This story first appeared in Cult of Mac Magazine.
It’s easy to think of David Scott Leibowitz, whose work fronts this week’s magazine cover, as kind of a renaissance man 2.0: the artist, app developer and author is a tireless champion of the new when it comes to visual arts.
Most recently, he’s also author of the eye-popping compendium “Mobile Digital Art: Using the iPad and iPhone as Creative Tools.” At over 300-pages, the tome features dozens of artists from around the globe whose work spans painting, photography, collage, photomontage and abstract works. They talk about their work, and trade tips, offer how-tos and share which apps they use — thankfully, there’s also a glossary for that. He talked to us about the evolution of digital art, the crazy artist stereotype, his favorite tools — and, perhaps the most important quality for any artist: persistence. Cult of Mac: How did your book come about? David Scott Leibowitz: In the summer of 2009, I emailed an app developer (and Mac developer for 30 years), Andrew C. Stone with an idea. I wanted to build an app that created a visual correlation between iPhone artworks and the apps used to create them. I contacted Andrew because his app “Gesture” contained functionality that I wanted for my app and for Andrew, there would be no learning curve, kind of a no-brainer. Andrew immediately agreed to code it and gave me a list of elements he needed from me to start the build. We went back and forth exchanging data and ideas for five days and on the sixth day, Andrew submitted the finished app, “iCreated” to Apple for approval. A few months later, I was contacted by Manning Publications to write a book on the subject. They saw “iCreated” and wanted a book that did the same thing, create a visual correlation between iPhone art and apps. Seventeen months of writing and many, many editorial revisions later, Manning killed the book and released the manuscript to me, saying their chain of distribution didn’t see any future for the book… I printed three, 100-page sample books on Shutterfly and shopped the manuscript around for 10 months, unsuccessfully. Then, in Oct. 2011, I went to PhotoExpo in NYC as I do every year and met Emily McCloskey at the Focal Press booth and told her about my book. Less than three months later, I had a contract, and with Emily’s help, was back to work revising the manuscript. Design in the UK, lead by Alfred Symons, took my material and fashioned it into a very, very beautiful thing. This past April, after almost four years, I got to hold it in my hands. You know the saying, “everything happens for a reason?” The book from Manning, the original publisher, would have been 8’ x 8’ at around 250 pages, making it look like a pamphlet compared to what Focal Press published. In addition, my whole philosophy and artist-centric approach to the material was embraced by Focal Press who recognized my desire to make inspiration as important here as education. CoM: What did you learn when putting it together (either a new perspective or new tools)? DSL: I learned that anyone who willingly works on a project with a hundred artists from all over the world MUST be nuts! I could write a very entertaining book about writing this book. The general population has 30-40% nut-jobs. Within the artist population, that percentage goes straight up. At 100%, I’d have to include myself. CoM: Any more publishing projects in the works? DSL: YES!!!! I have an amazing idea for a book, but unfortunately, right now, I have to work very hard at marketing this book. I believe getting a great publisher for my next book will be a lot easier if this book achieves even a modest level of success. Can’t talk a lot about the project just yet, but it involves iPads, Art and my redemption. CoM: What kind of feedback have you had on it so far? DSL: 100% positive feedback from silent pleasure to screaming and jumping around. I took a booth at Macworld in San Francisco this past January, armed with 4 pre-production copies of the book to do some market research. The biggest reaction came from middle and high school educators who held the book in their hands as if it was the holy grail. I really didn’t understand their intense positive reaction until one told me, “This is the book that will get students to put down their iPhones.” The next kind of feedback I got at Macworld was from some of those students themselves. They walked into my booth looking for SOMETHING to grab them in this packed Moscone center and walked out inspired, feeling like they had found it…The looks on their faces said “epiphany” and I got to experience the true joy a teacher must feel every time they know they’ve reached a young person. That tells me that education is probably where this book will do well and that my rewards might be less about book sales and more about inspiration given. Both would be awesome. CoM: What are the biggest obstacles facing more widespread acceptance of mobile art now? DSL: Like anything new, mindsets need to be changed. It helps that David Hockney has been extremely visible with his iPad art. It also helps we live in a very small world where creative genius finds it’s way to the top without going through the normal channels, or being David Hockney. Create some art and publish it worldwide that day. That is a new paradigm for artists who throughout human history created art in total obscurity, except for the .0001%. To be honest, with the web as the glue and the fuel for this art movement, I don’t see any obstacles, only massive opportunities. CoM: Any works you want to highlight from the book – what’s significant and why? DSL: I wrote the book so that each chapter will have a different significance for each reader, depending on their taste and aspirations. I included over 40 styles of painting so there are chapters for every painter to project themselves into. I found photographers who combined style and substance, so their work had clarity, unity and purpose. I added collage and photomontage artists who do “mash-ups,” using many apps to get where they’re going. Chapter three is all about abstraction, so artists who dwell there can see the possibilities. After that, trying super hard not to play favorites, I love David Stern’s thought-provoking opening treatise, Michael Highmead’s “Zen and the Art of iPhoneography” and Ethan Ham’s “The Small Glass.” All out-of-the-box thinkers, their chapters extend the scope of the subject matter in wonderful ways I could have only hoped and dreamed. The biggest reaction I get from readers is from Michael Garofalo’s chapter on cartooning, hands down. I would not be surprised to see a generation of cartoonists inspired by Mike’s chapter.
CoM: I noticed on your website that people can order prints – what’s most popular?
DSL: My personal art has never been easy on the viewer, with my methods always challenging the conception of “what is art?” Video art in the mid-70s, Polaroid SX-70 art in the 70s, 80s, digital art in the 90s and then iPhone/iPad art since 2008 have challenged the viewer. My most popular works in terms of print sales are from one days SX-70 work, done at Monet’s Garden on May 24th, 1989. Sales of limited edition prints from work created that day are almost sold out. Kinda crazy….
CoM: Any advice on what printing works best with mobile art?
DSL: I print on a Canon 9000 at home. The blacks are amazing! I’ve had work printed on silk and recently on metal with looks spectacular.
CoM: How would you suggest a new digital artist – either one with a more classical background or complete newbie – get involved with the online community?
DSL: One word, Flickr. It’s free, so you can upload some your best images and now you have a URL and your own portal to display your art. It has tons of groups so you can find tons of like-minded artists to bounce your work off. I met 90% of the artist’s in the book on Flickr and the best part has been watching their work grow over the years. We are friends in cyberspace but have met in the real world many times now to hug each other, show art together and make art together. iAMDA, The International Association of Mobile Digital Artists was created in 2009 and has sponsored two conferences at the prestigious NYU ITP facility in New York City.
CoM: What’s next for you?
DSL: I’m launching my fourth website, all coded by my webmaster, Mark Ostroth, called artnphotoapps.com. It’s designed to function as an addendum to the book, constantly updating new apps, new artists, new Mobile Digital Art. Because publishing a book has a significant time lag by the time it’s available, this site brings the information right up to date, keeping the book relevant. I’m starting my sixth simultaneous career soon teaching two classes at the grassynoel Gallery & Studio in Teaneck, New Jersey. A beginners class called Appology 101 for anyone interested in exploring the Mobile Digital Art possibilities.
The second class is advanced, for artists of different persuasions to get together and collaborate once a week and see what transpires. I’d also like to promote a great event at Tekserve in New York. The original Apple store since 1986, Tekserve sponsors educational events to promote Apple technology a few times a month. Monday, November 11 at 6 pm, I’ll be doing a book signing event there, with many Mobile Digital Artists in attendance, embedded in the audience making live art. The idea is to demonstrate the power of mobile digital art. It should be a fun evening and I’d like to invite any Mobile Digital Artist who sees this to come and play. You can order his book here and see more of his work on Flickr or his website.
This story first appeared in Cult of Mac Magazine.