Paper and texture

Lately I have been working on paint-Brush like applications and as part of a research I was digging into different apps. One very popular catch my attention in particular. It seems to be the most downloaded painting application of all. It’s call Paper, and this is the site ( http://www.fiftythree.com/paper ). The interface is great. The transitions and animation smooth and delightful to the eye. Also It have an extraordinary “undo” wheel that let you go back in time. What seems more interesting to me is the effort to make it look real. To match the expressive quality of different tools and materials. From ink to watercolors all it’s covered with consistent look and feel.
But this search for mimic the tool of the past me wonder why a new medium need to match and improve the old one. This is not the first time technologies repeat this pattern. In the early stage of photography lot’s artist were trying to recreate the look and style of realistic paintings using photographics devices and materials.
On other side it’s logical this back and forth movement. It’s our own paradigm the one that need and “update” in order to start thinking and taking advantage on the new expressive capabilities of a new medium. But until we get to that point we basically repeat what we know how to do.
Coming back to Paper I start thinking on what is lacking of and while I interact with it I start missing something important, crucial. It’s not something the developers of Paper can develop easily because it’s a characteristic of the medium they are lock-into. This glossy modern wonder call iPad it’s have a crystal clear surface designed to let my fingers drag and move over it activating all kind of gestures. In terms of digital computation all sort of randomness attempt to bring chaos and unpredictability. Something computers really avoid but artist really seeks.
There are lot of pleasures involve on making art. One of does is the feeling of the material on the hands. It doesn’t have to be touching your skin directly. It could be mediated by a brush, pen or chisel. The material usually resist to the intervention, it wave some sort of strangeness or friction that convoque the artist to manage his own powers and abilities to blend, trace and shape the material. This happen in the way of a dialog between the user/artist and the medium/material. From this tension lot of randomness or happy mistakes get stored and frozen for ever in one artwork. This level of randomness given by the texture and the friction of the material it’s an author to. It’s part of the voice of the material and end up been another artist in itself. We can perceive the difference between an oil painting between an acrylic or an aguache in the same way we can note the difference between a piano and a clavichord.
This dialog produce by the texture of the material it’s the missing participant in Paper. It’s a monologue of the users without resistance and randomness. It’s a pure mirror image of an idea without the deepness and strength of the fight with the reality of the material. All this make me think on the impact of a future where the medium does not offer resistance. Where the swipes and drags happened without friction and erosion. Is this going to affect the way we tend to think process? Are we going to believe this is the natural way of things?
With this I don’t want to sounds like an old man saying that on good-old-back-days were better. The future is waiting for us with good stuff, some are going to come with by the hand of technology and other not. New technologies don’t need to replace the old ones, just find the right sweet spot they are perfect for.

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