Ode to the iPad: An Artist's Trusty Companion

iPad screenshot
iPad screenshot

While I work digitally (both on the computer and on an iPad), my current picture book project involves traditional painting. Even so, my iPad is a trusty companion:


1. It's a visual library. Many artists set up their computers next to their workspace to have easy access to images and other references at hand. I prefer using my iPad because it is much more portable and can sit right next to the art in progress. I use my own photos or the internet as a reference (to avoid copyright infringement, never copy or paint other people's compositions or photos directly). With the newer iPads, you can also take pictures of your own expressions and gestures.

2. It's a mini-university. When painting, I like to learn something or be entertained. My favorite podcasts and free videos to listen to while working are:
  • This American Life (mostly true stories of interesting people around a theme, always gripping)
  • Wait Wait Don't Tell Me (very funny weekly news quiz show on NPR)
  • The Moth (live storytellers)
  • TED Talks (learn something or be inspired by thought leaders, scientists, creatives)
  • Freakonomics (thinking about economics outside of the box, "the hidden side of everything")
  • Stuff You Should Know (recent podcasts include "What is the future of Earth" "Interpol: World Police" and "What is a shotgun house?")
3.  It's a music player. When I get tired of my own music collection, I'll listen to Pandora or a streaming radio station.

4. It's a reference and source of inspiration. When I want to research picture book apps or ebooks, I'll download them and read or play with them on the iPad. It's always inspiring to see what else is out there.

5. It's a distraction. When I need a break, I check my email, play some games, or check Twitter or Facebook. This can be dangerous.


sketch of wolf typing
© 2012 Sylvia Liu
A 30-second finger sketch of a wolf typing

The nice thing about the iPad is that it's a portable digital studio. When I'm waiting for my daughters to finish their piano lessons, soccer practices, and other activities, I can work on sketches and digital illustrations. I can:

1. Create digital images. I generally use ArtStudio and sometimes Sketchbook Pro. Both are drawing/painting apps that let you work with layers and different effects. (Check out my mini review of ArtStudio). I use a Wacom stylus which has worked well.

2. Work on my iBook. If I have new illustrations, I can play around with it on Book Creator, which is an easy ebook publishing app that allows one to create an ebook for the iBookstore. (Check out my review of Book Creator).

How has technology helped your art practice?