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Digital Artist Uses Skype for Transatlantic Portrait Painting Sessions

For San Francisco-based digital artist David Newman, a specialist in painting life portraits with the iPad, Skype has enabled him to expand his portrait painting studio to anywhere in the world that has an internet connection.

Photo by Peter Blacksberg. Portrait and collage by David Newman.

David is the founder of, where he posts his digital portraits painted with the iPad. He has painted people from Steve Wozniak to the Dalai Lama and often visits Silicon Valley HQ’s like those of Google, PayPal, Twitter and Nasa Ames Research Labs in search of high-tech innovators whom he has been documenting since 2006 as part of an ongoing fine arts project.

David started drawing people at a young age and studied painting and drawing at UC Davis and UC Berkeley. Since 1982 he has been using computer graphics programs to draw, and today he uses Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro application for the iPad.

His first ever transatlantic iPad portrait was done between his home in San Francisco and his friend Karin in Baden Württemburg, Germany. Using Skype he was able to paint Karin at work in her office thousands of miles away, in real time.

Unlike a portrait service that is normally art directed by a client, David feels his portraits aren’t like photographs; they convey something deeper. Because they are painted over time, with changing lighting and moods, they show things that a camera can’t capture with the click of a button.

“Skype also extends my artistic reach not just by saving travel time and expense, but in terms of the time it takes to book busy people for a portrait sitting. This way, I can paint a portrait using the sitter’s webcam as he or she works. No time is taken away from the sitter’s busy day,” says David.

Although he’s been using digital art creation tools since 1982, Skype lets him expand his reach as an artist using digital vision for the first time. Using Skype, he can now paint anyone, anywhere in the world in their own environment.

He recently had an exhibition of his iPad Portraits of Innovators at iOSDevCamp 2011 at PayPal headquarters in San Jose, CA. This October, he has been invited to paint online portraits from San Francisco to the UK at the Mole Valley Arts Alive festival near London.

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