Fingerpainting with Brushes

I used to go back and forth playing a game with myself: if I had to choose between writing and art, which would it be? In the end I would (almost reluctantly) choose writing because I would only need a piece of paper and a writing tool. Art takes up so much room and materials can be so expensive. That said, I can't stop making things or buying supplies.

Choosing what supplies to bring when I travel (not often!) is a problem as I try to decide what to bring: brush markers? a tiny watercolor kit? water soluble colored pencils and a water brush? needlefelting supplies? paper and needle and thread to make books? Is it possible that someone who likes to paint with tactile materials could embrace digital painting?

Ever since I saw a picture by David Hockney that he painted on his iPad I have been intrigued. You can see some of his iPhone drawings from 2009 here. Hockney started making these when he was in his seventies and it took a bit before he realized that an iPad was "quite a serious tool you can use" and it was "like an endless piece of paper." He hasn't stopped his other work; he's added another dimension.

After I watched this video I decided someone in our house needed the Brushes app that Hockney uses. In lieu of the flowers that did not appear on our anniversary, the iPad owner I know best agreed to buy me the app. The $7.99 was gone instantly, and in a minute (I patiently let him look at it, first) I was playing with Brushes.

I spent forty-five minutes painting on the iPad and most of that was actually creating, not figuring out the tools. It is a simple program with just enough variation to make it fun and to spark new ideas. You can choose a color, an opacity, a type of stroke that can be as thin as a pencil line or as thick and streaked as a brushstroke. It also has an eyedropper feature so you can choose previously used colors, and an "undo" feature, so you can remove a stroke and go back to change a color. Working with Brushes is probably easier if you have played with a drawing/painting program before or if you have painted with physical materials, but I suspect it could be a great introduction to color, texture, and layering, for kids and for anyone who wants to explore.

An artist's job is to explore. Seek out new territory; find something fresh. And make art anywhere.

You can use the stylus, as Hockney does, or abandon it and use your finger. I had more fun fingerpainting. And so, I present you with my first attempt, Tangerines Are Okay W/Me.

As with many things, there are plenty of websites that showcase iPad art, including a Brushes Gallery that displays some really impressive paintings.

I love the tactility of real art supplies, and I'm not ready to give up my studio—not even close—but I'm happy to find a portable and satisfying way to make art while traveling, while waiting, and for pleasure. Assuming I can spirit away that iPad again…


Thanks for the info about Brushes! The iPad has made writing so portable. Now I can finger-paint too!