This Portrait of Morgan Freeman Was “Painted” on an iPad Using 285,000 Finger Strokes!

December 5, 2013 in Art, Painting, Realism

Remember iPad art? We previously wrote an article about David Kassan that tried it a little while ago to great effect (see HERE).  Well British artist Kyle Lambert’s been practicing, and he’s gotten good. Like, photorealism good.

The latest Lambert creation is this jaw-dropping portrait of Morgan Freeman. You almost feel like you can reach out and touch his kind-looking face. It looks so good, it must be a fake, right?

Well, it’s not, and there’s video to prove it. Using the app Procreate, Lambert spent over 200 hours and made over 285,000 brushstrokes, a process that he documented in a transfixing time lapse video. Things start getting really nuts after about the 30 second mark:




Update: After sensing some skepticism about whether this was really painted on an iPad with someone’s finger, Gizmodo reached out to Kyle Lambert, the artist, to learn more about his process. This is what he wrote back:

I’m overwhelmed by the response to my finger painting video and happy that it has reached as many people as it has in such a short time.

“One of the big reasons I wanted to paint this portrait was to create a video that entertained, inspired and educated people about digital art. I’ve met a number of artists who were motivated to start painting after seeing my previous videos. I’ve also heard several cases where teachers are using my videos to inspire their students.

After using Procreate on my iPad (the app I created this portrait with) I realised that for the first time I could create a really highly detailed digital painting and have the whole process documented in a video. This was when I decided to start this painting.

The process began with me blocking in the essential colours and shapes of the portrait and then reducing the brush size to add features and details. Each stage of the process took a step closer towards the painting becoming more realistic.

To answer your question, no at no stage was the original photograph on my iPad or inside the Procreate app. Procreate documents the entire painting process, so even if I wanted to import a photo layer it would have shown in the video export from the app.

The key to panting accurate detail at this obsessive level is to break down the portrait into much smaller paintings that are more achievable. Once you do that, the detail becomes easier to manage. However, the consequence of this is that the overall painting then takes a lot longer to complete.

I trained as an oil painter and have been painting portraits and concept art using my Mac and iPad now for around 10 years now. Essentially, I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to paint realistic looking images. All I have done here is adapted my usual technique to work with my fingers instead of a stylus or brush. Other than the fact I am using my finger, the process of painting on the iPad is identical to all other digital mediums and in many ways similar to working with real paint.

The whole point of the video is that the final image looks almost indistinguishable from the reference photo. If it didn’t, then the claim of it being ‘the world’s most realistic finger painting’ wouldn’t really be a valid one.

What do you think? Is this an elaborate hoax that the artist has drummed up for some publicity and these are actual photographs? If they were created from scratch on an iPad, should digital art still be considered art? (and for the record, we think digital art is still art but are keen to hear your thoughts!) 

And don’t forget, if you’re looking for a piece of original art to hang on your walls, check out artFido HERE!


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