Creating 21st century art using iPads and iPhones

Artist Sam Wadsworth is well known Northamptonshire portrait painter, and has turned to ian iPad to create his latest art.
Artist Sam Wadsworth is well known Northamptonshire portrait painter, and has turned to ian iPad to create his latest art.

SITTING in the Abington studio of artist Sam Wadsworth, I spot a line of paint tubes edging one wall.

Sam is well known for his skills with these everyday artistic materials and in recent years they have helped him produce some of the portraits and landscapes for which he is now recognised.

Camilla Cobb winner of The Primrose Gallery iPad art competition.

Camilla Cobb winner of The Primrose Gallery iPad art competition.

But at his forthcoming exhibition, Light Works, at 78 Derngate in Northampton, visitors will not only be seeing his oil paintings, but also an array of prints showing work created completely on the iPad or iPhone.

Sam is one of a growing number of artists turning to “apps” to create artwork, using programmes such as Brushes on the iPad.

The whole process involves the use of fingers on a screen to create the kind of images one would normally expect to use a paintbrush to create.

But is this really art?

Camilla Cobb, ipad image

Camilla Cobb, ipad image

Sam said: “I think a few people struggle with what is new and some people say it isn’t art but I don’t understand that at all, it completely is.”

As well as the unveiling of a new painting of England rugby star Dylan Hartley (using traditional methods) at Light Works, the exhibition will feature five prints created using digital tools. These include two nudes, an image of All Saints Church in Northampton and two other still lifes.

From a distance it is hard to tell that the pieces have not been created using a traditional box of paints.

Sam said: “I have been doing the drawings for 18 months. I use watercolours and pastels and try to use as many mediums as possible and I thought this was a valuable way of doing it.

All Saints Church digital sketch by Sam Wadsworth

All Saints Church digital sketch by Sam Wadsworth

“I did not conceive of it being anything like it is, I just thought it was a great way of drawing, it was fun and exciting, I had never drawn on a computer before. It is exactly the same, you still need tone, shade and perspective, you still need to be able to draw as well.”

But he added: “It would never overtake oil paintings for me.”

For Sam, part of the charm of using iPhones and iPads to create art is their portability. He took an iPad to the National Portrait Gallery to produce his own interpretation of Vanessa Bell’s portrait of Virginia Woolf.

Elsewhere in Northamptonshire, other artists have also been brushing off the iPads to practise their artistic skills.

Studio window by Sam Wadsworth

Studio window by Sam Wadsworth

At Primrose Gallery in Kingsthorpe, owner Neil Duguid recently launched an iPad art competition to coincide with an exhibition of the artist David Hockney’s work.

Neil asked visitors to the gallery to draw pictures on the iPad, which were then posted to a Facebook site and subjected to a public vote.

Camilla Cobb landed first place for her cowslip drawing, winning an iPad, followed by Minnie Teckman, for her treescape. Third place went to someone who called himself Lukas B, who had drawn a bunch of grapes.

Neil said: “I just thought what a great idea. If you think about painting in the 1600s and 1700s, eveything was done inside. Then they invented paint tubes and people could paint outdoors. This is just another tool.”

But creating artwork on an iPad does create one can there be an original?

Neil said: “There is no original to display, everything is a reproduction of the screen.”

Light Works will run at 78 Derngate from July 7 until September 30.

Taking some pictures from her bag, artist Camilla Cobb shows me a series of stunning images revealing the drawings she has produced of horses.

Until she popped into Primrose Gallery in Kingsthorpe recently, she had never used a computer to produce art, but when the shop’s owner Neil Duguid asked her to take part in his iPad art competition, she agreed to have a go.

Producing a colourful image of a cowslip, her picture won a Facebook vote and Camilla walked away with a new iPad for her trouble.

Camilla, who lives in Kingsthorpe village, runs New Routes, based in Northampton, offering equine therapy and care sessions to help young people with behavioural and emotional problems, and those leaving the care system.

It is perhaps unsurprising that her love of horses has impacted on the artwork she produces and she now takes commissions on her equine portraits. But this piece of digital art, produced during a quick trip to Primrose Gallery, was a departure from the norm for her.

She said: “I had never done a drawing on an iPad before, but it just took me 10 minutes. The competition was done on votes so all I can say is thank you to everyone who voted.”

But Camilla does not think that iPads and iPhones will take the art world over completely.

She continued: “I think it is a bit like people liking CDs and people liking vinyl, we are creating interesting mediums. I don’t think it will overtake the old paintbrushes as art comes from the soul, it is expression and you need to make a mess. It is a tactile thing.

The gallery’s 10th anniversary exhibition, including work by many of the artists who have been featured there over the decade, will start on Saturday.