The Self-Taught Artist

Procreate and Me

I’ve been hesitant for as long as I can remember. It all started with electronic music. Kraftwerk and the long history of technology as a means to make art. You see, I’m stubborn and until recently a snobbish purist.

I was a lover of “the right way to do things”. Which is a bit of a self-made prison. All those good practices, all those step-by-steps, those arbitrary art rules. This year, or rather, before April and before the pandemic, I was working really hard at slowly changing some of my most unhelpful beliefs.

Those that build obstacles and don’t let me get to where I want. A particularly pesky belief had to do with digital art. I had an iPad air, and I had played a bit with the Paper app. I had the stylus with the fat tip. I used it to make a few cute illustrations and some patterns.

first digital illo
First Digital Illustration using the Paper app

The second most unhelpful belief is:

If it’s easy, it’s not worth doing, or it has less value. So even if these illustrations were acceptable, they were “machine-made”, so instead of getting better at this, I went back to try to learn traditional art without the undo button.

I don’t know where the “easy” belief comes from. I guess it’s part of the North American discourse, everything worth doing must be the product of hard work. This idea is deeply ingrained in my psyche and caused so much frustration. This “hard work” mindset pushed me to learn techniques and skills INSTEAD of cultivating what I wanted to create in the first place.

I love traditional art materials, and the art that I want to make, the art I want to surround myself with is definitely made with traditional media. I’m not a fan of refined vector illustrations at all or art that looks exceptionally polished. I’m not modern like that.
There was a point where I asked myself if I wanted to pursue my digital art adventure. I honestly felt it was cheating.

I have been using Procreate for two years.

In the beginning, for every piece in Procreate I forced myself to do two or three analog pieces. But recently, I have been working with Procreate every day, and I love it. It’s not just the app itself, it’s all the add-ons you can have. It’s how you can use it nearly to do everything your heart desires.

But Should you Use Procreate?

I strongly believe that we need to know how to make art with traditional materials first, for our own benefit and enjoyment.

Procreate Compromises

  1.  My eyes get tired
  2. The iPad runs out of battery
  3. You need to back up all your Procreate files somehow. This often involves paying for storage.
  4. The art is pixel-based. This means you can’t enlarge it, and if you paint big from the start, you have limited layers.
  5. Remember that it’s not the tools that make you an artist. You can have the iPad, Procreate and a vast collection of brushes, but if you don’t build up your skills, you won’t be able to use it to the fullest.

Advantages of Procreate

  1. Paint and Print. You can create artwork at the necessary resolution and colorspace (although I’ve read that it’s better to work in RGB and convert to CMYK in Photoshop)
  2. Try all sorts of “materials.” Procreate native brushes are amazing by themselves, but some artists are making amazing brushes that you can purchase (see below for my favorites!)
  3. You can make your digital art look and feel like traditional art. By adding textured papers and using blending modes, you can achieve beautiful results.
  4. Portable. Your entire studio with you at all times.
  5. It’s great for practicing if you can’t afford or don’t want to waste materials (but it’s no substitution for getting messy hands).
  6. I’ve improved my drawing so much by drawing for hours. I owe my animal portraits to practicing non-stop on Procreate using only the 6HB native brush.
  7. Of course, easily share your work between devices, upload directly to Instagram, send to printers, etc.

Flowers in Procreate by FlowArte

 

Classes

BEGINNERS

INTERMEDIATE

ADVANCED

Favorite Brushes

Procreate Flowarte

 

I buy art supplies almost compulsively, and so it’s natural that I buy Procreate brushes also compulsively, but in both cases, I usually find that I only use a few.

Bardot Brushes

Vivi Brushes Allstars

As I have a huge collection of Daniel Smith watercolors, to be able to use them digitally has been such a treat. I mostly use them only to add finishing touches or to add a little bit of granuation. If you use them too much you can overwork your painting. Get them here.

Sargent’s Oils – Procreate Brushes

I will never paint with oils in real life. I don’t have space or the inclination, but these brushes have allowed me to experiment, and I just love it.

The Nitti Gritty Brush set

For subtle textures

Roller Ink Brushes and Stamp Pack

For adding that vintage or retro look to your work

I also  use some textured papers to make my work look more traditional. The advantage of these is that you can use them repeatedly and give your art a consistent look.

portrait by Flowarte

Paper and canvas

And now, for the ultimate brush + paper combo.

Before these brushes, I didn’t attempt to achieve a watercolor feel. I thought it impossible. But look at this:

Abstract digital Painting

It’s digital watercolor.
Thanks to:

Impossible Watercolor for Procreate

I am obsessed with this kit. How he achieved these realistic brushes and textures I don’t know. I’m having so much fun with them, I forget it’s digital.

Heads up though, for the set to work, you have to use the kit, which includes paper textures. If you only use the brushes, they don’t look as realistic. The problem is the files can quickly become heavy. Once again, we have to deal with the disadvantage of digital: offload your iPad, back up your work, etc.

And it helps to know how watercolors work. I’ve been painting in watercolor for ages and it’s super important to be familiar with how it behaves or it will look digital and artificial.

In conclusion, during the pandemic, art supply stores were closed, and this made me reassess how much money I was spending on supplies that basically stress me out. I still can’t get over my “scarcity” mindset when it comes to materials. I don’t use them because I don’t want to waste them. So I embraced digital art, and I’m happy I did.

But I encourage you to NOT let go of traditional art. And if you are just starting out, work with traditional materials first. Learn the foundations. Pencil and paper have no limitations.

Right now I have been working with oil pastels, colour pencils, and collage. I love the tactile feeling of these materials, my hands are busy, and I can focus more on my composition. I achieve my desired colour palettes quicker.

I hope this round-up is helpful. If you have any Procreate questions, get in touch!

There are affiliate links to some classes and brushes I’ve purchased. I love to share my findings and help save time and effort to self-taught artists everywhere. If you click on a link and make a purchase, I might be compensated or given credits at no additional cost to you. This allows me to continue learning. Thank you for your support!

 

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