Art and the iPad

Posted on 05/08/2011


Friday 24th April was exciting. Huge crowds gathered outside Apple stores around the world for the release of the iPad 2. In Covent Garden, London, people queued well into the night hoping to get their hands on it. The iPad’s been hailed as both the saviour of the publishing industry and the future of computing, so it’s little wonder people were making such a fuss.

The iPad and it’s younger brother, the iPad 2, are no ordinary devices. They take a fresh approach to computing, making it simpler, slicker and more interactive. It’s more of a philosophy than a design approach: complicated menus and functions have been stripped back to the bare minimum, allowing it to do the basics amazingly well and nothing more. Simplicity is everything. More complicated tools are hidden within apps, taking a lot of the confusion out of the technology. What Apple have done is build a complicated device for users that don’t want complications.

Jackson Pollock app

It’s already changing the way we use software, how we interact with devices, and our expectations of technology, but it has also opened up new ways for people to make art. Over the past month I’ve noticed a growing market of art apps, creative uses and ways in which the iPad is changing our ideas around art.

(I’m really want to avoid a discussion on what is art, so for now we’ll just assume that everything anyone says is art, genuinely is art and leave it art at that.)

The iPad as a tool

Before Apple, touch screens were awkward unresponsive TV monitors usually used in museums or public spaces to help you find your way around. Why would you use touch when you could do it infinitely quicker on a mouse or keyboard? This demo turns that idea on it’s head. The iPad/ iPhone becomes your canvas and your paint, leaving your fingers to be the brushes.

Drawing between iPhone and iPad

There are already loads of art apps out there:

And there’s a whole load more art apps out there.

ArtStudio for iPad

At the moment digital artists seem pretty reserved about the iPad’s creative potential, partly because of the touch screen. It’s a multi-touch device so it relies on multiple points of contact interacting with the screen, and not the amount of pressure applied. This means drawing on it with a stylus is a very different experience to traditional drawing. With no Wacom– like stylus  device to make this easier are we left with digital finger painting?

That said, there are already emerging groups of artists producing work on apple touch screen devices. Just goes to show that whatever the medium, humans will try to master it.

Caida on


The main question is: how would iPad art be displayed? Is the iPad be the tool and the gallery? Would it work on larger screens (vector or pixel based or a combo)? Would you print it out? I don’t think we’re that far from digital art appearing in traditional galleries, but for the time being it’s home is on the internet.

How it’s displayed also depends on the form it takes. At the moment most art based apps treat the iPad like a digital canvas, which is what it immediately lends itself to. The iPad’s still embryonic compared to the computer, and if you follow Seth Godin’s logic, there’s little real innovation when you’re still exploring a space (“Bring me stuff that’s dead, please”). I think the iPad will be more than this.

More than a canvas

Most of us are still happy exploring the tablet, but already people are finding new creative uses:

Light drawings from the screen in a dark room:

Location based art and Augmented Reality:

Interaction between devices:

I can see computer art, like the V&A’s Decode Exhibition becoming another direction for iPad developers and experimenters. This is already a fascinating space to watch, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Posted in: Culture, Design, Digital