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Procreate to Illustrate


It’s been one year since I released my first interactive book, Ten Monkey Marbles, to the Apple app store. Not a huge selling product by far, there is still something satisfying in just finishing something creative and putting it “out there”. Out there is basically anywhere that isn’t my stacks of drawings, art filing cabinets, or in some cases boxes of drawings destroyed by flood waters.

Although I spend a lot of time talking about creating games on this site, it doesn’t reflect that I split my time in my studio between developing my games, and writing/illustrating and painting.

Aside from trying to expand my repertoire into writing chapter books in the last year, I still work on my picture books and have been dusting off some work in the hopes of finishing them up lately, especially post-flood where I heaped a great deal of my artwork and illustrations into the trash.

My first attempt at writing, Monkey Marbles, was written when I was on my first sabbatical from Rhythm and Hues Studios. Sabbatical from visual effects was something that was unique and highly valued at R&H, and it was this time off, that gave me time to consider other directions for myself.

My writing has taken a back seat to the practical needs of jobs over the years, or raising children, or digging out mud from floods more recently. Now as I try to dive back in again more deeply, I pulled out one story that I was having difficulty finding a look for. I’ve done some sketches, thumbnails that are usually pretty small to get a feel for my book and the past couple weeks I decided to scan my thumbnails and bring them into Procreate, a painting program on the iPad that cost me a whopping $5.99.

Having digitized all my illustrations, I'm finishing them up in Procreate.

Having digitized all my illustrations, I’m currently finishing them up in Procreate on the iPad.

Procreate has some limitations, and yet I find myself enjoying it, enjoying being unchained from my workstation.

One limitation is the number of brushes, but yet the brushes all feel useful and they work well, making the software far more useful. The thing I enjoy about Procreate is that when painting with it, the brushes behave as I would expect them. I can paint, blend, and use brushes that give realistic textures. I feel like I can be spontaneous, which I have never felt in Photoshop (not a painter’s program at all) or even Corel Painter, which for all it’s bang is somewhat overbloated and easily gets slowed down. With Corel all intuition goes out the door for me, which is not a loss I can bare well. When I have to scratch my head too much about what’s happening in a program, I tend to avoid it because it gets in the way of spontaneity and the real creativity in service of technical hurdles. I don’t like technical hurdles because I don’t want to spend my time thinking about the software, I want to think about the story and illustrations and get into the zone.

“A Little Space” is another book I wrote awhile back, not as far as Monkey Marbles. I’ve sat with it and every once in awhile I try to illustrate a page. I haven’t been able to get the look that I want. This is my first dabbling at an illustration for the book in Procreate, and I feel like possibly I’m on the right track so far, and that maybe I might get to what I want. I’ve stopped now as I look into sizes of children’s books that might be printed digitally to an e-reader (other than the iPad) so that I can rethink formatting before I get too far.


Exploring more loosely with Procreate, to see if i can find a style I want to express a story about a little boy who wakes us to find he’s lost his gravity.

They are two different style of illustrations, one that took a lot of more meticulous preparation and another that is very loose and based on quick thumbnails I made to capture the story (thumbnails I scanned).

I’m hoping that I’ll be able to bypass thumbnails on paper for my next illustrations and see if I can do more of this on my ipad. I’m not opposed to doing work on paper and canvas. I feel most fluid with pen/pencil and paper, but I know that my meticulous nature in preparing illustrations means I’ll get lost in prepping boards, transferring drawings and those are the things that I’m trying to eliminate so that I can illustrate and write more, and prep less.

If it works out, it would mean that changing my software, not the computer tablet or the pen, but the painting software really ends up paying off.

The real goal though is to simply get back to creating books again, writing stories, and finishing what i’ve started.