Another aspect of painting that I've been exploring is digital painting, using various apps on my iPad. I find this to be very rewarding, in part because I can work quickly or slowly, save and come back later if necessary. There are some paintings I've been working on for awhile, some others made with the quickness of a Zen lightning flash across the mind.
At the high end of software apps I'm using, with amazingly flexible and editable tools, are ArtRage and ProCreate and ArtStudio, all of which allow you to create full art on your tablet. Another couple of favorites, which are a little idiosyncratic and less purely about painting are Flowpaper and ZenBrush. I have several other drawing and painting and sketching apps, but I find myself using this group most often. ArtRage and ProCreate in particular are the ones for painting using my own photographs as reference images. A lot of the images I'm creating are sketches, just five-finger exercises. I don't consider many things here to be finished art. Although a few are, particularly those new paintings I've made from existing photographs.
This style of painting, of painting-over, of making art based on photographs, is something that strongly appeals to me. I make new art from existing images, not by reproducing them but in fact by refusing to reproduce them exactly; rather, by creating a new version that is more abstract, more painterly, as if a plein air painting done on the inspiration of the place and time where I had made the photograph. Many landscape painters have used photographs as references for their paintings. In my case, I am using photos as reference, but also in some cases as source material: painting over the painting itself, sampling the colors, and working the image till it evokes a more abstract mood and style. A fresh painting made in a new mode. I feel that this mode is the best, most actually artistic, of what I'm doing with digital painting for now.
A completely different kind of visual art that I'm doing is combining writing, calligraphy, and drawings of various types. Little visual haiku. Precedents in Japanese haiga, which are paintings with haiku, not really illustrations but a combined artform. Brushwork on painting, on photography. Blending media. Layered imagery and words.
Haiku are a quick form of poem, something that happens spontaneously and with clarity of mind, out of clarity of mind, or not at all. Likewise these little visual haiku.
Since the ZenBrush app is specifically designed to emulate Japanese brushwork and writing, I find myself doing that with it. It's good for sketching, but also for writing a haiku, then combining that with artwork in a painting app. ZenBrush has some flexibility in terms of brush size, opacity, ink style, touch sensitivity, and so forth; it also has a wide range of virtual papers on which to write or draw. As usual, I often start a brush session by warming up by drawing enso.
An enso can then be erased, drawn over with new layers with different opacities or types of sumi-e ink.
Another app I use regularly converts visual images into images composed of words and type. This is fun to play with on the brushwork and Zen fronts: adding layers of meaning by adding randomized type-casting to the brushwork image.
Here's an example of a sumi-e style drawing, which I then experimented with in terms of both type and painting. Several different versions of this one idea yield different, even playful variations.
river, carry me home, 2012
A completely different kind of feel can be made with the same process in the same apps. (These were drawn on the smaller screen of the iPhone.)
The aesthetic of this kind of calligraphic painting/drawing, even though it's done on the latest type of computer, is ancient in feel. I made that explicit with this morning poem.
These are all examples of the process of painting, calligraphy, and drawing using virtual paint on a tablet. They range from serious fine art paintings, using the high end painting apps, to small morning poems and drawings done quickly and simply. Different aesthetics for different moments and different ends. But they are all digital painting. I'm doing a lot of this work right now. I'm drawn to it, in part because it's something I can do during my morning meditation time. Not all of it, as I said, is anything more than studies or exercises; yet I feel there is a great deal of potential here for creating genuine art, real illustration, and more.
To be continued. We'll see where the road takes us next.