The Morgan Freeman iPad Painting

December 6th, 2013 | Posted in General

This has been all over the internet the last few days. Artist Kyle Lambert did this digital painting of Morgan Freeman using ProCreate and an iPad… and his finger.¬¨‚ĆAccording to the video, it took over 285,000 brush strokes and 200 hours of work.

This has elicited a lot of discussion and speculation on the internet about, among other things, the following:

1. Did he just trace a photo?

My two cents: Yes, he must have used a photo as an underlayer even though it is not seen in the video (easy to exclude from a screen capture video). No way could anyone do something that exactly perfect by translating what their eyes see and recreating that with their hands. Image overlays done by others show a nearly flawless reproduction. The human brain, eyeballs and motor skills just don’t work that perfectly together. Not that it matters, the impressive part of this is the exacting nature of the rendering done on something like the iPad.

2. Would this be copyright infringement of the original photograph?

My two cents: Yes, absolutely. There is no artistic interpretation here whatsoever. It is an exact reproduction of the original photo. It doesn’t matter if it was reproduced by hand taking over 200 hours, or scanned in under 15 seconds. Lambert credits the photographer but that is not the same as getting his copyright permission. Perhaps he did, I don’t know. If not, he needs to, unless the photographer has no interest in his copyright.

3. What’s the point?

My two cents: This is what it is: It’s a very impressive technical demonstration of someone creating something using a difficult platform that could have been created much faster and easier, and just as impressively, on another platform. That’s really the only point, that is was done on an iPad, which is amazing. The painting itself has no artistic interpretation or input, and wasn’t meant to have any. I’m not taking anything away from Lambert, he’s obviously a very talented digital painter… I wish I could paint one-millionth as well. No doubt when he brings his own artistic sensibilities into play he can do some impressive work, but this is just a demonstration of technical skill on an usual platform for such work, which I am sure is what was intended. It’s a little like building a vehicle like a Ford Explorer from scratch using hand-tooled parts, individually sculpted and carved pieces, and individually hand-created components. It might take thousands of hours to make, but in the end what you have is a Ford Explorer… made the hard way.

That said, I do not know why so many people are acting offended by this, like Lambert is somehow trying to pass this off as a great work of art or suggest it is supposed to be a commercial juggernaut of a style. I don’t think he is trying to do anything except demonstrate the technical possibilities of the software and hardware he used, which he clearly did very well. I’m quite sure he knows there is little commercial application for exact copies of photographs that were hand painted and took hundreds of hours to complete. He’s just demonstrating his technical skills with this platform… I hope he got some dough out of the makers of Procreate for his efforts.

…and I still hate working on an iPad. More power to you, Kyle.

UPDATE: Typically I would give the benefit of the doubt to the artist in a case like this, but this blog post and the data backing it up from fotoforensics seems to prove conclusively that not only was the actual photograph used in the creation of this image, but that PhotoShop CS 5 and 6 on a Macintosh was used in its creation. Since that directly refutes Lambert’s claims that at no time was the photo used, and that it was created exclusively on the iPad with Procreate, you have to question anything that he or Proceate claims. Of course the “proof” of the fraud could itself be a fraud… it’s the internet a wonderful place?


  1. Michael King says:

    Tom … I completely agree! If he had used oils for that 200 hours he could at least sell it! … Just my opinion.

  2. Hutch says:

    100% right Tom. A great example of technique and fascinating to watch but a pointless end result.

  3. Robnonstop says:

    People’s comments to the video are astonishingly ignorant:

    “What the hell. Man you are crazy talented.”

    “Makes me want to not draw anymore.”

    “It must be crazy expensive to draw this with real material. Glad we have technology.”

    “I hate that darn dislike button. How could anyone even think about disliking this?”

    Here is my take on it:

  4. fdileague says:

    I think it’s not entirely implausible that it’s a deconstruction rather than a creation… would be much easier to pull off.

  5. You nailed it Tom.

  6. Andy says:

    Lambert denies the photo was ever “on my iPad or inside the Procreate app”. I wonder if “never on the iPad” includes a printed photo stuck to the screen?


    • Tom says:

      See my update above. Lambert as allegedly been exposed as a fraud due to the meta data of the image which proves not only is the original photo involved in the creation of the image, but it was actually done in PhotoShop on a Mac. I say “allegedly” because I’m only going by some information posted on the internet, and we all know how reliable that can be. Looks pretty convincing, though.

      • Andy says:

        I saw that earlier today too. I have since written a looong blog post with my thoughts – linked in my name. I still think the process is possible (assuming the app and hardware are capable of that level of detail) but I think there’s a lot of unanswered questions and maybe a few “inaccuracies”, shall we say?

        And yes, the internet is both wonderful and, at times, depressing. But what can you expect when its populated by people?

  7. Larry England says:

    Could he have started with the photo and disassembled it and ran it backwards?

  8. Fraud or not, I totally agree with your point. If he did that, technically it is an outstanding piece. Artistically, meh. I am not very fond of photo realistic paintings if I can’t see any particular style of the artist on it. I just can’t see the point if it is much quicker to take a picture of the subject instead of takeing a very long time to paint it exactly the way it is. In the past, with no cameras available this might have made sense. It is still technically impressive though.


New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550

Workshops Ad

Dracula ad

Doctor Who Ad

Superman Ad

%d bloggers like this: