Digital Dapples

These new digital abstractions were done in Procreate app for iPad. Using a brush called bonobo chalk, I’ve created images that have a diffused, spatter-like quality. One has a white background showing subtle overlapping color mixtures that are almost like miniature pointillist painting. The other two compositions have dark backgrounds that emphasize the intensity of the speckled colors. A technique that helped create them is to use a “brush” as an eraser. It can cut through or around dappled areas to create negative lines.

White background with “pointillist” overlapping
Dark background emphasizing bright areas of color
Dark background emphasizing bright speckled areas of color
negative lines created with “eraser” brush

Pixels in Pastel

All three of these digital abstracts share the same “pastel” color palette. They are composed of multiple layers of color with some overlap and transparency. Another common attribute is the texture and colors of the background layers. The backgrounds were created with a “brush” that simulates the surface of canvas. They were created in Procreate app for iPad using an Apple pencil.

Something Borrowed and Something New

When I’m working on a new abstract design I usually combine layers of colors and shapes to make a coherent composition. I’ve done that with the three abstracts below but with a twist. Rather than “starting from scratch” and freshly creating each element, I did what collage artists do all the time; I digitally cut and pasted pieces of existing patterns to accomplish the task. Some of these disparate patterns came from existing textile and wallpaper designs. There are also digitally created textures that I fabricated some time ago. All of these bits and pieces found their way into these new digital collages, something borrowed to make something new.

The compositions were created in Procreate app for iPad using an Apple pencil. Some textures were created in iColorama app.


I strongly believe in recycling. This applies to life style and in this case, to my art. I often approach these digital abstractions as collages composed of many different elements. Some are “painted” directly on the digital “canvas”. Others might be “cut and pasted” into the composition as in a traditional collage.

In these three new abstractions, I’ve used bits and pieces of some of my earlier works as compositional elements. Sometimes these “recycled” bits are obvious but they can also be hidden and mixed into the patchwork of the finished piece.

All works were created in Procreate app for iPad with an Apple pencil.

This new composition incorporates bits from an earlier work shown below. Three cut and altered pieces were placed on a lower layer which is partially obscured by upper layers.
The three cut and altered pieces of the original, as placed on a lower layer
The source for the three cut pieces is this older original composition.
One of the elements of this new composition (lower right corner) was taken from the original composition below.
Earlier composition from which a piece was used
This new composition also contains parts of earlier works. (not shown)

Worlds Apart

These images share certain aspects. Each is predominantly composed of a secondary color; orange, green or purple. The backgrounds are done in a painterly manner using digital brushes that simulate broad strokes on rough surfaces with some spray painted effects. In all of them, above the backgrounds, are small abstract objects, some geometric and some more organic in shape. Most of the objects are black, standing out boldly against the more diffuse backgrounds. Each composition is intended to create its own separate world of space and relationships. They were all created in Procreate app for iPad using an Apple pencil.

Layers and Lines

My working method for these new abstractions could be summed up in these two words, layers and lines. They were created digitally in Procreate app for ipad. The complexity of the designs is achieved with various shapes and overlapping colors that are built up in layers. Some of the shapes are transparent and some opaque. Line work was later added over this complex base. Two methods were used for creating the lines. A drawing tool, technical pen, was used for the thinner lines. Most of the wider lines were made by using a medium hard air brush tool. To make these slightly wider lines, the air brush tool was used in the eraser mode to cut the lines out of existing solid shapes. When the images were complete, I felt that they could be enhanced by digitally adding a slightly embossed or raised texture. This was done in another app, iColorama, which is normally used for digital photo enhancement.

You can see them at full size by clicking on each image below.

The finer light lines were made with the technical pen tool drawn over the layered base. Wider lines were made with the air brush tool (used in eraser mode) to cut through existing solid shapes.

Back to Life?

It’s been a long time since I posted any new figure drawings. Our local life drawing group has not met for many months due to the Covid pandemic. As a result, the only option was to draw from photos of models, something I don’t usually do and don’t enjoy as compared with drawing from the live model. In addition, there is a dynamic, a kind of group creative energy that I miss. It’s been hard for me to motivate myself to begin but I’m hoping that soon our group will start up again. I want to be ready to jump in and start “real” life drawing when that happens. So here are the efforts that I’ve been struggling with to achieve that goal. They feel both overworked and yet unfinished but I know that it will take a while to get back to my old comfort zone. The first two were done some time ago in hopes of energizing myself to do more figure drawing. The rest were done recently and I hope they will help to keep me going in the right direction.

This was done with oil pastels, a medium that I haven’t used before
drawn with Nupastels and Cretacolor’s chunky charcoals

More recent drawings

drawn with Nupastels and Cretacolor’s chunky charcoals
drawn with Nupastels and Cretacolor’s chunky charcoals
drawn with Nupastels and Cretacolor’s chunky charcoals
drawn with Nupastels and Cretacolor’s chunky charcoals
drawn with Nupastels and Cretacolor’s chunky charcoals

A Rhythm of Circles

I love using circles and round shapes for composing my abstractions. They can act as anchors or focal points as well as locations from which to radiate light or movement using line and color. In all three of these images circular shapes formed a starting point and central part of the compositions. Incorporating these shapes suggested using curved or rounded objects and lines to connect the elements of each design producing a “rhythm of circles”.

They were created digitally in Procreate app for iPad using an Apple Pencil.

We have recently been enjoying old Danny Kaye movies like The Court Jester and Hans Christian Anderson, wonderful comic family classics. Thinking about circles brought to mind this charming quote.

Draw a circle, not a heart, around the one you love because a heart can break but a circle goes on forever.

Danny Kaye

Bolder on Black

Most of my abstract designs evolve over a white background giving the impression of having been done on white paper or maybe a white canvas. What happens if bold saturated colors are placed over a black background? I did just that and came up with some rather vibrant images.

One of the techniques used to create these designs in Procreate app is applying blending modes. The objects in the compositions are layered as if they were painted on clear glass or plastic then stacked one on top of the other to compose the final image. Blending modes allow for mixing or fragmenting the overlapped objects that are stacked. Part of one object might cause objects below it to change color where it overlaps. Sometimes the value (lightness or darkness) of the color will be affected as well. This is a great tool for making complex combinations of shapes.

Shifting Shapes

I love arranging shapes into interesting combinations. Using circles, triangles and various polygons, it’s fun to create a sense of motion and interrelatedness. With the three compositions I’m posting today there is the added sense of overlap and transparency. Shapes are either above or under one other. Colors sometimes change at the point of overlap. The transparency allows for an apparent shifting of shapes as we look at them. What’s above and what’s below?

All three incorporate similar shapes and colors. They also share digital techniques to get the effects that are created. For example, the larger circles and polygons in all of them were made as solid shapes and then a spatter-like tool was used to erase the central areas giving a gradation in tone out towards the edges. They were all created digitally in Procreate app for the iPad using an Apple pencil.