. I do miss the happy accidents that happen regularly when working traditionally, though. I do feel that over time I'll find the right balance, though.
I think that's it for now. If I think of anything else, I'll update this.
** Update: February 5, 2017
I've come across a few decent apps lately: Clip Studio - it's similar to Photoshop. Amaziograph, which is a pattern making app. It's very basic but strangely addictive. Graphic for iPad is a basic version of Adobe Illustrator. It's more like Ai than Adobe Draw is.
** Update: July 30, 2018
It still boggles my mind that we can build out final artwork on an iPad, and that's pretty much what I'm doing these days. I haven't really got into Clip Studio like I thought I would have. Sketch and Procreate are still my go-to's and they can handle large canvas sizes. Sometimes I'm limited with the amount of layers I can use in Sketch and that's generally when I'll finish up a piece in Photoshop.
I recently passed the one year mark of having a separate studio from where I live. The previous 12 or 13 years had me working from home, but when my house started filling up with my children, the need for the studio increased as my work productivity decreased. It was only supposed to be until the kids were in daycare, but it quickly turned into a better situation overall so now it's a long term thing. Being able to turn off work when I leave for the day and just be Dad at home, and being more productive and more focused has been pretty invaluable. All my worries about the extra costs, or wanting to work all the time, or not being at home for every hour of every day, quickly washed away after I settled into the new routine. I highly recommend this move for anyone in a similar situation.
Well just when I thought work and life couldn't get busier, I started teaching a Hand-Lettering class in the Illustration program this semester at my alma mater, Sheridan College. I have always had a bit of a soft spot for it since I had such a great experience while there and it's hard for me to imagine how different my life and career would be if not for Sheridan. I had great teachers, an invaluable internship, and graduated with some fellow illustrators who create wonderful work and continue to inspire me.
I've lectured from time to time, but it's not at all in my comfort zone, mainly because it feels like I should be an extrovert in order to truly enjoy it. That said, the past few years I've learned how to work comfortably outside of my comfort zone. Or maybe my comfort zone is just larger now as a result of forcing myself to step outside of it? But, for me, teaching is worlds apart from lecturing and it feels so much more natural. I like it. I like the idea of getting to know your students, seeing them learn and grow from you, and it feels like it'll be very fulfilling. I've quickly learned what teachers mean when they say it's a very rewarding profession. I've often felt a desire to be a part of the cycle that helps the next generation of illustrators, regardless of how brief it'll be for, even if it's just for this semester. I've started wondering if my own growth as an illustrator (and/or as a person?) will be influenced from this stint, kind of like when you become a parent and you're conscious of leading by example. Anyways, I'm excited to see comes of it.
Well, I started writing a children's book recently. This is completely new territory for me and I'm really enjoying the challenges so far. I'll also admit that I have clue what I'm doing. I've been anxious to start expanding my work into new areas and I want to figure out what else I can bring to the table as I'm starting to feel stale in some areas. If you asked me 2 years ago if I would write & illustrate a children's book I would have said "no", but yet, here I am. It's not that I'm writing the book for my son, but it's because of him. Outside of adjusting to new routines and schedules I didn't realize fatherhood would have a direct impact on the actual artwork. This is just further evidence that supports my wife's theory that I'm equally clueless as I am astute. Either way, I'm excited about the new challenges it places on my work and it feels good knowing I may be starting a new chapter of my career.
There's been a shift with my work recently. It might not be a noticeable change to those who are familiar with my work, but it's definitely there, I can see it, and more importantly, I can feel it. That last part is the key because it means it'll open up the work to another space that's finally ready for development. I've always been one to let my work develop at it's own pace, slowly guiding it in the direction it needs to aim, and I've purposely kept outside influences at an arm's length away because I don't like sudden changes. I'm happy in my little world where I can over-think everything until I drive myself crazy and do things in whatever methodical way I feel they need to be done in, because that's just how I function. It's uncanny how much your process is a reflection of your personality.
Lately I've been developing work that's larger scale and some of it's 3D constructions that I've built. To me this is a big deal and it feels right. I still over-think a project while I'm working on it and that's not going to change, but there's a difference between over-thinking something and questioning something. For me, over-thinking means caring and obsessing about the details. Questioning is more doubtful and not nearly as productive. This latest shift doesn't have me questioning myself at all.
This shift is also a funny one for me because the influence for it has been sitting in front of me for as long as I can remember, yet I didn't see and realize it until recently. Now that I know what the answer is, it seems so simple – I FINALLY figured out that I could, and should be, combining my non-illustration skills with my illustration work. Coming from a family of carpenters, woodworkers and tradespeople, I've picked up many of those skills and feel at home working with my hands so I guess It was only a matter of time before those influences found their way into my work, and I'm really glad they did. Here's to hoping I don't lose a thumb in the process.
I'm pretty stoked to have my work appear on the cover of this year's Communication Arts Illustration Annual. A few more from this animal series also appear in the annual, or you can see them here and here. Commarts has been my favourite awards annual since my first year of art school and it's the only one that I submit work to every year. I do have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with many of the other industry annuals and I've expressed that in the past. Regardless of how I feel about them, having my work appear on this cover does feel pretty sweet and I'm very grateful for it.
You know when you trip going up the stairs? That's what being a freelancer feels like.
A school of fish, a murder of crows, a plaid of designers.
Fifteen year ago, I was doing my high school internship at a local screen printing shop in my hometown. Back then I wanted nothing more than to get into my girlfriend's pants and to get accepted into a college animation program. One of the older employees at the shop, named Cosmo, would occasionally take me under his wing and would try to offer advice that would always be somewhat profound to my younger, greener self. Over lunch one day he asked me where I wanted to work after I was finished college. I rhymed-off a few places, then he responded with, "You're wrong. You're going to work for yourself." My response was laughter. I remember thinking he was out of his mind because I could barely get myself to school on time, let alone run a business. Six weeks into college, I knew animation wasn't for me and ended up focusing on illustration. Sure enough, after I graduated, I was indeed working for myself…
Four years ago, before Cosmo passed away, I saw him in the grocery store parking lot when visiting my family at Christmas and within the first minute of chatting with him, he asked if I remembered our conversation. Up to that moment, I hadn't thought about it for eleven years, but somehow I knew exactly what he was referring to. I admitted that I didn't understand how he knew what my future held, but was thankful that he believed in me. He brushed it off, keeping it a mystery, but it meant a lot to me and it still does, especially when I'm stressed with running my own business. Very recently I've come across someone who's future I get a strong sense about, and I'm looking forward to keeping track of them for the next 11 years to see if I too, can pull a Cosmo.