The iPad Pro, Adobe Fresco, and Continuing Adventures with Anatomy

So, I turned 31 earlier this month. It’s strange, I feel like I really am no longer a young person. I know a lot of people say 30 is the year when you feel that way, but for some reason it hasn’t really hit me until 31.

Thoughts of aging and the relentless march of time aside, since turning 31 I decided to get myself a birthday present that has been on my mind for a while: an iPad Pro. I’ve been really curious about tablet drawing for some time. But, the idea of switching to an entirely new program like Procreate on a completely new device kept me away. I’ve become so steeped in Photoshop over the past year that it kind of felt like a big chore to have to figure out another program. While the idea of drawing directly on a tablet was tantalizing, there was not quite enough incentive to pull the trigger on a new purchase.

Then, a friend of mine told me about Adobe Fresco, the painting and drawing app developed by Adobe specifically for use on tablets. This got me excited: I know Adobe keeps its family of applications in a similar visual language, making it relatively easy to hop to a new program within their family without much pain. And I already have a Creative Cloud account so getting Fresco was no additional cost. The last nail in the coffin: the 2018 iPad Pro’s just went on sale as the 2019 iPad is expected to be released in the near future. The balance tipped and I soon plunked down my credit card for the 2018 iPad.

As with any new program or hardware (and this was both), there’s some time needed to get used to an unfamiliar world. I decided to paint my cat Elma to start. Something that is really amazing about Fresco is that you can import Photoshop brushes and they work very similarly to desktop. I absolutely abhor digging around in a brush library and trying to find what I like (it takes forever), so just being able to grab my old favorites and drop them into Fresco was fantastic!

I am finding that drawing with the iPad Pro is incredibly immediate. I can quickly draw at the kitchen table while I’m sipping coffee and munching on toast. Adobe Fresco is basically a pared down version of Photoshop strictly for drawing and painting. The UI is elegant and simple. While I have to fight the urge to search around for the Levels and Color Balance tool that isn’t there, I do enjoy working with more boundaries. It’s much more akin to sketching than it is to the full blown paintings that I make on my main computer.

Something I’ve come back to with the iPad Pro are my anatomy studies. A huge benefit of working digitally on these studies is that I can throw a new layer on top of my grayscale drawing and work in another color like red. I used this red layer to illustrate the difference between male and female pelvises.

Here I’m using the red layer again to correct my own drawings from memory in the bottom two studies. The pelvis has been a really tricky bone structure for me to understand as there is very little evidence of it on the surface of the body. However, it has everything to do with inner structure and how our legs are supported in conjunction with our trunks. I’m beginning to understand more and more how critical it is for locomotion and balance!

These are all drawings from an anatomy journal that I started where I can stash all my newfound knowledge. Similarly to the pelvis drawings, I’ve been using red colored pencil to correct mistakes on my memory drawings and continually reinforce the correct structure and form using the theory of deliberate practice.

Something I’ve learned from doing all this is that it really takes a lot of time, but the learning is cumulative. So, the more I study the pelvis the more I know about the spine because they are connected. The coccyx at the base of the spine inserts through the pelvis so they are really one structure. Like a Venn diagram, the knowledge overlaps!

Ironically, now that I’m using an iPad, I’ve been printing out my drawings off the iPad and putting them in this journal so I can have them all in the same place. Regardless of the digital format, I really like having paper studies that I can continually refer to and study from. Until we take the next leap into some crazy kind of haptic VR drawing (or maybe something even weirder than that) I think I’ll always long for that feel of paper along with the incredible power of digital media. They’re just two sides of the same coin!