Sunday, May 02, 2021

Digital drawing

 I started drawing as a child and I have always thought of drawing as something fundamental to making art. Some people make drawings as their primary artwork and the beauty of their drawings is awe-inspiring. For me I mostly draw as a way of thinking and envisioning something. It’s a tool and a means toward another end. I remember my dad, who was a mechanical engineer, always had a mechanical pencil in his pocket and any time he was describing or explaining how something worked, he’d grab a notepad, or a scrap of paper and he’d draw a little picture of it. I think I learned from him, to do that. And I wish I had thought to keep some of those little drawings of his. They were great. 

So I draw. Always have. Pen or pencil to paper, mostly. Then, twenty something, or so, years ago I learned about drawing with a mouse on the computer using pixels or vectors and what a revelation! I still draw on paper, but I am also in love with digital drawing. It is so useful and so flexible! For awhile I was drawing very precise and detailed vector drawings, using Adobe Illustrator, and enlarging and printing actual size patterns to work from in making my art quilts. Now I take a more casual approach. I make sloppy drawings on my iPad, getting the basic composition, colors and proportions worked out on the small screen, where I can easily move things around, erase and redo elements, try out different colors and crop to a pleasing aspect. Then I enlarge it by hand, introducing more of my style and personal elements into the final work. This is hard to explain, but working, by hand, at the actual size makes me consider line and detail more thoughtfully. An example: here’s my digital sketch, working from my own photos, of the Basilica of Quito. 

Here’s the finished quilt

Nowadays I no longer use a mouse with my computer. I use an Apple Pencil with my iPad. There are a lots of good drawing apps available. I’ve used Sketch Club, a very good, inexpensive drawing app for a long time. Currently I’m really liking Procreate, more expensive, but more features.  If I have an idea for something I can make a quick sketch, save it and come back to it later to further develop, or sometimes not. Here’s one that I saved a while back. I think it has possibilities. I might get back to it again and I’ll know where to find it, unlike those little scraps of paper I used to sketch ideas on and lose...

I found a whole new use for digital drawing  when I bought a Silhouette cutting machine to use for my art quilts. I can make a digital drawing of the thing I want to cut, refine it digitally and then transfer it to the cutting software, scale it to the exact size I want and cut an exact replica of my drawing, retaining the variations in line and distinctive marks of my hand drawing. I cut fabric, mostly painted, non woven fabrics, that I can incorporate into the stitched work. 

Over the years I’ve drawn, on paper, many pinecones—they are one of my favorite subjects. The first image is one of my pen and ink drawings from my sketchbook, then my digital interpretation of the drawing and finally the pinecone cut from fabric and sewn to a little banner I hung outside my studio. 

I am drawing more than ever, mostly on my iPad. I think about my dad, who loved computers and all technology and I know he would have loved all this. Here are some more examples of how I’m using my drawing tools these days. 

A new sketch, waiting for further inspiration....


  1. Yes! Thank you for sharing your process and thoughts. I love the inspiration and the possibilities.

  2. Beautiful and inspiring. What would be an example of a non woven fabric?

    1. Like interfacing fabrics, Pelion, Evalon

  3. Thank you for sharing your process. I gain so much from seeing how others work. You have inspired me to do more drawing on an iPad.

  4. Thank you for sharing, very inspiring!