Drawing with Paper and Pencil / by Erin Wade

A comment I recently made on FaceBook about the lack of value of preserving stacks and stacks of personal books caused someone to to infer that I did not like to read. This isn’t that uncommon an occurrence, frankly. I made the distinction between reading, which I truly enjoy, and feeling an allegiance to the book[1] in the form of processed dead trees bound together with glue.

I realize that most of the time, given an option, I tend to lean towards the digital solution. This is true of music, it’s true of books of all stripes - digital comics are a godsend to this former collector - and it’s true of writing (this format being a prime example).

But I realized today that I should probably come clean and admit that there is an activity that I still use old school technology to accomplish: Drawing

There are a plethora of drawing apps for the iPhone and iPad. I have a couple of them myself[2], and I’ve used each of them several times. Still, as is often the case, when I sat down today to do a new drawing project, I considered them briefly, and then went to a pencil and paper (specifically graph paper, as you can see).

This isn’t because of any particular love for the materials involved. Just as I have no particular infatuation with the bound book, I don’t love the pencil, the paper, the eraser. What I love is the process of making the picture. The difference here is that the technical skills of digital drawing are significantly different than those involved in putting graphite down on paper. I learned to draw long ago, and those skills are a little like riding a bike - they stick with you. When I am wanting to produce a drawing I end up going with those existing skills rather than choosing to climb the hill of learning something new.

What I’m gaining with this decision is the ability to start quickly and produce quickly. But I’m losing the flexibility that digital drawing offers. With what I was working on today I realized partway through - probably 45 minutes into drawing - that I was drawing in too small a space. That meant I had to start over, with a larger drawing, to accomplish what I wanted. If I’d been working in one of the apps I’d have been able to make what I was working on already larger, and wouldn’t have had to start over. It would be going to far to say that I regretted the decision at that point, but I periodically considered whether I should switch over to the iPad (which is in the picture because I was using it to reference other materials).

At some point in the not-too-distant future it is likely that iOS devices[3] are going to reach the point where it will simply work better to draw directly on them. For me, at the moment, I haven’t yet built the new skill-set needed to go that direction.

  1. Our perspective of that form being the thing we call a “book” isn’t a universal. Collections of scrolls were once referred to as books, and as we move forward into the digital age, a book once again takes on a different meaning.  ↩

  2. Sketchbook Pro and [Drawing Pad](Drawing Pad by Murtha Design Inc. https://appsto.re/us/K9Cwv.i). Sketchbook Pro is a high-end app with lots of tools and features. Drawing Pad is simpler and more oriented towards novice users. I use each of them according to what I need to accomplish with respect to the task I’m doing.  ↩

  3. Yes, I’m being very specific here. I have no confidence that Android devices will reach that capability any time soon, and I see little joy in the Microsoft camp either. I am unabashedly pro-Apple here, but this isn’t a bias. In my experience the Apple option usually just works better.  ↩