mobile art

Why ‘Mobile Art’?

When I first started making art on my iPhone, I wasn’t quite sure how to describe what I was doing. Even though I considered myself a painter, when people asked me what kind of art I made, I began to reply, ‘phone art’, as it was quickly becoming my main obsession. It seemed like an appropriate term, as the works were made exclusively on a smartphone, and it had a catchiness, too, that made people curious and want to know more.

But as I contemplated the term more deeply, there was something about ‘phone art’ that I found inadequate, as it didn’t account for works made on iPad Minis or other tablets, for example, which I saw as tools in the same category. This led me to settle on the term ‘mobile art’, as it includes other portable devices beyond phones, while still holding the connotations of art made on mobile devices, which is at the root of its definition.

However, the category is about more than portability. The camera, the capacity to take screenshots, as well as ever-changing apps for painting, drawing and editing images, are also fundamental components of this new genre. So ‘mobile art’ is about art made with mobile computers, and, as such, seems to be the most appropriate name for the category, as it captures its essential characteristics, while not limiting it to a particular class, or brand, of portable device.

Mobile Art for a Mobile World

If we were to imagine for a moment a world in which mobile art — art made on a smartphone or small tablet — was the major medium for artists, how would we envision it?

Artists would use portable devices to shoot photographs or edit images that they’ve stored on their phones or in the cloud, or digitally draw and paint fresh new works, or perhaps combine all of these methods. They would work from coffee shops, bars or subways, uploading finished works to the Internet for immediate global distribution while they travel in foreign cities. Some might remix each other’s works that they find online, while others might prefer to work, like the Impressionists, en plein air, replacing the easel, paintbox and canvas with processed photos, and painting and image editing apps.

Art collectors would follow their favourite artists, downloading the latest visual commentary from mobile Pop artists on the day’s major news events and projecting them on walls later that evening in restaurants and living rooms around the planet, consuming them in a similar way to how they might read an opinion piece or watch analysis on cable news. They would support artists through the purchase of limited edition prints of digital works, perhaps the artists marking them up with pencil crayons or paint to give the works unique attributes. Artists would also attract commissions, sell exclusive digital subscriptions or make special appearances at clubs and events.

Tantalizingly, the prerequisite tools for this exciting world already exist.