Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Art and the iPad

Apple's iPad will be coming to Canada on May 28, and it is already making waves in the United States. Touted by Apple as "the best way to experience the web," the iPad is everything we've come to expect from Apple - sleek, sexy and designed to inspire envy. But what impact will the iPad have on the art world?

Digital artists are already excited about the art apps being offered for the iPad, which allow users to draw using either fingers or a stylus using any number of digital brushes. This enthusiasm is hardly surprising, given that last June an illustration done entirely on the iPhone using the iTunes Brushes app graced the cover of The New Yorker. The magazine's art editor, later told The New York Times he appreciated the fact that the cover didn't feel digital, and that the image was "free flowing...poetic and magical." The artist, Jorge Colombo, confessed that one of the biggest attractions of working in this medium was its low profile and portability, which permitted him to stand for over an hour on 42nd Street in Manhattan without being bothered by curious onlookers. Obviously, that would have been a rather more difficult task, if he'd been working on an easel! (or even with a sketchbook).

Of course, not everyone is thrilled. Performance artist Kenny Irwin of dOvtastic Microwave Theatre has already engaged artistically with the iPad - by microwaving it. Yup, there are some who feel that the best response to this new technology is to destroy it using less advanced technology (or perhaps I've missed the point - if there even is one).

But others are making more optimistic use of the iPad.  Claudio Arango of Bogotá, Colombia, has become the first known artist to conduct an exhibit of his artwork using the iPad.  

Below you can see a film of Arango demonstrating his art to passersby using the iPad:

On his blog, Arango states that his goal is for his artwork to be "móvil, remezclado, y libre" ("mobile, remixed and free"). It's a noble manifesto, and one that seems appropriate for art created on such exciting new technology. Of course, some will note that the people who encounter Arango on the street may be more interested in the iPad than what's on it. This is a valid point, but I am intrigued by Arango's art, and by his forward thinking approach. Arango does digital artwork, primarily female nudes, and he is highly tech-savvy (he blogs and is on flickr, twitter, YouTube, tumblr and Facebook). With more and more artists taking advantage of the sort of presence social media affords, it won't be long before technologies like the iPad are as important to artists as paintbrushes were in the past. The web has already become the primary medium in which people encounter art, how long before it becomes the principal tool for creating art? Of course, as an art blogger, I may be a bit biased, but when you consider today's architects and designers, most simply could not function without computer aided design, and artists are quickly joining the ranks of the technology- dependent. This may be disturbing to some, but then again, thousands of years ago, artists who painted on cave walls were making use of frightening new technology!

Now, I'm not sure if digital art is the future of art, but it will certainly be a key component of the art world of the future. And how could it not play a pivotal role? Representing yet another portable, web-friendly device, the iPad ensures that art will never be more than a click away. It will change the way an entire generation interacts with visual media. It's strange, but the iPad may very well be the first place my daughter creates her own art.

What do you think? What place does emerging technology like the iPad have in the art world, and how might it change the way we look at art? I'd love to hear your thoughts (and if you are an artist who is already brainstorming ways to take advantage of this new medium, or others like it, please join in!).


Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

Luddites never did have much of a future before them, whether in the industrial revolution or in the fast-upon-us digital art revolution. I can only think that there will be creative talented people who will surprise and delight us by exploring the potential of these new media. Perhaps they will be a small minority, but that would hardly be anything new.

Not that this will displace visiting museums and galleries to see good old oils on canvas as my favorite means of exploring art, but I can see no compelling reason for an absolute blanket rejection of these new digital trends before we have even glimpsed what they have to offer.

acornmoon said...

I am excited about these new opportunities, in fact I am working on a new children's book which will have sound as well as images. The work will be published as an Apple IPod/iPhone/iPad application. This technology will allow the owner to record over the original narration so the parent or child can read the story.

Margaret said...

- Lorenzo, thank you for your comment! I agree - there's nothing like viewing artwork in person (at least, not yet ;), and I'll never forget the first time I saw a Monet in person and thought "that's what it's supposed to look like!” As a kid I'd experienced Monet as calendar art (and later on the web), and was less than impressed. What a revelation to experience the texture of his paintings first hand! (the same goes doubly for Van Gogh).

- Valerie, your application sounds so exciting! I can’t wait to get a copy for my daughter – please let your readers know when it’s available! What a clever idea – and what an innovative way to take advantage of this new medium. I think your comment definitely plays into what Lorenzo was saying about individuals exploring the potential of this new technology. I used to make little tapes for my sister of her favourite stories when she was sick – she loved it! And having the book on an iPad (together with the audio) will make for a great user experience, especially for kids. I can’t wait!

Fete et Fleur said...

I feel torn as well, Margaret. We will just have to wait and see how this impacts the world of art.


Claudio Arango said...

Hi Margaret, I read with attention your article and I am very pleased that you liked my manifesto. I'd like to know your opinion about my work. (http://www.claudioarango.com)

I loved that you mention the advanced technology of the cavemen. I'm starting to prepare my second sample which is a tribute to these early painters. The images are examples of what they could have generated if they had had an IPAD.

You can see a fresh sample of “Back to Fingers” here http://www.flickr.com/photos/claudioarango/4632534655/

With the iPad we are finally returning to finger painting.


Claudio Arango

Margaret said...

Hi, Claudio! Thank you for your comment. I enjoyed your exhibit and the work I saw on your blog. It is interesting that technology has brought us "full circle" - now we can paint digitally with our fingers! It's ironic, isn't it, that the word "digital" relates to the fingers?

Thank you for your art, and for showing us some of the possibilities for what can be done with the iPad!


Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Margaret dear,

What a treat it is to hear from you and come to see you lovely blog, full of interesting and intelligent matter! Don't you just love art? No matter what the genre, the period, the style, it inspires us and causes us to reflect and then recreate ourselves. You were a teacher, you say? I have been teaching only 7 years, and what a fabulous profession. Fatiguing, rewarding and constantly changing, it keeps us ALIVE!!!!!

Merci mille fois for your gracious visit, Anita

ParisBreakfasts said...

Hmmm...I've yet to see anywhere my complaint about the %$$# ipad adressed.
Most ads & posters show someone sitting with their knees propped up, the thing resting against the knees.
Who sits like that?
You can't do it in the subway for sure.
It seems to be terribly non-ergonomic.
Will they create a cookbook-like stand for the thing or does one always have to hold it with the other hand?
Admittedly I'm slow to come round to these gadgets. But once I do, I cling on for dear life.
On verra bien.

Owlfarmer said...

I succumbed to the iPad for dubious reasons: a really good baseball app (MLB At Bat), and the promise of good books that won't take up space on shelves already bursting (and no more wall space for new ones). So far both have been great--but it's also surprisingly good at showing images; so the art history teacher in me is waiting for museum apps that surpass the cheesy ones I have on the iPhone.

Image clarity on Apple products is usually terrific. So if people start coming out with great educational applications, I'm on board.

By the way, the neoprene jacket I bought before the iPad actually entered the household has a nifty device for standing it up. And I have to tell you that reading vintage Agatha Christie is pure pleasure for $7 US a pop.