/ Technology

Would you get arty on an iPad?

David Hockney’s recent exhibition, A Bigger Picture, contained rural images painted not with a paint-brush, pencil or charcoal, but on an iPad. Would you get creative with your tablet?

We interviewed David Hockney in this week’s Tech podcast, where he described the iPad as a ‘fantastic tool’ for creative people.

He added that manufacturers ‘often don’t know the full ways you can use’ new technology, and that it takes artists like David (or ‘mad people’ as he describes them) to experiment with it and take advantage of it as a new medium.

So, how good are these arty apps? Is the iPad the big new medium? We decided to download some painting apps (Brushes and Paper) to our office iPad to try them out. There was no shortage of volunteers to draw for us – an indication of how popular these apps are.

At first it’s a little bizarre drawing directly with your fingers rather than with a pencil or brush, but you soon get used to it. In fact the app was surprisingly good – it’s easy to change colour, alter the saturation levels, as well as the type of brush stroke. With the premium version you can even add layers to enhance the perspective.

Numerous drawing apps

There’s a wealth of drawing apps available for tablets and smartphones, including games like Draw Something, which has already been a worldwide hit. Similarly, photography and music are also getting the tablet treatment with apps such as Instagram and GarageBand.

Instagram, like many other apps of its type, let you apply filters to photos to give them a more stylised and often ‘old-school’ effect. My housemate is obsessed with it, recently taking shots of everything from the kitchen table, to me watching TV. She claims that the Instagram effect made them ‘art’. I’m doubtful of that claim, but it certainly kept her entertained! And she’s not alone – Instagram is one of the top ten free apps downloaded from Apple’s app store.

Whether you’re a budding artist, or a parent trying to keep a child amused on a rainy day, these arty apps are good fun and surprisingly versatile. The rise of the tablet is inspiring amateurs and professionals alike to experiment with new art forms, which is surely a good thing.

Are tablet paintings art?

Some have questioned whether this constitutes real art, but I agree with David Hockney that tablets are another medium and therefore, so if you’re up to the job, why can’t it count as art?

Have you used a tablet to create a piece of art or music? What apps would you recommend? Oh and check out this gallery of our arty iPad efforts – if you’d like to send in your efforts please do!

iPad painting of dead rat in grass iPad painting of sunset iPad painting of a cat on a radiator
Hickue says:
4 October 2012

All of these are pretty good, but the question is is this because of talent or the way you can create effects with technology. Although I suppose it could be argued that an iPad is a tool in the way that a canvas and paintbrush or pencil are.


We couldn’t possibly comment on that 😉 but all we used were brush shapes, colours and fading – this can make it easier, but I still think you need an artistic flair (with the app we used anyway)


They look like they’ve been created on an ipad.

Good artists can make art out of anything, but these look entirely digital

Carol Fox says:
5 October 2012

I love painting on my iPad Brushes app. It allows the imagination to fly and use an enormous variety of colours and textures at the tip of your fingers. David Hockney’s iPad paintings are brilliant and I aim to be 100th as good as he is. An inspiration.

Here’s one of my paintings:


Wow thanks for this Carol. Looks really good!

I’m beginning to get somewhat addicted to ‘painting’ on the iPad. As for whether it’s art – I think it definitely takes a certain amount of creativity to get something that looks half decent. 😉


Sorry but that looks like someone has been playing with MS Paint.

To define something as art, you need to remove it from the fact that it is done on an ipad.

If it stands up on it’s own, without any explanation or back-story, and serves no other purpose, then it is art. These images require the excuse of “it was done on an iPad”

Yes you can be creative within the parameters of a computer program, but that is entirely different to “art”, as there are no boundaries or limits.


Hi Dean, I’m not sure I agree! Of course, the nature of art is that different people will have different ideas of what constitutes ‘art’, but in my opinion, the medium isn’t a big part of that.

For example, you say that you can be creative within the parameters of a computer program, but that ‘art’ has no boundaries or limits. However, I’d argue that any artist working in any medium has parameters. So, an oil canvas painter is restricted by the size of their canvas, by the brushes they can use, the colours available to them and so on.

I also think that Carol’s picture stands alone as a landscape, and doesn’t need a back-story. But it’s interesting to hear other perspectives on whether digital art counts as ‘art’.

Carol says:
5 October 2012

I like ArtSet. It’s free and a good app if you are new to painting on an ipad. Truth to tell, you do need artistic ability as well – but don’t let that put you off. It’s like everything else – practise makes, if not perfect, then at least better.

John Ward says: