David Newman is an American artist documenting innovators in Silicon Valley with fine art portraits painted from life on iPad. Artist-in-Residence for Angular U, Founder Labs, Startup Weekends SF & NYC, Google & iOSDevCamp. Painted with CG, including Mac, since the early 80's. As a courtroom artist (UPI), covered famous trials in the 70's. For artist-in-residence programs, sponsorships & commissions: 1-415/336-1849.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Welcome to my new blog.

I am David Newman, @dnsf on Twitter, and I've been painting portraits for four decades. I've found a new medium that lets me paint in a new, entirely portable, lightweight way -- in fact, you could call it "pixeling," since it uses pixels, the unspillable electronic paint.

It's iPad.

iPad lets me bring a complete computer graphics studio and image transmission station to my models, wherever they are in the world, and paint them without the intrusion of smelly paints, an easel, and hot studio lighting.

Its blazingly fast hardware drives a world-class paint program, its bright flatscreen color monitor is combined with a drawing tablet, its gigabytes of storage media store thousands of portraits-in-progress, and its WiFi radio and cellular modem support posting my works to the web via e-mail and checking the published results with an embedded web browser.

It's a super lightweight system that would have cost millions in the 80's had the technology been available to non-military users. I worked on systems back then that cost more than $100,000 at the time, and they didn't do one hundredth of what iPad does. And they weighed hundreds of times more.

I bought my iPad on its launch day, and since then I have been creating a collection of fine art iPad portraits that is available for worldwide exhibition, both as limited-edition Giclée prints, and in electronic form.

People having been asking me how and why I paint portraits with iPad since Robert Scoble posted his video of my demonstration of Sketchbook Pro during Google I/O, and since Chris Pirillo posted the video by Krystyn Chong taken of my iPad portrait painting at Carol Tran's ChicMeetsGeek 3.

Here are some answers. If you have further questions, I would like to hear from you.

E-mail me via: portrait at dnsf d0t c0m.

Are you an iPad Artist?

Although I use the iPad exclusively now, I don't consider myself to be an iPad Artist. In the late seventies while attending UC Berkeley's Art Department when I used a Pelikan pen on paper to create courtroom drawings for UPI, I didn't call myself a Pelikan Pen Artist.  When I began using Pentel's Color Brush in 1988 for a series that continues to this year, I didn't become a Pentel Brush Artist.  And although I have worked almost exclusively on paper all of my life, I'm not a Paper Artist.  You could call me a figurative artist, but I've also done my share of conceptual, landscape and diagrammatic works. You could call me a new media artist, since I've used "new" computer graphics media to paint and draw since the olden days; since 1982 when I made my first artwork the Via Video System One, and since the day that Macintosh was released in January 1984 when I made my first painting in Bill Atkinson's pioneering Macpaint.  And I will continue using new tablet-based painting media when Android tablets become available, Google willing.

When did you start painting people?

The earliest serious portrait I still have was one that I drew with a ballpoint pen in a ruled spiral notebook when I was 13.  Since then, I've drawn and painted thousands of people in public places, as well as friends & family members. I have also drawn spiritual leaders (The Dalai Lama, Swami Mutkananda at his ashram, and an audience with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican), killers (Dan White and Huey Newton), presidents (Kjell Laugerud García of Guatemala and Richard Nixon on TV), musicians ( Jerry Garcia, Sean Lennon, and many others), and famous Internet pioneers like Vint Cerf, Biz Stone and others.

I drew an unpublished series of more than 100 female nudes from 1998 to 2001 that can be seen, along with my art bio, at DNSF.COM.

How do you use iPad to create portraits?

I paint from life, in front of the model during a single sitting. I do not paint from photographs.

After the portrait is mostly finished, I occasionally use reference photos that I have taken during the modeling session to make minor adjustments.

How long does it take you to create iPad Portraits?  

  • nearly four hours from start to finish with Howard in his garden.
  • nearly three months' experience painting portraits on my iPad since April 2010.
  • nearly thirty years pushing pixels with computer graphics systems since 1982.
  • more than forty years of experience painting and drawing the figure from life.
For this portrait of Britt Nelson's eye, it took about an hour and a half as we waited (and moved forward) in line in the early morning launch of iPhone 4.

What tools do you use to create iPad portraits?

Do models have to come to your studio and sit under hot lights in front of an easel?

No. I go to the models, wherever they are, in whatever situation. I paint portraits in homes, at parties, in business offices and exhibition halls.  I paint "en plein air" in the sunshine, and I paint in poorly lit nightclubs. I paint in cafés and bars, and even in spiritual environments, with permission. In fact, rather than being called an iPad Artist, it would be more accurate to call me a Portable Artist, since I have always used media that is highly portable.

Who are you painting these days? 

Since 2006, I have been creating a series of portraits (works on paper, and more recently works on iPad) of Silicon Valley Innovators.  Silicon Valley is a state of mind, not just a location.

I paint small partial-portraits at special events related to the tech communities, such as Carol Tran's ChicMeetsGeek parties and at product launches.

Why do you paint iPad portraits of entrepreneurs, developers and visionaries from Silicon Valley?

Because they inspire me.

They are the mostly unknown Marie Curies, Thomas Edisons and Henry Fords of today who are creating our shared future.  Their hard and creative work has touched, or will potentially touch, the lives of millions of people. Their names, their faces, and their work should be recognized and honored beyond technical circles.

Are you accepting portrait commissions and event invitations?

Yes.  Write to me via portrait (at) dnsf d0t c0m, or call 1-415/437-0112.

Thank you.

David Newman
July 4, 2010


  1. Congrats, Dave, on this new, brilliant blog concept. I will be following!


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