A synergy: Traditional Paint and Digital Drawing

13th May 2016

Portraits Untold has brought me to a new point in my artistic development where I can now begin to explore new possibilities and new approaches in my portrait work. I want to begin to create a synergy between my use of traditional painting methods, techniques and materials with my use of digital paint, drawing tools and apps.

Over three days spread out over the winter and spring this year I have begun to research and develop ways of combining these creative processes. My aim use these processes to create a new series of four live performative high profile, live streamed portrait events.

Look out for the dates, venues and sitters to be announced on the main website soon.

I will be looking at how I can develop innovative creative portrait practices using assistive technology with Dr Chris Creed at University of Birmingham Digital Humanities Hub, Mandy Fowler Portraits Untold Producer and website/live stream development company Hatch & Twine. We will be exploring ways I can create a synergy between traditional portrait painting methods and assistive technology including interactive participatory social media systems in a live portrait performative way.

On day 1 of this Research and Development back in February I arrived at the Digital Humanities Hub, University of Birmingham with my mobile art studio. Easels, canvas, paints, brushes and iPad. As a starting point we began by exploring the versatility and usability of large touch tables. The sort you might find in museums and art galleries where the public can explore collections through a touch interface and active technology. We looked at how we might use use these in the actual portrait events. Our initial thoughts were around using this technology as a way of montaging images that would be live streamed in via social media feeds. This montage would then be projected on to my canvas for me to map out into the finished portrait. But we thought this might be better done using smaller less intrusive technology such as a mini projector, as the touch tables seamed very cumbersome and may dominate the intimate spaces we intend to site for the live portrait events.

From this we began to think more about how the projections would work in collaboration with the real painting set up with the easel and canvas. So we plugged in a mini projector aimed directly on to an already painted portrait, found a simple test painting app on the Internet and I tried painting digitally using a multi touch PC screen and laptop. The painting results were very surprising and we all felt that the experience of watching this technique would be incredibly engaging for the audience.

As the artist I felt that the multi touch PC screen didn’t quite deliver interns of response, touch and reach ability. Plus I wasn’t sure about the size of the screen too. Was my reach too stretched compromising my ability to make quick spontaneous marks using the touch screen? Was the technology and hardware too dominant for the live event? I need to find a fine balance between technology, access, visual art aesthetic and traditional portrait making methods. I needed to considering the amount of physical movement I need to make in the making of the portrait. I like to work in quite a confined compact space where every thing I need to access is within easy reach. This can could be micro rather than macro. There also seemed to be a lag on the projected screen which was degrading and pixelating the digital drawing line that I didn’t like and the app had limitations too in terms of its basic tools.

The next stage was to download an app called Sketchbook pro that I currently use for my digital drawing on iPad on to the laptop, multi touch screen and PC setup were using. This lead us into looking at the usability of sketchbook pro. Again we looked at the amount of physical movement I needed to make across the screen to draw and then at the positioning and access of the tools in the software. From this Dr Chris Creed is going to look at researching and developing the usability and layout of the app Sketchbook Pro for my specific access needs for this project and I decided that I preferred a smaller screen so I don’t need to make big movements to draw.
The new iPad Pro was going to be the preferred hardware along with the iPencil which has pressure sensitivity when drawing digitally, giving me more control of my digital mark making than I’ve had with previous touch screen technology.

I now have my new iPad Pro and iPencil, along with its own easel and the beginnings of several new acrylic painted #PortraitsUntold canvases on the go. These have been developed during a couple of private one to one sittings with one of the high profile sitters on location. I’ll be blogging about this soon so watch out for this.

I will be joining Dr Chris Creed, Mandy Fowler and Hatch & Twine for the next testing day in April. This will be a dummy run, testing all aspects of the actual events.

So don’t forget to checkout my next blog post coming soon.