A screenshot of a shared album online which contains images of the artists' work and inspiration.
The group's shared album. Image courtesy of Tanya Raabe-Webber.

Tech and Test Phase 2: creating accessible infrastructure

Late last year, we were able to support our network through funding provided by Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Here to bring us up to speed on what this grant has meant for ArtStudio01, Tanya Raabe-Webber shares how iPads, drawing apps, and remote connectivity have provided invaluable infrastructure for the collective. 

Our Tech and Test project is alive and kicking! In phase one, four ArtStudio01 artists received new mobile tech (iPad Air, iPencil, iPad case and stand, and creative apps) to test and stay connected to each other in our new virtual studio. We were delighted to receive funding from Unlimited and Paul Hamlyn Foundation for phase two.

In phase two, we responded to the usability of this tech with new tech for three more artists. We took a bespoke approach to this as we did in phase one. Each iPad was set up with individual access and an individual creative practice in mind. Connectivity was a key issue, so we invested in a mix of iPads with WiFi and cellular so that when lockdown restrictions are slowly decreased, we will be able to support each other in physical spaces as well as remotely. These cellular iPads also gave connectivity to those who did not have home WiFi.

Three portrait photographs placed into a landscape collage. Each shows an artist from the group receiving an iPad, delivered to them and photographed in their front doors.
iPads arrive – left to Right- Richard Whitfield, Ross Prince, Alison Picknell. Photo courtesy of Tanya Raabe-Webber.

We looked at different creative apps that promoted digital drawing and painting. The artists in phase one liked Procreate but for two of the artists in phase two, we discovered that ArtSet was more intuitive. Some of the artists preferred a more literal response to traditional art materials. We also felt that a hybrid approach to our home studio practice was necessary, giving space and time to making and experimenting with fusing traditional and digital.

Screeshot showing an abstract, colourful digital painting with overlapped, frantic lines. In the bottom right corner of the image is a smaller image of the artist painting on a physical canvas.
Ross in his home studio and his iPad pastel drawing using ArtSet. Image courtesy of Tanya Raabe-Webber.

After reviewing our tailor-made iPad Easy Read manual, we expanded it to a 20-page document. This also meant investing in some photo editing and design apps to digitally publish and update the easy read manual. The best apps for this were Affinity Photo and Affinity Design. They are easy to use with accessible online help videos for easy learning. We also found that the easy read help manual alone was not enough, so we followed this with a series of 1-2-1 ‘introduction to your iPad’ sessions. We also provided some much-appreciated peer support in our group online sessions. Everyone was very eager to help each other with their learning in how to use their iPads and the creative apps.

An Easy Read diagram the group used to explain how to use the drawing apps available on the iPads.
Easy Read diagram provided to the group. Image courtesy of Tanya Raabe-Webber.

Here’s what the phase two ArtStudio01 artists got up to with their new technology:

Ross Prince has expanded his abstract painting techniques with traditional pastels on canvas through to his iPad. He has begun creating his abstract landscapes on his iPad in the app ArtSet. Ross has now been able to join in our online ArtStudio01 making his abstract canvas paintings on his easel at home responding to the creative chit-chat in his own way as a non-verbal artist.

Alison Picknell has learned how to take photos of her pen drawings using her iPad and is posting her work in our iPad shared album. She is eager to learn how to use her Apple Pencil to draw. We hope to support this learning face-to-face when lockdown restrictions lift.

Richard Whitfield was completely unable to join our Zoom session before the arrival of his Cellular iPad. Since getting it, Richard has embraced this technology and no longer feels isolated. He now has his own Instagram and is posting his work regularly.

It is liberating to have us all together again, influencing, critiquing, and supporting each other’s work. This inclusive practice is embedded in the foundation of what we do as artists.

As a result of this project, there has been an explosion of creativity and creative ambition.

Here’s what’s happening with the artists from phase 1!

Krisstel Bentley has made her first ever online application for an arts opportunity to the Grayson Perry Channel 4 Art Club. She also created an online exhibition on her Instagram with a series of digital mandala artworks created in Procreate.

Tristan Bentley is working on experimenting with home-found materials through his interest in online video and is filming the process with his iPad.

Dan Land is working digitally to create scenes for his video game Psionicavator and has linked up with Level 3, an online artists group in Brighton.

Jo Cairns continues to experiment with fusing traditional painting with digital painting and collage through her exported digital lens.

As the Director and Artist of ArtStudio01, I continue to develop our online studio space and forge new creative partnerships and create connections. Because of this project we’ve also been able to submit our work for National and International exhibitions and opportunities.

What’s next? We are working with Outside In to set up artists’ individual websites and I have received Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grant funding for ‘Practice in a Digital World.’ Four strands intertwine, drawing particular attention to the pandemic’s impact on the limited mobility of disabled people. These strands include Collaborative Sketchbooks – digital and handmade collaborative sketchbooks, CountrysideSpecial – a series of self-portraits within a ten mile radius of my home studio, ArtStudio01 – Home Studio practices in an online studio space, and Postcard Art Express, an international creative postcard exchange.

To catchup on what’s happening on our social media follow us on Instagram!