To some, the "Brushes" application on the iPhone or iPad is just another fun way to kill time with technology. For Hingham painter Morgan Russell, the tool has become a new medium for his art.
From realism to abstract art, Russell has always pushed the boundaries of his work, yet this new technology, which has invigorated a love of abstraction, may be the biggest push yet.
The Hingham native has been painting for decades, studying more realistic forms of art at the National Academy of Design in New York in the early 1990s, then at the Art Students League of New York later in the decade.
According to Russell, his art was most realistic in 2002, and since then his preferred style has slowly become more abstract.
“I was painting in New York and I thought, ‘This is great, it’s impressive . . . but I’m missing invention,’ ” Russell said. “Not that there isn’t invention in good realistic painting, but I’m missing that in my own work. I didn’t flick a switch . . . one day realistic and [the] next deciding to be abstract. It was an evolutionary, slow process, and it came about through wanting to explore some things.”
When Russell returned to Hingham in 2006, to the barn behind his house where he paints during the summer, and to the woods surrounding his creative space, he was inspired to paint abstractly with a focus on nature.
The quest into abstraction, with varied colors pulsing off the page, held his interest for some time, and a year and a half ago, Russell said, he discovered the iPad.
Initially it was just experimentation, something to doodle on and play with. Soon, his work intervened, and Russell poured all his artistic focus into his latest show in traditional media, "Take more time, cover less ground" at the Alcove Gallery, Boston, in September.
His brother's wedding, which took place in the art studio barn, also distracted him for a time. It wasn't until six weeks ago that Russell decided to pick up the iPad once more.
"I felt like I wasn't enthusiastic anymore, and after getting back into these little iPad paintings, I've found this enthusiasm, almost like being an art student again," he said.
The images are available on his website, www.dmorganrussell.com. But it may prove difficult to show the paintings in a gallery.
"I don't know if it would work making prints of them," Russell said. "The medium itself is made out of light; to print it out with inks you'd lose some of the characteristics of the medium, the electric medium."