Yesterday, Albert Root of Spokane, Washington sent us some rather good examples of iPhone art. With an inexpensive application called “Brushes,” some artists are busy making tiny paintings on their cell phone screens..
Other artists have asked if this sort of thing can be legitimate art. In a very short time, 40,000 of the apps have been sold. Some artists wonder if the mini-media might be a threat to traditional brush-and-paint. Like the innumerable effects possible with Photoshop, Modbook, Sketchbook Pro and other products, there are concerns.
Hey, aren’t these just more creative tools in need of exploration? And like all media, won’t they find their masters? Take Wisconsin painter Susan Murtaugh. She paints tiny ersatz oils of remarkable quality. Hers is an art that can be made in the corner of a dog-park in Green Bay and sent in a cloudless nanosecond to a villa in Italy. She also makes and sells prints.
Leonardo would have been impressed.
Ever since the print revolution started in the 1800s, through the Kodak and photocopy reproductions, and the giclee and electronic transfer phenomenon, image procurement and distribution have mushroomed. At the same time, like the doomsayers at the advent of photography announcing the death of painting, one-of-a-kind art using traditional media continues to thrive as in no other period in history.
Both the success and failure of digital-electronic art lie in its viral nature. Facile, mysterious and beautiful though it may be, some folks think it may become too ubiquitous to qualify as permanent art. By threatening rarity, art ‘gone viral’ clouds collectability.
Everything was once a novelty. Only a few years ago I was speeding to the local cell phone store to put in my order for a rumoured phone with (like, wow!) a built-in camera. I wanted to be the first on the block. How “Ho-hum”
PS: “It took me a little while to get the hang of it but once I figured out my work flow it was almost like painting on canvas.” (Susan Murtaugh)
Esoterica: You can begin with a blank canvas or an existing photo. Using fingers and thumbs, the app allows users to make use of various painting tools and brush sizes and pick up indicated colours using the eyedropper tool. The “pinching” gesture, a feature of iPhone, is used to zoom in for detailed work. There’s an undo and redo function as well. It’s tricky — and mighty difficult for some. But for those who excel, can gallery representation be far behind?
David Hockney’s iphone art
by Sarah Clegg, Knutsford, UK
Even David Hockney has discovered iPhone art. The attached images were available to download for a limited period recently courtesy of the BBC. Actually I had no idea what they were until your timely explanation arrived this morning, but certainly thought they were rather attractive and worth saving.
Improving traditional art
by SM Violano, CA, USA
I have used an iPhone since the first one came on the market and last year began using a sketching program to doodle and work out compositions for my oil paintings. The portability of the device lends itself as an electronic sketchbook nicely. It can be used at any time or place. Since the days when cavemen created art on the walls of caverns, mankind has been drawn to sketch and paint using whatever tools available. As the world evolves and the tools evolve, we find ourselves in a unique position of always having a tool to record our visions right in our pocket. I do not believe that any medium will become extinct due to these new tools — but I do think they can help us make our traditional art even better.
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Thank you from a digital artist
by Susan Murtaugh, Two Rivers, WI, USA
I’d like to thank you for the positive and thoughtful article about the new media. I have found as much pleasure using my iPod Touch as I have dripping with paint smearing up my canvas. To this point there has been much shunning of us digital artists by those that embrace the traditional materials and I’m hoping this will help bridge the gap. Every artist wants validity and he or she wants people to look at the work and be content with the supporting ground.
Also for digital photography
by Mike Salcido, Coppell, TX, USA
I have also used my iPhone for art. Not exactly for painting, but I use it for digital photography. I find that the camera on the iPhone gives a complete different image than a traditional camera. More can be seen on my website under photography.
No soul, no art
by Nancy Wostrel, San Diego, CA, USA
The one thing missing from this ‘new, wonderful’ digital art is the hand of the painter; his or her soul if you will. I have seen so many digital works that are cold and unfeeling, the hand of the painter is just not there. It’s fine to work fast but who said fast was better? The hand holding the brush and applying it to actual paper or canvas can’t be replaced, and it saddens me to think that so many think that it can. I usually agree with you but this time it is a NO!
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‘Virtual reality’ sculpting
by Alan Soffer, Wallingford, PA, USA
At first I was taken aback by this new approach. Then, I remembered that for many years I have been advocating that sculptors would eventually design their work in “virtual reality.” That would free them from the prodigious costs of storage, supplies, and construction of a whole series when possibly only a few would sell. Of course, I suggested that at least a few would be seen to completion for the joy and practicality of making art. Collectors could view the proposals and choose their favorites. So now we have artists finding a way to express themselves on a very common device. It’s like drawing on a computer. Probably will not catch on with us old-timers, but our grandchildren will probably prefer this method, as they are totally comfortable with technology.
by Terry Rempel-Mroz, Ottawa, ON, Canada
These are creative tools and they are being explored wonderfully. What makes us human is our ability to create art with anything and everything. These tools allow everyone to express themselves and to find real joy in the act. The naysayers are just not confident in their abilities and themselves. Prints (i.e. lithographs, etchings, engravings) were thought to be ‘not legitimate’ when compared to oils, acrylics were not ‘real’ paint when they first came out, photographs were thought a fad — as you said, they are all different tools for expressing oneself.
Photoshop, Artrage and Corel
by Ansgard Thomson, Edmonton, AB, Canada
As a digital fine artist for the last 16 years, I am pleased to learn that artists can use a telephone to paint on location with “Brushes” instead of painting from photographs. Painting on location is also possible with mobile computers with built-in cameras. So far, most traditional art on the market are reproductions of art made in another media and cannot qualify as original art. All digital artists will have to learn how to print or have to get the work printed and could qualify as one of its kind if not printed as limited editions. To create multiple “originals” in different sizes is still possible for the digital artist with high resolution images and often a choice by clients, who like to have a larger image or printed on canvas. Corel Painter and Artrage are best programs to paint with. Artrage can be downloaded for free and cost only $25.00. My main interest to create art electronically was to create work that cannot be done as an original in another media. Rejection by the galleries is mainly caused by the fact that so many reproductions are on the market and they do consider original digital art also as “reproductions” only. I have tried many ways to create digital art including painting with virtual brushes. Lately I use again a fractal program that does not use any brushes and is generated with codes that can be manipulated. I might use the generated image to change it with filters or brushes till the image is ready for printing as abstract work Photoshop is probably the best program to get digital images ready for printing Thanks for inviting digital artists to write about electronic art.
Separating pretty art from serious explorations
by Tony Kampwerth, Knoxville, TN, USA
Living near the Great Smokey Mountains, I see a lot of artwork that is prepared for the tourist trade. The paintings are, for a large part, commercial illustrations. They are very well executed, good color, composition, etc., but at what point do we separate “pretty art” from fine art. I ask myself often if I am doing the same — preparing the artwork “for sale” or to satisfy my own self-imposed values. Where do we draw the line? I don’t sell many paintings, especially now, and always wonder if my style is not market material.
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by Terry Mason, Sarasota, FL, USA
I was 17 and a student at Museum School of Fine Art in Boston. I was a printmaker. I had started in painting but had switched to printmaking because the painting teacher at the time chased the girls and I was too young to know how to handle these things with grace. I just ran, and I ran to printmaking. I did etching, lithography and silk screen. One late evening, as I was struggling over an aqua tint, a young man said to me, “Don’t love printmaking too much. It is a dying field.” He told me that soon there would be copy machines that would easily do the work of etchers, lithographers and silk screeners. Yes, the original design would still be needed but that was all. I thought about what I loved about printmaking. I loved the shipment of fine black ink from France brought back by some traveling student we all paid to bring it home. I loved the sound of stone on stone. I loved the feel of the wheel of the etching press and the old wood and metal. I even loved watching the acid baths do their work. Without all of this, printmaking would be very different indeed. He was right of course. Very few artists now do etching and lithography. Silk screen, especially on fabric, remains alive. The rest, alas, are pretty much gone. Technology does the work now. So actually, you see, sometimes arts that are big at one point will become little or very changed later because of changes in technology.
by Dana Levin, RI, USA
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.
That includes Dora Gourley, who wrote, “The concept is amazing, but one has to mourn the loss of lots and lots of time to actually plan out and study and then paint…brush stroke by brush stroke.”
And also Peter Daniels of White Rock, BC, Canada, who wrote, “Like every other medium, the success for the artist is how they can sell their art. If they become masters of selling, then it will find its place in the art world.”
And also Janice Robinson-Delaney of Ellenwood, GA, USA, who wrote, “I can’t say that I’m surprised with this technology, though I can’t say that I’m too excited about it either…”
Enjoy the past comments below for Painting on the phone…