Buy myself an iPad—and some talent.


Once upon a time, I drew.

When I was twelve, I’d fill the margins of my school notebooks with doodles. These were ridiculous sketches: severed heads, floorplans for elaborate secret lairs, and goofy-looking comic characters. Just the sort of thing you’d expect from a pre-teenage boy.

Unfortunately, that was the pinnacle of my artistic career. I would have loved to take drawing classes, but my underfunded little school offered no fine arts instruction for high schoolers. Over time, any artistic sense atrophied, and my drawing skills calcified at the level of a middle schooler.

Still, twenty years later, I missed drawing. I’d daydream about starting an online comic strip. So, time and time again, I’ve tried to rekindle that long-extinguished interest. I bought instructional books and sketch pads, but those failed to keep me engaged. I splurged on a WACOM pressure-sensitive drawing tablet. That worked—for a little while. But I found the disconnection—my pen moving on the pad, the drawing itself taking shape on screen—to be irritating. Then, when I bought my first iPad, I purchased a cheap stylus and a popular drawing app. But those didn’t do the trick, either; the iPad couldn’t tell the difference between a light touch and a bold, firm stroke.

With each attempt to kickstart my artistic drive, I grew more discouraged. But if I’m honest, the fly in the ointment here wasn’t a subpar tool; it was my subpar passion. A new toy—however feature-rich—is no replacement for discipline. If I hadn’t been drawing with paper and pencil before buying a WACOM or an iPad, what made me think anything would change afterwards? The perfect drawing tools didn’t make me an artist, any more than a Louisville Slugger would make me a ball player.

And yet, I’m still tempted. I still buy into the same delusion—that I just haven’t found the right tool yet. For example, last week Apple announced its jumbo-sized tablet, the iPad Pro. Unlike my WACOM tablet, the new iPad allows you to sketch on the screen itself. And unlike my current iPad, the Pro’s pressure-sensitive “Pencil” accessory allows the user to lightly sketch, tilt the stylus and shade, or bear down for a bold stroke. It’s closer to the pen-and-paper experience than any other digital drawing tool.

And part of me wants to try—one more time—to spend my way into skill.