Digital painting on the go

Concept artist Arturo Gutierrez G. offers practical advice for painting digitally on the go...

Concept artist Arturo Gutierrez G. offers practical advice for painting digitally on the go...

Digital painting on the go is a practice that has only very recently become possible in a practical way, that could even equate a complete workstation. Even if you dont have an iPad Pro, the simple fact of going out to draw or paint on a laptop or sketchbook is a great practice for artistic growth!

Digital painting usually requires digital tools in a digitally unfriendly location. We must accessorize to protect our tools, make sure that battery life lasts long enough, try to protect our eyes from straining to get the screen color right, and protecting our backs by acquiring good equipment and postures. I use the iPad Pro (as of March 2018) with the Apple Pencil as stylus, but the general tips would apply to other digital companions, so to speak.

This is a recent image by Mattias Snygg, an artist in a group of artists that started painting on the Nintendo DS! It was the first time I saw digital painting on the go.
© Mattias Snygg

Protecting our tools

Our target is to be able to use our iPad Pro for as long as possible in a consistent way. I have an aunt that is very interested in art, so if I paint, she will want to see it up close. The thing is, she is kind of clumsy with her hands, so a good case for the iPad is necessary, as well as a protective cover.

iPad covers vary widely in price and protective capability. A good thing to keep in mind is what kind of places you will be visiting. If you are an artist that enjoys painting volcanic magma from live eruptions, you might need a slightly tougher cover than the Starbucks painter.

Using your iPad and painting on the go, means you can set up shop anywhere! This image was made using Procreate & Photoshop
Crystal Gunslinger by Jason Nguyen

Battery life is painting life

If our battery dies, digital painting on the go dies as well. Things you probably wont need as much while on an outing: WiFi. Turn off your WiFi and dim the screen display to work in your particular lighting conditions. A good rule of thumb to know when to stop is to be able to tell the bright and dark details in this painting by Even Amundsen.

Even is an artist that enjoys being able to move freely along with his workstation. He uses Procreate in the iPad Pro.
The Troll King's Treasure by EvenAmundsen

You can also avoid having too many apps open at the same time, or switching between them; this vastly reduces battery life and concentration! Take your captures if you need, but edit and upload them later.

This piece was made in Procreate and then exported as a PSD file to finish it up! Being on the go doesnt mean not using your tools.
Rocks and River by Amir Zand

Another option is to carry battery banks that are completely charged up. If you do have battery banks, use them up until the point they are necessary. If the iPad is at 81% battery, wait. 5% battery? Go for it. This will make both battery lives last longer, and use less battery cycles (which matter or not, depending on your station).

Jana is a concept artist that uses Procreate constantly on the iPad Pro
ArtStation Masterclasses - Jana Schirmer

Eye protection

As an artist I am drawn to the weird lighting conditions of the universe, but sometimes a regular midday sun will be just as cool... or blazing hot... and bright. Screen glare can be harmful, and direct sunshine on your equipment is said to reduce its life (yes, I read usability instructions).

Simon has a series of plein air paintings made in Procreate. They are great quick studies!
Plein Air 2017 by Simon Kopp

Using a simple paper diffuser will do the trick. Carrying a white umbrella will work as a neutral diffuser, and an umbrella as well! So sun or rain, we reduce the load on your back.

James Gurney gives us many alternatives for the white umbrella. He is a traditional painter, but his solutions for on-the-go-painting apply as well. Follow him to stay up to date!
James Gurney Channel on YouTube

Protective covers come in matte and shiny. I found that matte glass covers change my perception of the colors Im painting with, so I prefer shiny ones. I dress in black, so the screen doesnt pick up any glare or reflection from me. It's also better to wear toned down colors to avoid detection from animals if thats what youre into.

You got your back

You can replace your tools, but backs are more expensive. I used to be an eccentric painter and looked all-cool and slouched while my hips were sideways and my neck bent downwards. Dont be eccentric, be a nerd. Sit up straight and paint with the surface on your laps, or at the height where your arms describe a right angle. Move your eyes downward instead of inclining your whole head if possible.

Josh created this image using Procreate on an iPad
Clouds over Valley by Josh Watson

Having the right pack to carry your equipment is necessary. Crossing shoulder bags are cool, but if you dont vary from one shoulder to the other, they tend to create back problems, and uneven muscle loads. Backpacks are great, and there are a few models that have been created for artists that have digital painting on their minds! Also, wear the appropriate footwear and weather protective clothing to every destination.

Darren Yeow created this product, made by artists, for artists. Here, Marvel artist Patrick Brown tried out Procreate and the Etch Art Satchel both for the first time
The Etchr Art Satchel & Field Case

General outing recommendations

Take water with you. 150ml. per hour is a good approximation. Take snacks with you. Nuts are a good snack that dont weigh too much. Think ahead for lunch as well. Prolonged sitting can be uncomfortable. Carrying a square of high density foam is more useful than you might think.

Be aware of your surroundings. If your neighborhood is not that safe of a place, be sure to go outing in larger groups, and make smaller keep-an-eye-out groups of maximum three people in them.

This image was made on Procreate using the iPad Pro. A night study is a great way to use the display on an iPad! Its much harder to paint oils without light
Plein Air by Cosmin Hrincu

Finally, have fun & explore

This may sound like a few too many tips to follow from the start, but every artist has a method. Get out there and explore which options work for you! We might even agree on some. I am a live painting enthusiast and practice this discipline every day, so i you find new solutions, please share them with me! I hope these tips will fuel you to paint no matter what. Id love to know how these tips worked for you, so tag me or send a message on Instagram so I can see your art!

Related links

5 composition mistakes to avoid
Arturo Gutiérrez on Instagram
Arturo on ArtStation
James Gurneys YouTube
Get Procreate
Accessories for the iPad

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