iPads in the Museum: Drawing from the Collection

The San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) launched their iPad project as a part of the 2011 MIDEA Minigrants.  The SAMA staff members are reflecting on their experiences of using iPads as a part of their regular educational programming as a part of a series of blog posts.

As part of the SAMA’s monthly family day series, participants were invited to explore a variety of hands-on activities inspired by the current exhibition, The Missing Peace: Artists Consider the Dalai Lama. Families were invited to sculpt a clay Buddha, create special Thangka paintings, explore printmaking, rock painting, and collaborate with others to create a sand mandala.  A new feature offered at the First Sunday program was an iPad workshop titled Drawing the Buddha.


The workshop consisted of two parts, first participants sketched Buddha with paper and pencil and then they were asked to recreate the sketch using a drawing app on the iPad.  For inspiration and reference, there were an assortment of images pulled from the exhibition and permanent collection that were available to the workshop participants.

Before starting on a sketch, participants chose the image or images they wished to use for their drawing.  They discussed similarities between images, as well as symbolism, for example, the significance of elongated earlobes and hands gestures, known as mudras.  Most participants expressed interest in incorporating these details into their finished products.

Once initial sketches were laid out, workshop attendees were introduced to the Drawing Pad app on the iPad.  Participants were paired up and either collaborated on an image or took turns creating a Buddha.  About half of our families had no previous experience with an iPad.  This did not prove to be much of a hindrance, as many with iPad experience had not worked with the Drawing Pad before.  This allowed all groups to move at the same pace through the introductory process.

We worked with each group to cover the basics of the tool drawer, showed them how to navigate through the various materials (pencils, markers, paint brushes, and stamp tools). Navigation is accomplished by the simple flick of a finger, this caused the media in the drawer to scroll across the screen.  Groups were also able to access a previously uploaded image, in this particular project a lotus flower, which served as a seat for their Buddha.  Using the sticker tool, participants were shown how to resize and position the lotus flower image.  Once the lotus flower was locked into place, everyone was free to recreate their Buddha sketch in the program.  Techniques ranged from descriptive line drawings to filled-in shapes, complete with patterns.  Most participants quickly felt comfortable enough with the program to experiment with other features, such as changing the background paper or adding stickers.


When we organized the workshop, we asked that students be at least 6 years of age, which seemed to go over really well with the groups since they were expected to collaborate and share the experience.

Overall, parents were surprised to discover how quickly their children became proficient in the program.  As the workshop went on, pairs worked together with little need for technical help and were able to complete the project on a rather independent note.

-Angela Fox, Instructor

-Nicole McLeod, Assistant Director of Education – Family and Community Programs

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