Friday, May 18, 2012

Quality of Air

With a month and a half left of my Sabbatical the studio is getting pretty filled up with work. Luckily the other artists and myself will be hosting an Open Studio July 5th aligning with First Fridays in Rochester. So if you are in Rochester, please come by!
The Studio
One of my sleeping companions.
It's an amazing thing when brushes, canvas, paints, and time, give physical form to experience and thought. I'm never quite sure what I'll be creating when I first return to the studio and then somehow it just happens. Memories, poetry, or music along with items, photos, and spaces coalesce. I can see my year in my paintings—the travels, the people, my readings, my walks through the forest, my explorations, my parents, my family and my friends. Though they may seem to be about trees and landscapes, in reality they are about us and our time in this life and the potential of eternity.
Work in Progress, Day1: All of Us 
Work in Progress, Day2: All of Us 
" is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes its claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanates from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit." —Robert Louis Stevenson
Driving through France
In Fontainebleau I
In Fontainebleau II
In Fontainebleau III
This week I rediscovered some photos I took in France. While there I had been surprised to find that the countryside of France looks remarkably like New York State. Perhaps that is why my father's father settled here. Who knows? My cell phone caught the arrangement of the trees and the lay of the land as we passed through at 60mph. These as well as images I captured in the gardens of Fontainebleau seemed to me to speak of all of us—young, old, middle aged—all passing through this earth to who knows where—all interconnected by chance in mysterious ways.

In the end, I've completed (at least for today) two paintings, one large consisting of 6 joined canvases, the other small using paint left over from the first. This smaller canvas has helped me decide what supplies to take to Italy. I wonder how that trip will influence my perspective and work when next I return to the studio?
Destiny (from paints remaining on my palette) 
All of Us

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Playing and Creating on the iPad and iPhone

During my Sabbatical I've been investigating different media forms on the i-devices. Essentially I've been looking at them through an artist's eye—both as forms and as tools.
A few apps on my devices

It started with games on the iPhone and iPad. I've found that many of the best games understand the mobility and physicality of the hardware. The great majority of mobile games strip down to touch-based or physics-driven mechanics and are highly immersive, even addictive. A second group seem to step beyond immersion and become almost meditative in quality. A third type of mobile games offer depth of story line and layers of meaning. These keep me hungry for more. My favorites list in these categories includes:
  • Mechanics:  Angry Birds (of course), Bubble Ball (by a fourteen year old no less), Ancient Frog, Cut the Rope, Orba, Drop7, Tiny Wings
  • Meditative: Contre Jour, Zen Bound2, Treemaker
  • Layered: Spider, Sword and Sworcery, Waking Mars
Zen Bound2 screen
Then I really became interested in interactive books. Differing from e-books, these can be multi-media experiences, with story intertwined with strong visuals, sound, interactivity, video, and even game elements.  It was wonderful to see two of my MFA in Emergent Media grads, Tara Gordon and Jacob Neville, creating their thesis around this media form. Interactive books seem to be a relatively new take on old school interactivity ( . I think there is much potential and much ground to cover in the mobile form.

Currently most seem to be for children and the quality is all over the place. Questions are raised about how to marry reading readiness/learning to interactivity. For example, the better in this category allow the child to touch words and have them read aloud to them. They institute some form of integrating the interactivity into the story itself. Some that I find of high quality are "Alice for iPad", "The Numberly's", "Dinoboy Adventures", and "Millie Was Here".
 Video teaser from "The Numberly's"

For the adult market, this form is primarily being offered in the Reference category such as the Audubon ( and Peterson ( ) bird identification apps. These integrate visual, mapping, sound, and recording. I predict a wider range of forms coming out of the interactive book realm much like comic books have led to graphic novels.
Audubon Apps

However lately what I have been having the most fun with are drawing and painting apps for the iPad and iPhone. I have four that I've been creating with. They are Paper by FiftyThree, Sketch Club, Sketchbook, and Inspire Pro. Inspire Pro I like because it is a painting program. Sketch Club and Sketch Book are both solid because of the depth of tools and choices they allow.

However the one I've been returning to over and over is Paper by FiftyThree ( The designers have limited the choices and in doing so have made it a very intuitive and easy to create with app. It is the app I will share with our Champlain students and EMC partners as a case of best practice for mobile design. It functions just like a sketch book. The design allows the artist to focus purely on the act of drawing/watercolor painting instead of on the app's functionality. For myself, it has freed me up to draw anywhere and anytime. There are some things I would suggest the developers include in a future upgrade such as a larger color palette, a different page turning and undo functionality, and a wider ability to save the images. However I can't hold these against this app as I'm having too much fun with it and hope to use it when I travel to Italy later this month. Below are some of my recent "Paper" drawings.

Central Park Birds
Louie Sleeping
Roxy Sleeping 
Two Buddies Reunited
Hostess in DC
Truth In Pursuit of Beauty (self portrait)
If you have some favorite mobile games, interactive books, or creation apps, please let me know! I'm on the lookout for more.