The iPad has changed the way content creators work across different fields work. For me, the Apple Pencil has replaced real pencils, to say the least. The iPad Pro has upended my workflow and has been making me look at the world around me in unique ways, especially when it comes to documenting it. In the last couple of years, the iPad has gone from being a secondary device to a workstation on the move.
A few days ago, there was an opportunity to meet three extremely talented young artists taking part in the Digital Artists in Residence programme at the 2023 India Art Fair. Varun Desai traverses the world of coding and music, Mira Felicia Malhotra is an illustrator who dares to make the medium more engaging and Gaurav Ogale is an artist, writer and, more importantly, a documenter of life as it unfolds. The multidisciplinary artists showcased their artwork and shared their creative process at a special preview of Today at Apple session in India.
Being among them made me look at AIinfused world with a shrug. ChatGPT? Uh, what? Creativity can trounce the fear of the unknown, which here is AI. Varun codes, recodes and transcodes to come up with a unique vision of lifemeets-tech. It, of course, helps that he is a musician and illustrator. Gaurav is the kind of young man I would love to be if I could rewind a few decades. He thrives on the fun of meeting strangers, having conversations with them and recording their stories to tell a larger story.
Mira is adorable and she is the only person I know who has been able to capture the Jekyll-and-Hyde lifeline that runs through all of us and our families. There is the perceived image and then there is the real image. Using the iPad Pro she brings that idea to life and her illustrations are something I would love to have on my walls.
Even Apple CEO Tim Cook is mesmerised by the work that has been showcased. He has tweeted:
“The first India Art Fair Digital Artists in Residence programme shows how technology can unlock creativity. Great to see how iPad Pro is helping artists Mira, Varun, and Gaurav to tap into such incredible creative expression.”
LIDAR POWER IN A UNIQUE PROJECT
Take the case of Varun, who is usually seen hanging around the coolest music events around India. His answer to this year’s showcase of ‘Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary’ is ‘Dimorphism’, a digital installation of code-generated video art, 3D LiDAR scanning, hand-drawn animation, and sound synthesis.
“’Dimorphism’ is a word that has been traditionally used to talk about the physical differences between the male and female of a given species. This piece talks about how humanity is morphing between the material world and the digital world. It also talks about the traditional definition of dimorphism. There are two figures, on the left and right, which are scans of human beings who have been pulled into the digital realm. They are walking towards a sense of unification with technology. There’s a word for it — singularity,” says Varun.
For him the iPad Pro is a companion. “A very important part of the work has been the use of the iPad Pro… putting it to work. I am an engineer and approach technology in a curious way. When I started the project, I approached it in a way to understand what the iPad Pro as a machine is capable of.” Also in his workflow are the Mac Studio and Studio Display.
His project is very interesting because of how he uses LiDAR scanner on the iPad Pro. LiDAR stands for Light Detection and Ranging and it uses light to measure distance using invisible pulsating spectrum lasers to measure how long it takes for the light to get back to the sensor. In other words, it draws a picture of the environment in front of the scanner.
Varun has used the power of this technology on the iPad Pro to capture objects, architecture, and human subjects in 3D. And then he has shaped the 3D models with his fingers and Apple Pencil in Nomad Sculpt, an app to create, sculpt, and paint in 3D. He follows that up by exporting the models to the Procreate app for colouring, texturing, and airbrushing.
Illustrator Mira Felicia Malhotra's project is ‘Log Kya Kahenge’
Digital artist and storyteller Gaurav Ogale
“The first part is the underlying framework — the grid, which is an aesthetic that I use in a lot of my work. I create the grids through coding on a platform called Processing, which is Java based. I started with coding the framework of the room that you are in. And all of these are mathematical equations. There is a visual sense of being pulled to the centre. It uses a lot of concepts of Pop Art from the 1940s. Pop Art was a static art form; here it is a merger with codes. So it’s a hybrid sensibility. The next layer is the scans. The iPad Pro has an amazing technology called LiDAR, which allows you to scan whether it’s people or architecture. In this case I did a full body scan of two people on site — one is from Calcutta and the other from Delhi. With the iPad you scan the entire body and make a digital skeleton. Then we make them follow certain actions. Both are following the action of walking towards singularity,” he says while showcasing his work, which sucks the viewer in.
LIFE HAS TWO FACES
Moving from Kolkata to Mumbai, you will meet illustrator Mira Felicia Malhotra. When she is not illustrating, she has a million jokes to keep you engaged. Her showcase was titled ‘Log Kya Kahenge’ or ‘What Will People Say?’ The young artist is a keen observer of people and society. Usually we portray a certain life but the truth is different.
What we saw is a series of family portraits and each of them comes with two layers. The portrait itself holds up the conformist front that certain families want society to see. And then there is the very interesting animated layer, which comes to life when viewed using the Artivive augmented reality app on iPad or iPhone.
“There are plenty of layers and these come into play in the animation. The AR has been done using Artivive, which is there on the App Store. All the artwork has been done using Procreate on the iPad Pro. Finally, the animation has been done using After Effects,” says Mira.
For Mira, her creative frame of mind is tuned by the power of the iPad Pro (and Apple Pencil) and the evergreen app, Procreate. She captures images of her subjects on her iPhone 14 and then builds on them by adding layers of illustrations. As Procreate allows Malhotra to export files in PSD — Adobe’s native file format — she is able to perform additional editing of her artworks on Adobe Photoshop later in the process. Her illustrations have the feel of pen and paper, the brush and canvas.
NOMADIC TECH SPURT
And there’s digital artist and storyteller Gaurav Ogale, who believes in taking art wherever he goes. A nomadic approach has been appealing to him since the age of 16. Of course, he has a purpose: Meet people and capture their stories.
His work is titled ‘Best-sellers’, which is self-explanatory. On the wall were iPads and each was decorated to give the feel of a book. The user has to put on the headphone and flip through the pages on the iPad, learning stories that otherwise would have gone untold.
His process usually begins with a thought, a memory, or a poem that gets recorded either with pen and paper or using the Notes app. Next come the visual aspects, which include sketching on his iPad Pro, using Procreate or editing on Adobe Photoshop.
“Imagine a stranger before you and you have a couple of minutes to talk to the person. What is that will standout if you doing a biography of that person. It would be about where they come from, where they fit in. What are elements that you will imagine in their world? It’s a bit of a whimsical exchange,” says Gaurav.
His narratives are drawn frame by frame in Procreate, and then comes the editing of the video file on Adobe Premiere on his MacBook Pro, and layering in audio recordings taken on his iPhone 14.
No wonder Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice-president of worldwide product marketing, is in awe of the creative community. “India has such a vibrant creative community, and we love seeing the ways these talented artists are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible on iPad Pro to take their innovative ideas to the next level,” says Bob.
A moment from Today at Apple at the India Art Fair
Where am I personally with the iPad Pro? The MacBook Air is not going to disappear because of certain office-related software packages but, apart from that, on any trip, it’s the iPad Pro which travels with me, be it on the mountains or the most congested of venues. It justifies its lightweight, the Magic Keyboard justifies its design and comfort, and the Apple Pencil justifies its importance while slicing videos. Pull it out anywhere and work gets done within a few minutes, thanks to the processor. What makes it an ideal device for most? It’s the dream team, that is, the meeting of the best screen, powerful processor, excellent battery life and unparalleled support on the App Store. And the three artists at the Digital Artists in Residence programme are living the dream.
In case curiosity about Today at Apple has been piqued, here’s some good news from Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice-president of Retail + People: “India Art Fair, a celebration of South Asian art, was the perfect place to showcase Today at Apple — a preview of what’s to come for India!”
TRY THESE APPS
The iPad Pro continues to get faster and more versatile
- Nomad Sculpt: A sculpting and painting application
- Procreate: A raster graphics editor app for digital painting
- Ableton Note: Play synth lines with melodic presets, finger drum beats using drum sampler kits and more
- Samplr: Lets you make music and play with sound in a new and intuitive way touching the waveform on the screen
- Drambo: An innovative modular groovebox and audio processing environment
- Artivive: Create fantastic AR artworks in minute