Chandelier at Amelie's Bakery, Charlotte (in progress)

O’Reily Radar is always full of nuggets, even those that are worth a ton well after they are being published. That’s how I feel about this article talking about six features of the infinite canvas – even though this article is really more or less focusing on text/reading than in the art/drawing context that I’d like to explore here.

First, the six features:

  1. Continously changeable
  2. Deep zooms
  3. Alternate geometries
  4. Interfaces that instigate contemplation and response
  5. Delight
  6. Jumbo content

Continously Changeable

This feature, a canvas that is continuously able to be changed, is one of the reasons that I think I’ve enjoyed exploring the iPad as a canvas, specifically for drawing. The ability to be able to constantly reset my viewport either through zooming, changing the background color, changing the toolsets, etc. as well as the normal components such as manipulating layers and pallets leaves me in a position where I can *almost* create the items that happen at the fringes of my imagination.

That said, the canvas – no matter how I come from it and from what application I’m coming to it from – is locked into this model of a specific and usually no-malleable file format. I still have big dreams for moving the bulk of what I create and use to SVG because of its flexibility in displaying just about anything – even beyond graphics. However, widespread support of SVG is still a bit aways, and therefore tools used to create such content aren’t mature enough to make that aspect of a changeable canvas possible.

Deep Zooms

One of the comments that I get when I display/show my artwork is how detailed that some of it is. People are used to a fixed canvas and then using tools that allow you to draw finer or more detailed items. And beyond that, it usually takes a skilled hand and talent to create the most detailed of pieces. With the iPad, I’m able to turn that on its head.

For example, with Adobe Ideas, I’m able to zoom in and out as I need – even beyond the boundaries of the canvas (this is a bug worth talking about later). I started the piece (Chandleara t Amelie’s Bakery in Charlotte) zoomed in at the default level, and then as the piece evolved, I was able to swing in and out as I needed, while also seeing the effect of using the pen at the same pixel width at those levels. And yes, it was all done with my finger, adding some more complexity and creativity to the impact of zooming.

Alternate Geometries

This is something that I’m not going to be able to explore until I print out my pieces. And the reason for this is because the arrangement of my exports are largely going to be determined on how I’m able to stitch the exported canvas pieces together. At least in Adobe Ideas, I don’t have the ability to export the entire drawn piece – it will only export what’s on the screen. That means that when these exports are combined, that I’ll have to play with arrangement and layering on a more spatial level.

This is a bit different than how its framed in the Radar article, but an example of the challenges and benefits taken could be taken advantage of in this kind of space.

Interfaces that Instigate Contemplation and Response

Beyond simply drawing for the sake of drawing, I am hoping that there’s some response or contemplation that some of these pieces can illicit from the viewer. Much in the same way that a blog should incite comments or spoked discussions around the web, artwork should launch someone into some other place besides the canvas. Now, maybe this is relegated to the sensors and sensory levels, but maybe, just maybe, its possible to imprint the kind of fingerprint on artwork that incites a response without it being extreme on one strata or another. Maybe…


As I was looking at this, I think Delight should sit in the same frame as Contemplation and Response. That’s not to say that everyone will always like the product of the canvas, or even the process of producing what’s on that canvas. That’s egotistical to think that they should. But, there should be some level of appreciation that can be gained from the creation, creation process, or even the creator of the digital artwork that endears hope for more than simply being a product of someone’s marketing activity.

Jumbo Content

Some months back, I drew a visual diagram of how I picture the genre of mobile ministry. It took the better part of an afternoon to draw it. And its something that a good bit larger than the (mobile) screens that it would eventually appear on. I don’t mind that, but I think that a digital canvas should play with just such a content direction (where appropriate). Experiences such as exploring cellular structures, navigating the Bible, or even reading geographical collections of news should be too large to be contained on a screen. Being able to at one part zoom into/out of it, but at another part being able to feel the scale of what you are looking at can be good.

I think of the banners that we commonly see around college campuses or at conferences. Those banners are huge. And if I saw the same thing on my tablet, I’d complain about the waste of space. If it appears on my tablet, I should be able to navigate within in to some other experience that magnifies whoever the overall message is that the banner was putting out. Content shouldn’t be restricted by size, but accented by it.

For digitial artwork, and even text/reading interfaces, we’d do well to keep the lack of print’s limitations in mind. And at the same time, let’s be imaginative enough to play with the technology so that we see what the fringes of our minds look like, and how that might be enough to bring others into an opportunity to truly see the world just as we do.