"The artist never entirely knows - We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark". Agnes de Mille. (American dancer who gave concerts of her own choreographies which included her own character sketches. She helped to advance the narrative of dance in musicals and ballets).

digital reworking of photograph

Agnes de Mille's "leap after leap in the dark" is appropriate to describe everything I have been doing creatively in the past year.

From my watercolours portraits and nature sketches, to my unsuccessful attempts on canvas and on other substrates with acrylic paints, to digital experiments, everything in art has been a giant leap into the unknown for me.

There is so much to discover and so much to try. I don't know how to limit myself to only one medium. And it all takes up so much time!

I don't know how artists whose blogs I follow manage to crank out so many works of art each day. I have discovered some of their secrets such as paint on small surfaces, use broad strokes to suggest the object in question, or work in a series in order to get more done.

However, I am unable to apply these tricks to my own practice and I am falling behind in my art work already. No matter, I must convince myself to relax and just let art happen.

So for this post, I thought I would focus on the ways that I have been experimenting with apps and using them to save time.

With Procreate, an app for Ipad, I am able to add colours, to smudge, to add backgrounds and really, totally modify a photo or create an entirely new work of art. I have only scratched the surface with this app.

Other apps such as Brushstroke, Repix, Stackables, are lots of fun to use and I can play for hours and get lost in trying all kinds of modifications to my art. In the end, I usually delete all these experiments. The artistic leaps don't always lead to productive end results. Still, the leaps must be taken!

sketchbook faber castell polychromos pencil sketch

I was trying to get a likeness to Shania Twain in the sketch above done with Polychromos coloured pencils by Faber Castell. I just couldn't get the mouth, the teeth and the eyes to my liking. And if the eyes don't work, the rest will not work either. This is the reason I usually start any sketch with the eyes. I could have started the whole sketch over. I don't think so! So she doesn't look like Shania. Maybe she looks like someone else, who knows?

I decided to upload the sketch to Brushstrokes and experiment a little with it. The result below is more pleasing although it still bears no resemblance to Shania and I can live with that.

sketch uploaded to app

Any art can be reworked any number of times in so many apps without affecting the original work. Artists find this appealing as they can experiment in a virtual world before applying any changes to the actual traditional art.

The above sketch was uploaded once more into Brushstrokes to soften the texture of her skin, her hair, and her dress.

uploaded twice

I especially love using apps like Procreate and Repix to jazz up a background. I find backgrounds tedious and boring to do so when I am at a loss, I can always count on these apps to help me get to the finish line a little more quickly.

sketch no background
sketch with black background

The journal sketch was untouched for many months because I wasn't particularly interested in colouring in a background. Then I thought of simply adding a coat of dark acrylic paint to simulate the dark background in the actual photograph.

The result was a bit too stark. After uploading the sketch into Procreate, Repix, and Brushtroke, I achieved a more pleasing result which remains in the virtual world. The above sketch is still in my journal, as stark as ever.


These are among the many leaps into the unknown that I have taken in the last year. I don't know where these leaps will lead me, but if I don't try, I will never know.

The fun is in the discovery which can occur in any one leap. And if I can save a little time in taking that leap, why not!

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