The vivid portraits and picturesque landscape paintings neatly decorating the Narberth Chiropractic Center burst with the detail and persistence it takes to masterfully craft an oil painting, but don't let these works of art fool you – though they were "painted," each of the more than a dozen pieces were created on the iPad of the artist, Richard McKnight.
"Some people come in here and they think they are photographs," McKnight, 64, said. "One woman said 'well, you're tracing over a photograph,' and I said, 'No, I'm not.' It's a painting. it looks just like an oil paint, and to me, that's just like magic."
Creating art via computer technology isn't new. There's the Microsoft Windows program, Paint, but recent years have given those with an artistic eye more possibilities with various software. Corel, for example, was introduced first as CorelDRAW in 1989 for Macintosh and has since grown into a multiplatform product emulating traditional media associated with drawing, painting and printmaking, with the current version Painter 12 released a little more than a year ago.
Another memorable example is Adobe's Creative Suite, on the verge of releasing its sixth addition, offers a drawing program, Illustrator, among its various design software.
Since the iPad's inception in 2010, as well as the growth of the tablet market in general, digitally-based art has taken a new turn with mobile and tablet applications, such as Savage Interactive's Procreate sketching and painting iPad app and the app McKnight uses, ArtRage.
"ArtRage allows for the simulation of real world art tools," said Uwe Maurer, director of licensing and business development of ArtRage's developer company, Ambient Design. "Oil paints smear and water colors blend. Backgrounds as realistic as canvas, blackboards or even concrete can be chosen among dozens of presets.
"This allows artists a quick try out before committing time and money to expensive materials," Maurer added.
Maurer said ArtRage, which has also been available as a studio application for Mac OS X and PC computers for almost 10 years, was recently selected by Microsoft as a paint program for Tablet PCs. It started out as a free paint program to demonstrate the skills of its founders, Andy Bearsley and Matt Fox-Wilson after they left the software publisher MetaCreation.
Maurer said the digital art tool has been downloaded more than 10 million times to date by both Windows and Mac users.
McKnight came across ArtRage in Apple's App Store in Nov. 2011, a month after he purchased his iPad 2. The Narberth resident and freelance management consultant had used similar products like Procreate and KiwiPixel's Inspire Pro, and was fond of those, but became enamored with the offerings of ArtRage after he discovered and purchased the app for $6.99.
"Oil painting is more fun because you get the smell and the consistency of the oil paint and all of that," McKnight said. "But this has a novelty factor and an ease factor."
For McKnight, painting via ArtRage takes a lot less time than if he were to use real paints and a canvas. Oil paints take forever to dry, he said, and with oil paint artists have to have a strategy, especially when it comes to portraits.
"With oil painting, you have to build up thin layers at first, and thin layers tend to dry really fast, but it's a lot less forgiving," than the iPad app, the Narberth artist said.
The walls in Dr. Arnold Weinberg's chiropractic office in Narberth, once bare and eggshell white, have been covered with McKnight's ArtRage paintings since April 29, when his iPad art gallery debuted, and it'll be up until June 10.
McKnight created 25 of these paintings for the show in the time it would take normally take him to create five via traditional oil paint. It's why he'll hold another art show in the same location in September.
The Narbeth artists is far from the first artist to catch the mobile and tablet art bug. John Bavaro, an associate professor of art at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, is one of the founding board members of the International Association of Mobile Digital Artists (iAMDA), which began in 2010.
Bavaro has used a number of digital art applications like Corel, Autodesk, Brushes, SketchBook Pro, Art Studio and Sculpmaster, as well as ArtRage, which he uses in the curriculum of his foundations and his digital art classes.
"When it comes to something as pure as a drawing stroke and you go and do it with stylus, it's not much different," Bavaro said in a phone interview. "To me, it's taken a lot of digital agnostics and turned them into believers."
Price might also be a factor in what attracts artists like McKnight and Bavaro. McKnight, who's two daughters and wife are also artists, said if an artist hadn't painted for a while and decided to start anew, they could incur a bill of about $50 for canvas and brushes alone. Add the cost of paints, as well as costs to replace these products throughout the year, and an artist could end up with a price akin to supplies of art students of New York's The New School, ranging from $900 to a little more than $2,000 a year.
An iPad is no cheap commodity, but for the one time fee of $500-$800 and the price of an art app, an artist wouldn't regret the investment.
Bavaro said the only thing that could get expensive is printing out art for a show, which he knows from experience with his upcoming September show in Wiliamsport, Pa., which exhibits art entirely made from the iPad. As technology has revolutionized the craft, Bavaro said its possible to do so with Internet-only exhibitions.
"If that's the case, then it's infinitely cheaper if you're final destination for an exhibition venue is in cyberspace," the digital artist and art professor said.
This is the reason why Bavaro sees it as becoming part of the art vernacular, especially as these programs appear on commercials for the Android market.
Though it won't completely replace the value of traditional art, artists like McKnight still can't help but appreciate the unique value of iPad art.
"A funny thing about art is that if it's harder to do, it's worth more," McKnight said. "But these iPad portaits are as good as you can get by an accomplished painter for as cheap as a tenth of the price. Aside from that, these apps have a charm all on their own."