Interview with Artist Jorge Colombo

Magazine: The New Yorker's cover was painted with Brushes

Magazine: The New Yorker's cover was painted with Brushes

Not everything at the App Store is a game – the market may be overwhelmingly action-oriented, but there are those who carve  unique niches using the iPhone’s hardware to create new markets. Steve Sprang, author of Brushes, is one those. He commandeered the iPhone’s touch screen to create what artist Jorge Colombo has proven with his unique iPhone paintings to be a perfectly functional and portable canvass. Mr. Colombo’s iSketch series is painted on-location around New York and is gaining momentum as both a newly recognised sub-genre of painting and as an innovative use of technology in art. He was kind enough to answer a few of my questions and supply insight into both the static and dynamic nature of art ad the artist.

Steve Sprang, Brushes, 4.99$, 1.9MB

TMA: As an artist, do you find it increasingly difficult to distinguish yourself in an age where the ‘brush’ is constantly re-invented? For instance, artists can utilise Wacom tablets, trackpads, digital painting applications etc., when ‘inventing’ a new work.

JC: It doesn’t matter at all, what counts is the result. When you like a song, you don’t need to know if it was done in one take, or if it was multitracked, or sampled, or synthesized. (And quite often the answer is not at all what you would think). If to “distinguish yourself” you need to announce what new technology you use, you’re doing something wrong…

TMA: How has your own career reacted to changing technology? Do you think there is a point where you will decide to not adapt your skill set to changing technology? If so, how do you see an artist such as yourself creating work, recreating her/himself when no longer adapting with changing technology?

JC: I don’t think I’ll ever stop. But I don’t forget older techniques, and can use them anytime. So that’s like getting richer and richer as time goes by! Being able to play ten instruments is more fun than just playing two.

TMA: In your iSketch series, you mention that “I’m still looking at [New York’s] urban landscape as if I was discovering it for the first time” – does the use of an iPhone and Steve Sprang’s Brushes app change how you, an artist fit into the landscape? Do you think that New York’s environs, including its denizens are more accepting of artists who nearly blend in, disappearing into the rush?

JC: New York is no different from any other place in that aspect. I just keep drawing it because I haven’t travelled much since I got an iPhone.

TMA: In my review of Brushes, I said that Brushes was held back by the iPhone – that the platform’s small screen and non pressure-sensitive input were dubious counterparts to advancing the application. In conclusion, I was very positive, giving the app a ‘Grab’ rating (our second highest), but obviously, my review lacked context – I am not an artist. How would you describe your first reaction to Brushes as an artist and as a consumer? Would any of my concerns mirror what you had thought if even for a second?

JC: Who cares about the limitations? A guitar can’t do a lot of things a piano does either — that’s why people compose pieces for guitar and pieces for piano. Part of what an artist does is to find what you CAN do with a tool, and do it really well, instead of crying over the lack of features. If people want pressure-sensitivity and large screens, go back to their Wacom. Me, I like working in the streets; which is easier if all I need does fit in my hand. Of course, the line is not as precise as with a pen. So what I did was to adopt a style based on broad strokes and simple shapes, and explore at length the color transparencies Brushes allows so well.

TMA: How has the press you received from the iSketch series affected your other works? Do you still spend the same amount of time on your more traditional projects or do you see divergence again in your works.

JC: Every single day I do at least a few pen-on-paper drawings. And when I’m home, why use a tiny screen when I can use my computer, or the full table?


I’m tired of hearing people saying they are not artists, they’re no good at drawing, etc. EVERYONE should draw and paint just for fun! The world needs more amateurs. Their work may not be as accomplished and interesting as the one of professionals, but that’s not the point. What matters is to use creative parts of your brain that often go unused. Funny thing is, people do not have such inhibitions when it comes to sports. Everybody at some point rides bycicles or goes swimming or plays volleyball — and they will never be professionals, they’ll never make it to the Olympics. Which doesn’t matter, of course: sports as an hobby are just good for your body and mind and health, independently of the “scores…” A world of people creating images for fun (on paper or, if that’s handier, on their phone) is a healthier world.

Thank you for your time Mr. Colombo! I am confident that TMA readers will enjoy your comments on art, technology and especially, the importance of the amateur to our world.

For the collector, 20*200 prints of Colombo’s iSketch works can be found here.

Other interview pieces can be found below:
Interview with Gamevil’s Eusoon Han – Interview with StormBASIC – 7 Days Apocalypse — Giggles with iJiggles – Interview with Tod Baudais — Interview with 7 Cities Dev — Zerogate Interview — Interview with the Monster – Monster Cable’s David Leung

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