iPhone Brushes and the Cowboy Musician

I've been messing around with the Brushes app on my iPhone, getting to know it while riding the bus. It's a powerful tool, challenging and fiddly to use, but changing rapidly and capable of astonishingly detailed work. You have only to search YouTube for "brushes iPhone" to find a trove of impressive examples. 

Unlike many of the YouTube pieces, which start with a very clear, pre-planned idea and efficiently build it layer by layer, mine is more of an ad hoc exploration in which I "find" the image, revising till I arrive at a stopping point. Which is more like how I draw, or used to until drawing got absorbed into my painting.

This is one of two early attempts. This dude came out of my head. I guess he's a bit like an old boyfriend I used to draw a lot, only different. As I was doodling, I thought of him as a musician observed listening to music. Then he morphed into a cowboy extra in a western bar scene. 

The cherry on top of this application is that if you have a Mac, you can download a viewing module that allows you to replay your creation, stroke by stroke, fast or slow, and make a little video of it. I've made two of these now, of my earliest Brushes drawings. It's a curious sensation to revisit decisions and revisions you never thought you'd see again as they unfold in fast motion.

There's a lot going on here, digitally, conceptually, technologically, and already sides are being taken as to digital vs. "real" materials, such as good old pencil and paper.

To me it's another medium, and like any medium, it has properties which in their limitations are conducive to creative solutions. What can YOU do with it? Is the question. It's one that's being answered excitingly, by artists from David Hockney, who fires off a Brushes painting or two a day to his friends, or Jorgé Columbo, who now makes regular Brushes paintings for the New Yorker, to talented young artists posting elaborate cartoon characters on YouTube.

I'm yet to find out whether the app has relevance for me as a serious tool in my studio art practice. For now, it's got me playing around, drawing, "painting", and thinking in ways I don't usually. At the very least, it's made my bus rides a lot more fun.

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Jorgé Colombo's first New Yorker cover created using Brushes, New Yorker video and short article

David Hockney paints on his iPhone, New York Review of books video and short article

Harpo's Bumblebee Autobot, YouTube video of a precise style of painting with Brushes