Digital artists create iPad masterpieces

Susan Murtaugh iPad painting
The power of the iPad as a painting device is being realized by artists all over the world

Finger painting is no longer just for kids. There is a growing community of online artists who use the iPad and iPhone to create exciting and vibrant artwork using just their fingers.

Thanks to programs like Brushes and SketchBook Pro, there's also an ever-growing community of 'finger painters' on social networking sites such as Flickr and Facebook, where they upload artwork straight from their iPads or iPhones to share with the world. You can even see videos of how they have put the paintings together.

Meanwhile, professional painters and illustrators – such as renowned British artist David Hockney and comic-book legend Jim Lee – are joining in the fun by using the iPad and iPhone to create fantastic works of art and sharing them with friends and fans. Even highbrow US magazine The New Yorker featured a cover painting, created on the iPhone, by illustrator Jorge Colombo.

Here are some of the iPad artists who are making a name for themselves.

Stef Kardos

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Disney animator Stef Kardos is one of the true pioneers of finger painting on the iPhone. His 50s' diner images, inspired by his current home of California, were some of the first to appear online and show off the power of the Brushes app.

He tells us, "I love painting and sketching on location; the light here in Southern California, the sunsets and the city views of LA at night from the mountains are superb; but painting a sunset live as the sun goes down is very challenging with traditional media. The iPhone came in handy for me, as it gave me the opportunity to be spontaneous; and most of all, it enabled me to paint outdoors, not from a photo in my studio."

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As for his next step, Stef says he is looking forward to getting an iPad, having seen what his colleagues at Disney have started doing with it already.

Susan Murtaugh

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Retired artist Susan Murtaugh is the co-author of finger-painting website and is one of the leading lights in the finger-painting community.

"The Flickr community is host to so much unbelievable talent, it is hard not to be inspired and encouraged to do better work," she says. She herself was inspired by Disney artist Stef Kardos (see artist above) to pick up an iPhone, and then an iPad, as she embarked on what she refers to as her new 'iCareer', using Brushes and SketchBook to create some stunning paintings.

When asked what the future holds for iPad painters, she says: "My iPad is the most cherished piece of equipment I own today. It fits in my purse and so it's not a problem carrying it around and using it at a moment's notice. I have literally "handed off" my aging MacBook Pro and do not feel the need to replace it. In fact I look forward to the iPad's future development; can one with a camera and full printing capability be far off?"

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When asked whether painting on the iPad will prove to be a short-lived fad, she says: "I have been teaching all the sixth-grade classes in my county about art on digital devices and the enthusiasm – and how fast the kids pick up the apps and use them – shows me that the need and want is there. The iPad is also considerably less expensive than I originally thought it would be, so I think they'll be around for a long time to come. "

Goro Fujita

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Animator and concept artist Goro Fujita has been painting with Brushes on the iPhone since it was launched. Graduating from finger painting to using a Pogo stylus, he was quick to upgrade to the iPad as soon as it was unveiled.

"I loved the feel of [the iPad] and the software packages like Brushes and Sketchbook Pro were a lot more responsive and faster than on the iPhone. I didn't hesitate a second to get myself an iPad."

Goro uses both Brushes and Sketchbook Pro on his iPad. "Brushes is the faster tool, and since I'm in direct contact with the creator I can give him feedback and it doesn't take long until he implements new features. I also like the simple interface, and the tools are easy to reach. Every action gets recorded and you can play it back instantly or export it to your Mac and watch your painting process. You can even play it back at a higher resolution without quality loss, which is an amazing feature. Although in Brushes you can't draw dots yet."

When asked about the difference between painting on the iPad and a more traditional way of working, he says the best thing is "the possibility to undo your actions and transform your layers."

As for how he views the future of painting on the iPad, he says: "The iPad has a really nice size and I love painting on it. This is the first generation and the applications are getting better and better. The hardware still needs some improvement, like pressure sensitivity, but that's only a matter of time. I think the iPad is perfect as a digital portable sketchbook."

Xoan Baltar

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Self-taught Spanish painter Xoan Baltar believes he is continuing the tradition of Spanish masters by releasing his iPhone paintings to the world via Flickr and YouTube.

As well as helping to develop the second incarnation of Brushes alongside its creator Steve Sprang, Xoan was one of the first iPhone artists to upload videos of his paintings to YouTube to show off his techniques to the world.

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"The drawings are very diverse; they can take 20 minutes to do or even two hours." The YouTube videos were a direct response to online fans speculating about whether his paintings were retouched photographs, as well as to show how quickly he could create such stunning pieces of art.

When asked what his next step with his artwork is going to be, he says: "Currently I'm preparing an exhibition of paintings done on my iPhone. I can print on canvas and the results are amazing."