For a while I’ve been wanting to explore outdoor landscape painting to try to capture the colors and forms of the beautiful scenery of my hikes. I’ve been put off, though, by the thought of carrying paint tubes and supplies. So on my recent trip to San Diego I decided to try plein air sketching using my iPad. I was pretty skeptical of success, but to my surprise it turned out to be very easy and fun… a fast, easy, and not-at-all-messy alternative to using real paint. Since I’m mainly interested in using these sketches as studies for future work, it doesn’t matter to me that they are digital files instead of paint on paper.
The process is just like fingerpainting– you can choose colors from the color picker and then use your finger to draw on the screen. A friend just gave me a stylus for the iPad, so next time out I’ll try using it and see whether it improves my experience.
The one big drawback was that the screen is invisible when the sun is shining directly on it, and when you’re on rolling grasslands there isn’t much shade. I got really lucky on one hike that the shade of the single tree– the ONLY tree to shade the path for the 4 miles I hiked– happened to also offer a cool and interesting view of the hills.
The only other major drawback is the life of the iPad batteries. However, a full charge will last me at least a few hours of drawing, which is usually all I’d need for most excursions. And to protect the iPad from leaky waterbottles in the backpack and food crumbs… I’ve found a gallon Zip Lock bag works really well.
I’m excited to take the iPad around my favorite hikes in the Bay Area!