Sketching with an iPhone

Despite the App Store having thousands of applications to choose from I only use about 5. Brushes is a popular painting application for the iPhone and iPad, which I have been using for some time as a portable sketch book.

Besides the intuitive user interface to select color and brushes, Brushes has a unique feature which I have come to love, playback. A video of each sketch can be downloaded along with a high-res version of the image. As a studio artist I find it invaluable to be able to go back and watch how a sketch is composed over time.

As an aside, think how interesting it would be to see the process of Pollack, Duchamp, or any other painter evolve over time.

The popularity of Brushes has spawned a Brushes Flickr group. The app has even been used to paint a cover for the New Yorker magazine.

Even David Hockeny, one of the most influential British artists of the twentieth century has taken to using Brushes to make thousands of paintings which he shares with friends. For Hockney, the iPhone as a canvas affords 2 distinct advantages over other media: a backlit light source and a direct tactile connection.

Hockney explained in the NYTimes article about the value of a backlit screen:

“I’ve always wanted to be able to paint the dawn. After all, what clearer, more luminous light are we ever afforded? Especially here where the light comes rising over the sea, just the opposite of my old California haunts. But in the old days one never could, because, of course, ordinarily it would be too dark to see the paints; or else, if you turned on a light so as to be able to see them, you’d lose the subtle gathering tones of the coming sun. But with an iPhone, I don’t even have to get out of bed, I just reach for the device, turn it on, start mixing and matching the colors, laying in the evolving scene.”

Hockney also talks about the value of having a direct connection to the canvas:

“if you are using your pointer or other fingers, you actually have to be working from your elbow. Only the thumb has the opposable joint which allows you to move over the screen with maximum speed and agility, and the screen is exactly the right size, you can easily reach every corner with your thumb.” He goes on to note how people used to worry that computers would one day render us “all thumbs,” but it’s incredible the dexterity, the expressive range, lodged in “these not-so-simple thumbs of ours.”






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