About the artist

A portrait of the artist, Graeme Heddle

Graeme Heddle is a digital artist from Burntisland, a small town on the east coast of Scotland, just across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh. Graeme is self-taught, having had no formal art training, and is continually learning. He describes himself as a bit of a Heinz 57 when it comes to the style of his art, in as much as he will create in a multitude of ways, although his go tos are landscapes and painterly abstracts, whcih he makes on his iPad using a variety of apps. When Graeme is not making art, he is an avid reader and enjoys history and architecture. He also likes to explore the local beaches and countryside with his black Labrador, Luca.

How did you first get into digital art?

I started to create art from my photographs when I purchased an iPad and discovered apps such as iColorama; I cringe now when I look back at this early work, and what I once thought looked great.

Most of my work is based on photographs. I started off learning a bit about mobile photography when I got my first iPhone way back in 2010. I bought my first proper camera soon after, when my gran passed away and left me a little bit of money. This is the camera that I still use; it’s a little out of date now, but it has great sentimental value to me, and a camera that takes good pictures will always take good pictures, no matter how old it is.

Why did you choose digital art as your medium?

I love the way digital art allows you to experiment; there are just so many options and no limits! There is also no mess to clean up, and you don’t need a room full of equipment, just a camera, an internet connection, an iPad and stylus, and there’s a complete art studio right there.

Tell us about the process you use to make your art.

First comes inspiration: I’ll usually find a photograph, or a combination of photographs, to base my work on. I’ll play about with the tones, composition and elements within those images until I find something that pleases me. Once I have the primary picture, the next stage is to paint over it using a variety of different apps. I try to mimic the feel of traditional media; I love thick paint and loose, expressive strokes, and I try to incorporate them into the piece whenever I can.

Once this stage is complete, I’ll move on to overlaying, blending and masking in textures. Often I’ll save up to a dozen different versions before I go through them all and narrow them down to two or three options. Then I’ll blend the bits I want from each into one piece. Finally, I’ll review the colours and tones and make the last tweaks to the finished image.

To which artistic styles are you particularly drawn?

Although I enjoy landscape paintings, and I’m also enamoured with still-lifes, my main love is for abstract paintings. With representational pieces, you can admire the subject, the brushstrokes and the light that the artist has captured etc. With an abstract, you’re often not looking at what is out there, but what is within yourself; your interpretation of the painting is affected by the way you’re feeling at that time, so with each viewing, you’ll come away with a different impression. They say a picture paints a thousand words; you can take that to the next level with abstracts and say that it paints a thousand words, a thousand feelings and a thousand meanings.

What inspires you?

Many things inspire me. I have a love of architecture in all forms, so much of my artwork features buildings. I’m lucky enough to live in one of the world’s most stunningly beautiful countries; my inspiration is in the landscape right on my doorstep. Other things that inspire me are my dog, books, music, TV and the artists I admire. There’s limitless scope for inspiration all around us.

What is your artistic motivation?

Hmm, that’s a tough one. I suffer from health issues, including anxiety and fibromyalgia; I find that exercising my creative muscles helps me cope with not being able to do everything I’d like to. My problems often melt away when I’m engrossed in creating; it’s like travelling the world, except it’s all in my head and being expressed on my iPad screen. I’d like to say I don’t care if other people like my work or not; like all artists, though, I do get a buzz when someone says they like something I’ve shared online, so that’s motivation as well.

Of all your images to date, which is your favourite, and why?

My favourite image is the one I’m working on at any given moment. I can’t remember who said this originally, but it resonates with me. The birth of an artwork is a process that is full of possibility. Digital art is all about exploration with little expectation as to what the final result is. When I look at my early work, compared to the stuff I’m producing now, I can see the improvement over time. This is because of all the experimentation that has allowed me to build my skills and find out what I’m good at; my toolbox is overflowing!

Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?

Experimental, ever-improving, evolving.

What notable responses to your artwork have you had?

I’ve had it all! From people who think my work is “boring”, “distinctly amateur” and “stunning”. In general, I don’t get too insulted with criticism from non-artists but can feel quite offended when I get a negative response from other artists, especially when their criticism isn’t constructive. I feel like saying “You were where I am once right? Still learning and honing your craft? How did you feel when other artists put you down without helping you to grow as an artist?” I do welcome and thrive on positive criticism.

Recently I was contacted by an established artist on Instagram, who explained that she felt my work was good but lacked unity. We started corresponding, and I’ve really learned a lot from her and hope to continue to do so. On the other side of the coin, she had never thought of creating digitally and has now downloaded apps to experiment with, based on my recommendation. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with.

Name three artists who inspire you.

I would have to say, Paul Klee, who I’ve recently discovered. I adore his work. Also, Charles Rennie Mackintosh has been my hero for many years. Not only was he an incredible visionary, architect and designer, he was also an accomplished watercolourist. Finally, I’d have to say my friend Joyce Harkin, her artwork stuns me each time she posts something new; what she can do with blending and masking in iColorama is nothing short of miraculous! Joyce and I run the Fine Art from Photographs Facebook group together and as well as being a fantastic artist, she’s a lovely person and a constant source of inspiration.

How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?

I knew nothing about art when I first started. I always thought I wanted to do something creative but didn’t know what, until I discovered photography and digital art techniques. I’ve since started learning more about tone, composition and the different methods required to make a cohesive piece.

My early work was all over the place; when I look back at that stuff and compare it to what I do now, there’s a world of difference. I’m not arrogant enough to suggest I’m good enough to have my work shown and sold in galleries; what matter is that I’m happy with the work I’m producing, and that people think it’s good enough to be hung on their walls.

What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?

I never quite knew what I should be doing with my life; I’ve been to college several times, studying everything from computing to complementary therapies. I’d advise myself to study art from the outset, as I really think that’s what I was meant to be: an artist.

What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?

I use an iPad and a cheap stylus for almost all my work, but I’m about to upgrade to an Apple Pencil, now that I have a device that it’s compatible with. I do have a Wacom tablet for my PC, but I don’t like the disconnect of painting and editing on one device and seeing it appear on a different screen, as I want to see my strokes appear under my stylus.

Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?

I use many, but the those I keep going back to are iColorama, Procreate and Art Set 4. If I were on Desert Island Apps, it would be these I’d take with me. iColorama and its sister app, Metabrush have so many features, the possibilities are virtually unlimited and have pushed my experimentation in ways I never thought were possible. I love the traditional media feel of Art Set 4, particularly its oil paint brush. Procreate is great for compositing work and has a really well thought out user interface. I also love the Jixipix apps, they provide results that are unique and beautiful. I’m waiting for Corel to bring Painter to the iPad, but there’s no sign of it so far.

Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?

I do use stock photos. In an ideal world, I’d only use my own photographs, but as I don’t get out and about as much as I’d like, this is not always possible. My main go to for stock photos is Unsplash; the quality of the images and the vast selection is terrific, and as these talented photographers have provided their beautiful photos for free, it’s great for those on a budget. Many museums also have online collections of free photo resources too, my favourite being Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. Institutions such as the British Library have collections available on Flickr too.

Do you find that people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?

Definitely, although it’s not as bad as it used to be. Quite often, when you mention you create art with apps, most people think it’s just slapping a filter on with something. People don’t realise how versatile and advanced apps are these days, many are fully featured software applications, not one trick ponies; it’s the artist that does all the work, not the app.

I think there’s still a fair bit of snobbery from traditional artists who believe we are not real artists, but the way I explain it is that art comes from the soul, not the tool you happen to use. Traditional artists use real brushes, canvases and pigment, whereas digital artists use a stylus, screen and pixels: it’s different tools with an equally valid final product. This is changing though, and digital art is being seen more and more as equally as valid as traditional art.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and artwork with us, Graeme!

Where to find Graeme‘s work online


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