18 x 24: iPad as a Digital Portfolio

Left to Right: Various tablets showing my work, HP Touchpad, iPad 2, iPad

When you are an artist you tend to have many different portfolio binders throughout the years.  Simple black plastic or leather portfolios that you stress over, figuring out which few good pieces to place in or print, or resize, or arrange–only to have it hastily flipped through by a stranger or potential employer.  This is real life, I’ve seen it a lot in my own artistic path.  You can never pick out which specific works a stranger will respond to or even give a compliment on.  I wish people in our online social world would realize that “Likes” are not as easily given out in face to face encounters.  The majority of the world has the ability to share anything they create now, and are used to supposed critical acclaim, when they’ve never had to endure a critique by peers and rivals.  I’m not knocking that, lots of times ignorance really is bliss, and disposable empty nice words are fitting for our disposable society.  Being an artist is tough.  Because we produce things of a personal nature, we have to go into it knowing that it won’t be for everyone, no matter how colorful, or heartfelt, or technically proficient it is.  However, when someone really does “get it,” and experiences genuine delight in merely seeing the work, well, it gives the artist encouragement to go on…at least until the next missed gig or heartache sets him back two steps.

I like physical prints, and of course real drawings, but I’ve decided to do away with wasting any more money on prints for these books.  While I really would like to have 10 or 12 “best” works forever engraved in ink and paper, it takes a lot of random pieces and failures to get to that point.

An average portfolio can cost from $12-$30 depending on size and material.  This is before prints.

In one example, to fill up a 9 x 12″ 24 view portfolio with 8×12″ photo prints, it would cost a person $1.50 per print and plus the portfolio cost roughly $60.  This would make sense for photos, but the prints don’t fit perfectly in the sleeve.

One could downscale and buy generic 8.5 x 11″ portfolios, which are suited for all sorts of documents, but for photographs in the 35mm aspect ratio, you have to crop the images down, making you lose the original composition.  If the work is already resized accordingly you could print out images from any printer, but you’re left with a 1/4″ white border on the paper that the printer can’t print on.  So to get that creative bugger out of the way, you would still have to print on larger paper and then trim to size, just so you can have images that bleed all the way to the edge.

On the extreme end I also have a 20 x 30″ portfolio.  With each page costing around $9 each you can see how an artist could feel horrible spending all that money just to have someone flip through it like a sales flyer.

Some artists just create work simply for the act of doing it.  It takes guts to step away from bedroom floor studios and display work.

Artists honestly do care about how their cameras look.  For people of discerning taste trying to create images, they too are caught up in the form of the tools they use.  When it comes to displaying work, the same holds true.  For those wondering if the $100-150 HP Touchpad is worth it simply to show work on, I would have to say no.  While the IPS screen looks just as good as the original iPad’s screen, the slideshow and image showing options are lacking, and really just unacceptable.  While it is easy to put work on the Touchpad by just hooking it up to a computer, making some folders and dragging and dropping images without synching, the presentation of the work is quite annoying.  In the basic photo app, the Touchpad imports images and sorts them via newest file date.  There is no option for “Sort by Name.”  When you play images in a folder as a slideshow you also can’t pick the duration between transitions.  The images don’t fade, they only slide in from right to left.  You can put the Touchpad into Exhibition Mode, in which you can tell it to pull photos from certain folders and cycle through them with user set times, but it doesn’t maximize all the way and the transition is quite sluggish.  If you rotate the Touchpad vertically, it doesn’t use the 1024 pixels on the long side to display the image, so native vertical format images look bad.

So I decided to add another iPad with the sole purpose of having it show work for future events.  Since I have been on this white theme for awhile, I thought the Apple tablet standing vertical would be a good digital portfolio for my high contrast black and white charcoal drawings.  I also hastily arranged work alternating with simple slides of descriptive text.

An old self portrait originally drawn on 18 x 24″ paper, which displays perfectly on the iPad’s 1024 x 768 3:4 screen.

There are many acronyms in the modern world, and as Americans we create and have to know more than our fair share.  Even in the digital photography world, there are a myriad of filenames.  Tablets and smartphone computing has essentially dumbed down most of the under the hood knowledge that you must have if you want to be a competent technical photographer.  There are way too many digital photographers that just don’t know the difference between .jpg, .tiff, .psd, .nef, .cr2, .gif, .png, .orf, .bmp, etc.

While all young folk these days can operate and become quickly acclimated to most new technology, they all seem to lack the appreciation of what it took to arrive to this point.  Almost everyone just sees it as popularity and entertainment technology.

When it comes to numbers most photographers still blindly follow the megapixel myth, without researching sensor size and resolution.  Large megapixel images are only good for printing, they don’t have anything to do with 95% of the images you see on webpages and social networks.  Growing up geek, you had to know the numbers, it was ingrained in you.  640 x 480, 800 x 600, and of course 1024 x 768 (ten-twenty-four-by-seven-sixty-eight).  Now it’s 60fps, 120 hz, 720p, 1080p, 2K, 4K, further added to the mix, all which are more marketing than math, to help people feel better about their purchases and lives.

Proportions and aspect ratios will forever be important.  It is the basis for everything art related, at least the 2 dimensional kind.  It begins with picking what size canvas to make and stretch or what size paper to draw on.  After that first decision has been made, we aren’t really free to change those boundaries.

Traditional small format film photography (24mm x 36mm) has an aspect ratio of 2:3.  (upscale this by two, and you have the good ol’ 4×6″) I’ve always liked this format.  Good for horizontal images, a bit too long for vertical shots, but pretty close to the golden ratio.  I’m used to seeing in this format so much that cropping any photograph even slightly bugs me.

Which brings me to 1024 x 768, which is in the 3:4 ratio.  Consumer digital cameras sport this aspect ratio by default, micro 4/3 cameras as well, and of course regular TV’s.  Photos going back 100 years that use 4 x 5″ and 8 x 10″ large format film are very close to this as well.  Photos from all DSLR’s won’t display correctly in this format either.  Again, you either have to crop, or view the image with small slivers of wasted black space above and below.  For purists, this can be annoying.

Most people aren’t aware that 1024 x 768 pixels is the same ratio as the drawing paper I use, 18 x 24″.  I think it is an elegant format.  See any art student walking across campus with a big book of newsprint or drawing paper, and it is 18 x 24″.  So the two go hand in hand, old world and new technology.

A charcoal drawing in its original size of 18 x 24″ displaying to its fullest on the iPad

Portraits, even hand drawn ones, tend to look more pleasing in the 3:4 ratio

Had to sneak in the Nikon 1 into this photo. 🙂

I didn’t feel like buying any more overpriced accessories for it, so we made a stand that the iPad can sit in while cycling through images.  The makeshift stand is laser cut aluminum, formed, and painted grey to match the Apple palette.

Front and back view of the shop made aluminium display stand

Thanks for viewing my art.  Surely by just letting the images roll, someone’s got to like one of them. The great artists never really showed their entire hand, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared with all kinds of work for all situations in this day and age.  My little display setup, coming to an unvisited corner of a bar, exhibition hall, or hiring manager’s desk soon!  At least I’ll have the satisfaction of not having to spend another dime on prints, and instead spend it on more gear and food.

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