iPhone “Brushes”

Mal | Art Process and Creativity | Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I don’t own an iPhone. Like most outsiders, I occasionally have envy, but perhaps never so much as I do after hearing about  an iPhone application called Brushes —software for digital paintings that can be made at any moment on your tiny screen.

There is a flickr group dedicated to the images, and the application has received a lot of attention lately because the latest cover of New Yorker magazine was painted on it — using nothing more than an expensive gadget and a fingertip.

Predictably, “fine artists” are balking. The age-old question, “But, is it art? is being ponged around the globe. I used to have an art therapy professor who insisted that if you didn’t get messy making it, it wasn’t art.

But I disagree.

What do I like about the idea of Brushes? A few things, all of which are in the service of (hopefully) getting more people to do more art:

  1. It’s portable. You can always have it with you, unlike your fancy easel, your sewing machine, or your favorite buzzsaw.
  2. It’s small, which means that you are more likely to finish what you start.
  3. It has an undo function, which creates an illusion of safety in risk-taking and may encourage experimentation.
  4. A special viewer allows you to replay your painting, stroke by stroke, which is a neat way to honor, reflect on, and celebrate artistic process.


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