iPad Art Journal

I am an avid art journaler – in books – with watercolor and I love that. But, to my surprise, I have found that my digital journals have also become a huge part of my practice.

It all started when my travel journals would come home with three pages completed and many details of the trip long gone from my memory.

I have often wished I could sit on a camp stool and do the quick sketching that all the Urban Sketchers do, but try as I might, that is not my style, and I don’t like my results.

There is no point at all to creating a travel journal if I am not going to revisit it for happiness hits later. And if I am looking at artwork of mine that does not please me, there is no happiness to be hit with.

I have been an artist all of my life and I have heard it all about forgiveness and permission and no rules and inner critics and blah blah blah blah blah.

When I don’t like something I have drawn, I don’t feel like a failure or a bad person or have doubts about my “artist-ness”. I just don’t like it. For this reason, I have always been a pencil and eraser gal until I have it right (according to me). Then comes ink and/or color. And I have to like that result too.

That all takes a LONG time, but it’s worth it, because when I revisit my watercolor journals, I LOVE the experience, and have, in fact, been caught actually petting some pages like you would a beloved cat.

This TIME thing only becomes a problem for my travel journals because I never carve out enough TIME on the trip to do the kind of pages I like. And when I get home, I can no longer remember what should BE ON the pages.

So, several years ago, I decided I would keep a parallel travel journal in my iPad – using the photos I took and lots of notes so there would be a complete itinerary anyway – to work from later.

I still do that, but the process has evolved – to include quick sketches, more elaborate sketches, and research info I can find right there on the iPad to add to my description of places and events.

Pretty soon, these were travel journals and sketchbooks on their own.

Did they replace the watercolor journals and sketchbooks? Absolutely not. I do both – taking the best visual materials from the iPad journal to create a watercolor journal with few words and lots of painting- which I can take all the time I need to complete.

This whole experience became light-years cooler when the big iPad Pro came along – with the fantabulous Apple Pencil. I would imagine the smaller iPad Pro is cool to, but I wanted the screen real estate.

Did I run right out and buy the iPad Pro and Pencil? You know I did. I am saved from being a complete Apple maniac only by the fact that I don’t sleep outside the Apple store the night before a new phone release.

I have LOTS of Macs and iPads and iPhones, but the iPad Pro with the Pencil is heaven on earth.

At long last, I can draw on the iPad exactly as I would with a pencil on paper, because there is no longer a problem resting your wrist on the screen, and Pencil point is sharp. This was an absolute game changer for me, and my collection of digital journals grew . . .

I might have more than I have hardcover journals at this point. And these can become real life journals very easily by exporting PDF files of them and printing.

It didn’t take long before I was adding quick sketches to the journals along with photos.

The pressure sensitive Apple Pencil allows for simple sketching . . . here I am creating a few sketches while reading an art book by Danielle Donaldson . . .

but more elaborate sketching is also easy . . .

And adding color with a reference photo right there on the page – which can be deleted later, of course.

There are so many apps to use, and I have my favorite tricks, but anybody, with any iPad and stylus can keep these digital journals.

Several people have asked me to do a workshop (or write an online workshop) on this topic. Either one would be a big time expense and would have to be worth it, and I don’t know what the interest level is out there.

Is this something that would interest you enough to invest in a workshop?

Anyway, I am loving the process enough so that I will probably be posting as many digital journal pages as real life ones soon!

I know the urge is to ask which apps I use and how I use them, but that is a big question with bigger answers, and is the fodder for a workshop.

If you have any iPad and stylus, or an iPad Pro and Pencil, experiment a little and see what you come up with.



  1. Please, please, please, I am begging you – do it! I have Noteshelf. I haven’t used it much nor the other note apps or drawing apps because they all seem too complicated once drawing and color get involved. I am crossing my fingers for an online course!

  2. AAHmazing! might convince me to get a stylus and new iPad…..

  3. Awe geez. I was hoping you would say which app you use. I would jump at the chance to take an internet class from you on how to use that iPad pro and Apple Pencil I have sitting on my desk.

  4. Jessica,
    What you shared is really cool! I loved viewing your sketchings.

    When you talk about not liking something you created, I am like you. If I don’t like it, I don’t like it. No self-esteem issues going on.

    Recently, I was selling my ceramics at an outdoor art & craft show. The wind kicked up and knocked some of my pieces over. A small SW wedding vase was chipped. Another artist was in my booth and watched me determine the damage. The artist asked me what I was going to do with the vase. I said ‘throw it away’. Why? Because it is chipped and I am not going to sell it that way. Then she began telling me all the ways I can salvage this piece. I told her it isn’t worth it and I don’t sell damaged pieces. She went on and on. So, I tossed the vase in my personal garbage bin. She just about had a heart attack watching me do that. Later in the day I dug the vase out of the trash and visited her booth asking if she wanted it. You would have thought I had given her gold. I guess one man’s trash is another’s treasure.

  5. Wow, Cathy – that gal was into Wabi-Sabi! Really nice of you to give it to her – and sorry about that darn wind.

  6. I would take a class on how to use my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to sketch and color.

  7. Although I use a little Procreate and similar tools on the iPad I have (not a Pro), I would love to get into more travel journaling as you describe. I could have written your post; everything you said goes for me, too. Especially the urban sketching bit, just having returned from a hot day in Chicago and attempting to sketch something. Anyway, i’d be interested. I have many art journals but not so many travel journals for the same reasons you mention here. Nice post!

  8. Great post! I love my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. They are amazing and just my style. I am the queen of overworking, so this combo is so forgiving. I sketch more, experiment more and most importantly I am happy.

    I would love to know which aos you like and would be interested in a class.

    I use Procreate. It is amazing!!!

  9. I would love to learn more about the iPad and pencil. I travel and it’s too much trouble to carry paint and brushes everywhere I go.

  10. I just discovered your site – via Doodlewash. Fantastic art. I definitely would like to do more with my iPad and drawing. I have an iPad Air, with Procreate and Paper, and a Pencil stylus (made for Paper, no wrist problem but the tip is BROAD. I just can’t seem to get results I like (I am fairly new to drawing so that doesn’t help).

  11. Would love to learn more about journaling on the IPad.

  12. Please, please, please continue developing this idea. I would love an on-line class or a retreat class. Too bad I just found about this the day I returned from a Santa Fe trip (beautiful skies and dramatic rain dumps though).

  13. To revive this conversation–YES, I would purchase an iPad course from you. Not just because of the iPad and its ease/readiness of use, but because Jessica Wesolek.

  14. Yes Yes Yes Please yes , I would for sure sign up!

  15. I am thinking of getting an iPad pro with pencil next week.I would be very interested in your course.

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