White Collar Sketches

Every once in a while I get grabbed by a major TV show – either because of stunning visuals and/or good storytelling. A few years ago we started watching White Collar, and even though it took a bit of getting used to, Julia and I are hooked.

The other day we’ve finished watching Season 5 on iTunes, and if you believe the internet there’s a final 6th Season being shot in New York right now – with only 6 episodes. In the UK we’d call that a “full length season” and drag it out over the course of two years – but in the US television landscape six episodes is rather unheard of.

I haven’t done much drawing over the last few weeks in favour of iOS hacking and exploring vintage computers – so I thought the timing is perfect to turn the inspiration from all those stunning visuals and riveting storytelling in White Collar into a project:

The White Collar Sketches


To commemorate the series I’ve started drawing key moments of the show using ArtRage and Procreate, using both my iPad and the Surface Pro. The latter is featured in several episodes of Season 4 and 5, and I decided that it’s fitting to use it (besides, it is an excellent drawing tablet).

At first I was going to start with the end of Season 5 and work my way back to the start – but then we started watching the show again from the beginning and that rhythm got upset – so now it’s just whatever grabs my attention comes next, there’s no order to the method. All the results go onto my Tumblr account for now. We’ll see how long I last – I’m up to 10 already.


Here’s the process:

I have a fairly good idea of which shots I’d like to turn into paintings while watching the show. I’ll then go back to the HD video files in iTunes and scrub through an episode to pick my shots, taking a screenshot on the Surface Pro or the iPad. I may apply a little colour and contrast boost to pick up the colours better, then the drawing process begins.

On the Surface I use a Wacom Feel stylus because it has a better feel on the screen than the original Surface Pro pen. On my iPad I use one of my trusty Pogo Connect pens with a variety of tips (they keep breaking when I draw a lot, so I have several handy). I start blocking in the larger parts, then work up to the details. I’ll draw the background on a separate layer, picking up the original colours from each shot – unless it’s a black and white pencil sketch.


Sometimes it looks better when I crank up the contrasts of the screenshot before importing it into ArtRage, only because the colours and contrasts of the oil paint look a lot better when they’re enhanced before putting them on canvas. I’ve experimented with doing this after the drawing, but this takes away from details from highlight in the paint effects due to luminance clipping.


Both Procreate and ArtRage have very distinct advantages, and I can’t say I prefer one over the other. The iPad and Surface are both very different, and the same goes here too: The Surface is ever so precise and allows me to rest my hand on the screen. Each stroke can be placed as if it is a real pencil on a rough piece of paper.

This feel comes in handy when I use Manga Studio too: it’s one of my favourite sketching and drawing apps on the Surface and shares its first place with ArtRage. The results are very different as you can imagine – all the above were done in ArtRage, and the next one was done in Manga Studio:


They are completely different apps: while ArtRage mimics traditional painting tools on canvas. It allows for the underlying colour (of the screenshot) to be picked up as you move a tool over an area, so all those beautiful colours are taken care of as if you’re “painting by numbers”. That’s a hide advantage for people who would like to draw but aren’t that good at it (like me).

Manga Studio on the other hand is for drawing and illustrating. It’s paint brushes and inking tools are great, and it allows tracing an image – but doesn’t pick up the colour underneath automatically. The results are very different:


I’ve been talking about Procreate with my Mum over the last month a great deal: she’s just ordered herself a Pogo Connect and wanted to use her iPad for drawing. While SketchBook Pro is available in German, Procreate is not – so I translated many of the meanings for her. She loves both, and – like me – gets frustrated easily when the results aren’t coming along as quickly as she wants them to (wonder where I’ve picked up that trait).

I’ve been using Procreate since 2011, and I was never any good at it. I knew the app was good, but getting into it and understanding it was not an easy task I must admit. Now, three years later, I really love it – and more and more of what I do I want to do in Procreate.

For example, you can twist the canvas with two fingers – like you can on the other apps on the Surface. No other drawing app I know allows you to do this on the iPad. And it’s important: because our hands cannot draw everything from every angle. Don’t force your hands to draw something that’s uncomfortable or impossible – just support it in doing what it’s already good at.


Drawing with me comes and goes in phases: right now I’m into it, but I also know how quickly that interest can wane again. So far it’s been a productive month.

Check out the rest of the White Collar Sketches here, or see what else I’ve been drawing here.

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