Speaking of Morgan Freeman. . .

December 4, 2013 • 3:14 pm

For a palliative for Freeman’s muddled musings on quantum consciousness, have a look at this portrait (from Bored Panda):

Picture 1

It is not a photograph.

It’s a finger painting by artist Kyle Lambert, done on an iPad.

Bored Panda notes:

Lambert, who is a trained oil painter and illustrator, uses an iPad Air with the Procreate application. This Morgan Freeman portrait was drawn based on a photograph, but the video proves that Lambert recreated it entirely through his own artistic talent. Although the brief time-lapse makes it look like a breeze, it actually took Lambert more than 200 hours and 285,000 brush strokes to complete. Morgan Freeman is far from the only star that Lambert has given a finger-painting makeover to. His Youtube channel features videos of many other stars like Jennifer Aniston, David Beckham, Will Smith and Megan Fox.

The time-lapse video shows how the portrait arose from a gazillon tiny tweaks:

54 thoughts on “Speaking of Morgan Freeman. . .

  1. As impressive this type of photorealistic painting is (when done with any medium, be it oils, watercolors, iPads, whatever), I tend to be even more impressed by artists who create photorealistic scenes of that which never existed — or, even better, that which never could ever even exist in the first place.

    After all, all this really is is a modern version of a Mediaeval monk acting as a Xerox machine.


    1. I agree. My first thought is: “Wow!” My second is “Why?” If you make art look like a photo, why not just look at the photo? Surely that time and talent would be better spent bringing something new to picture. Still, if he enjoys it (and it gets him internet fame), who am I to argue?

      1. Oh, to be sure — if he enjoys it, and especially if others enjoy it or are happy to pay him for it or whatever, he shouldn’t let my “meh” reaction at all slow him down.

        But, on the other hand, if I can inspire him and others like him to greater heights of creativity….


      2. While I agree with you and Ben that adding innovative creativity to talent/skill can often result in a fuller, more satisfying, more comprehensive work of art, I think it’s also worth mentioning that if I had to choose only one of those elements, I’d go for talent/skill.

        When we marvel at what a performer/composer/painter/athlete has done, it’s because we recognize the skill that person has devoted time and effort to cultivating. And we’re able to recognize skill by comparing what that person has done to some standard. I feel that completely unconstrained, carte blanche creativity undoes this system.

        I think diligent and intelligent effort at cultivating skill is more respectable than whimsy, and this artist has obviously cultivated exceptional skill.

        1. Thing is, I think whimsy or other forms of creativity themselves require a great deal of skill, including technical. I’ve watched this in my Mom’s growth as a watercolor painter. She absolutely is drawn towards whimsy, and it not only has taken her years to refine her skill at it, it’s something she still struggles with — mainly because she’s never satisfied with what she already knows how to do. She regularly comes up with some abstract, not really visualized concept and then have to sketch and paint multiple revisions until she figures out how to realize the concept, and then at least one more to do it cleanly.

          Being skilled at photorealistic painting is not unlike being able to play any scale or arpeggio rapidly and with perfect rhythm. The problem is, while pretty much all great music will have plenty of arpeggios and scale-like passages, not many people are interested in listening to such displays of skill for more than enough time to confirm that, yes, the performer really does know his scales. Then again, the listener really does know what scales sound like, too, so all the performer is communicating is the fact that he knows his scales. But play some actual music, and in a meaningfully expressive way….



          1. I whole heartedly agree with the perspective you have presented here and above, and with musical beef’s perspective as well. And I don’t see any conflict. I want my cake, and I want to eat it too.

            I don’t think anyone would disagree that the best examples of the products of creative efforts are the result of great skill and great concept / creativity combined. Anyone who does disagree is weird.

          2. Like Darrelle, I don’t disagree with you here, and I certainly don’t want to give the impression that I think innovation is unimportant. As I sort- of alluded to, I don’t think there really is a definite creativity/skill dichotomy, it’s just that, as you say, good innovation is itself a skill, and belongs, I think, in a separate category from the degenerate randomness that one often sees defended under the banner of “new, different, weird – at any and all cost!” New is great, but not at the expense of possessing meaningful, intelligible content. I think newness often gets fetishized to the point of people not caring if there is meaningful content. And I think this is unfortunate.

            This view leads me to regard the idea of artistic experimentation as problematic. A good composer, if that appellation is to mean anything, shouldn’t need to experiment. S/he will have compelling reasons for putting that pitch in that place before putting it there. Anyone can throw junk at the wall until something sticks. So I would definitely call the ability to come up with good innovations a skill.

          3. (Oh, and while I’m here, by no means does the standard by which we measure skill have to be something uninteresting or clinical. The standard I had in mind for a performer was the accuracy with which the score is represented – which can actually include expressivity. There are certain things a performer can do to “be expressive”: rubato, tenuto, touch, articulation, dynamic manipulation, etc, and the way these are executed can in turn be measured against a standard. That’s how we know a performer is doing them on purpose rather than accidentally.)

      1. There’s a lot of great art to be found on the covers of SF pulp fiction. And Asimov often wound up with some of the iconic examples.

        …and there’s a lot of really bad and cheesy art to be found on those shelves, too….


      1. No shit? You want to see his first Ted talk, then. This was in the period that Ted talks were hosting heavyweights like Dawkins, Dennett, et al… I think it’s hilarious how the audience doesn’t quite know what to make of him at first, as he promotes the internet as a way of making toys and other things with positive, crowsourced offerings – with mostly pre- current- and post- adolescents in mind. He seems to me to be very good at bringing young people back from the brink of disaster (against the star, in Latin, because YOU of all people need such things pointed out). Like most of us, he has been at the brink of disaster, and seems to want to soften the blow somehow. He’s also hilarious.

        Back when the man was just a big kid.

  2. While it probably isn’t faked, this isn’t as mind blowing as some people think. He’s not just using a photo as ‘reference’, he’s painting over the top of the photo.

    There is no hint of him constructing the shape. Each stroke just seems to magically be in the correct spot with the correct colour. I haven’t used Procreate, but I assume it has something similar to other programs that let you pick up the colour from the layer underneath the one you’re painting onto.

    The process is pretty simple. You start with large dabs, picking the colour from the photo each time and gradually use smaller and smaller brushes, focusing on different layers… skin, hair and highlights… The more detailed you go the longer it takes (exponentially so, usually).

    Now, having said that, it still involves a lot of skill to master… but it’s mostly a question of how much time you have. I wish I had 200 hours to spend on something like this, but for me it would be an exercise in improving my skills, not in creating a stand alone work.

    1. Comments I’ve seen say the final product is pixel perfect to the photo, so this is really a very fancy (and still skillful) paint by numbers.

      1. Yes, I actually loved this. I laughed too. Mine would be a stick figure with the words “Morgan Freeman” over top.

  3. My guess is that this artist did not take the original photo, nor any of the other photos used for this.

    There are also photographs that people run through Photoshop’s watercolor feature that end up looking for all the world like real watercolors– and printed onto real watercolor paper. I’ve seen them listed by unknowing art teachers on their websites as real watercolor paintings.

    There are also now programs that create realistic oil paintings from photographs, with 3-d textures.

    Tons of people in China are copying well-known artists’ works and selling them on ebay. In some of those ebay listings, they even proudly show a picture of the inkjet printer spitting out the copies. Ebay does not care. Living, well-known artists’ works are being stolen and copied in China, and sold to people who do not care about copyright or about any artist’s need to earn a living. These copyright infringers are stealing the photos from the legitimate publishers’ catalogs and using those photos for their listing on ebay.

    I once spent an hour notifying ebay of infringements of a well-known wildlife artist’s works, and they never responded. I flagged over a dozen listings.

    If anyone is interested in reading an article about it, you can look here,

    1. Copyright and IP aside, what is the intrinsic value of a work of art? Would an undetectably forged Vermeer be worth as much as the original? Of course not. The difference is all vanity.

      1. Vanity yes, but also simple enjoyment and pleasure. (The word vanity has a touch of narcissism built into the definition, at least the way I know the word.) Knowledge of good composition and good technique (not technical skill but technique) and exposure all help hone one’s critical eye.

        People are attracted to art and buy art for various reasons. Some actually do buy art to match the furniture. Others buy art to remind them of experiences. Or they buy because the art evokes some emotion. Most of the art I have bought came from my education about painting technique and from reading about the artist’s education and history. Lots of reading and exposure helped. A photography background ( B+W, darkroom, color, working in camera shops) helped develop my sense of art and composition. I’d say that B+W photography study was the most important.

        The advice I hear over and over is don’t buy a piece if you don’t like it. I’m talking about the average joe, not the high-rollers, not the million dollar masterpieces. That’s a market driven by additional factors, I’m sure.

        Interesting thing I’ve learned lately is that a higher (than you would expect) proportion of men are at least partly color blind. I have wondered if that has any effect on their interest in paintings.

      2. Sorry but I probably didn’t address your question about the Vermeer situation. Not really sure what you meant, other than the fact that the authenticity of a painting means something at some point, which of course it does.

    2. And many artists these days use artists in China, and other low wage countries, to produce art to their specifications. Art sweat shops. The “artist,” the person gaining recognition and money, doesn’t put a single brush stroke on the canvas. I can’t muster any respect for that.

      1. Yes, that is true, and I agree it merits no respect. But I think that you are referring to the business part of an art enterprise, not the creativity part.

        I supported myself as an artist for 20+ years but it was only by working 80-hr. weeks with extreme hardships –only to hear criticisms from customers and complaints as to price. If I had known it was going to end so abruptly, I would not have pursued it as a career. I had all the indications that it was going to get better and better and that all my hard work would pay off, and then it crashed and flatlined due in part to the digital revolution.

        And now, having my original artwork stolen from my website by unscrupulous business people around the globe is becoming intolerable. Worst of it at the moment is Pinterest. The people just collect artwork from the web and never need to buy it. I just found out that even after I take my art down from my website, the pictures on Pinterest stay there. That is stealing (a photographer has a suit against Pinterest, according to Wikipedia).

        Contrary to popular myth, having one’s paintings or name spread around on the web does not necessarily result in any sales for the person who created the artwork.

        [end of rant] ; )

        1. Yes indeed. The business of art is as hard and unscrupulous as any. Only a tiny percentage achieve financial security.

          And the business part of it gets in the way of the art part of it. On the artists side, one does have to eat so at least part, sometimes most, of your time is spent producing what has the best chance of selling. If you spend all your time doing whatever you feel inspired to do you’ll starve.

          On the gallery / buyer side making money dwarfs all other motivations. It is every bit as bad as the pop music scene. Marketing is everthing that matters for success, talent is not necessary. Beneficial, but not necessary. Artists are created like Simon Cowell creates the next hot selling boy band. And the target audience is just as discriminating. Give them enough glamour, bling and hype and they’re hooked.

          1. Amen.

            Only, to your “Give them enough glamour, bling and hype”, I would add “digital tools”.

            The people in the age bracket that would be buying art are now spending their money and time on electronic tools, and voila, everyone’s an artist.

            And many young artists have grown up with the notion that “doing research and creating art” means just looking on the web for suitable materials to swipe and manipulate with a computer program. I think that is why an artist’s digital manipulation of other people’s photos, without permission, ticks me off so much.

            Well, I had better stop now… my allotted 25% of the thread has probably been reached. I just wanted to add a few more things in case someone else comes along and reads this in the future.

  4. Has anyone considered that the video might be running backwards? Seems too good to be true. Where are the skeptics?

    1. Good point. I see comments on youtube to that effect.

      Nothing surprises me anymore.
      Once my copyright infringement red flag goes up, I tend to dismiss artwork. I worked hard all my career on doing art from the bottom up, and that included taking my own reference photos for any paintings I did whenever possible, or working from real life. I doubt very much this guy took his own pics of all those celebs.

      His possibly false representation on YouTube and the fact that 6 million people are looking might be the real artwork getting done here.

    2. Jack, I looked at the video again, thought about it, and wanted to mention to you that I doubt it’s going backwards.
      The reason I don’t think it’s going backwards is that the opaque paint daubs are being added one on top of each other, which would be hard to do backwards. I am writing this because of my experience with real paints; I don’t have much experience with computer paint programs so maybe there is something I am missing.
      There are some other explanations on this thread that might shed light on the way it was done.
      In any event, the project made us think about what “art” is!

  5. Boy, think of how awful it would’ve been if someone had turned the iPad upside down and shaken it back and forth…

    1. It reminded me of those children’s toys where you would move the iron filings over the man’s face to make hair and a beard, using a magnetic pen.

  6. It can’t be that hard. My son drew one of a photograph I took of three yellow crested robins sitting on a barbed wire fence. It looked almost identical. I thought he was a genius until he told me how it was done.

    He no longer draws these things because of the time involved and because of the lack of any creativity involved. What’s the point if ti looks just like a phtograph. My as well just snap the pic.

  7. Hi Guys,
    A real Artist here(intended). First thing is first, the final result could have been achieved a few different ways utilizing current and old tools and almost zero art ability.

    It would have been done as simple as painting the general strokes and then erasing the fine detail in(running the video backwards).

    The image could have been divided into elements such as
    General Tone
    and set up for each layer to be sampled and painted with a Stamp tool

    It could have been done utilizing a stamp tool entirely, which duplicates pixel information for a perfect clone.

    There are a few other days this could have been done, depending on the software set up, HOWEVER

    It was NOT done the way the Artist intends* for you to think it was done, or how the mass audience is reacting to the video.

    There are many major and minor giveaways in the sped up video.

    1)Notice how the artist doesn’t make any mistakes or corrects anything after the initial few general strokes. Generally the more detailed you get, the more adjustments and refinements you have to make. Watch any concept illustrator do a sped up video and you will see the back and forth process(never linear, never perfect). After all no matter how amazing an artist is, he is still human and will make mistakes that will have to be adjusted.

    2) It is impossible to get hair brushstrokes if you use your finger, unless you make the brush really really small for each hair and you do each one individually.
    You will get tons of mistakes with this method though, basically your finger is not the best tool for painting. You can also use the clone stamp tool, mentioned at the top to simply duplicate the fine hair perfectly.

    3) The picture is actually very difficult, there are a lot of subtle details that would require tons of adjusting, in depth of field, color subtleties, wrinkles, highlights, veins…etc

    4)Look at the artist previous work, and you will see that he is pretty decent draftsman, NOT Artist, a Draftsman. To make a leap from his previous work to this, would require a huge in leap in his skill and even then he would not get a perfect replication of the picture.

    At the end of the day, even if Kyle’s skill was so amazing that he could replicate photographs taken by an ARTIST capturing a great Actor, this would be an exercise of skill at best. Emulating a picture is not Art. I can show anyone with 0 Drafting ability how to paint a perfect emulation with 1 brushstroke.

    My guess is Kyle the draftsmen painted general brushstrokes on top of the picture and then erased over time as well as sampled(Freckles, highlights).

    1. I agree with your points ( A professional artist’s perspective is needed here). What’s annoying is that this video is presented by its makers as though it actually IS a painting done by an artist (200 hours of work etc.)..when in fact it is no different than a digital photo reproduction or ‘rendering.’ It’s engineering not art.

  8. I believe you’ve been duped by the video. Using the modern rendering a good animator would be able to create the illusion that the photo had been reconstructed, with a fancy program, stroke by stroke from the photo, which is probably what this shows. You can probably adjust how many strokes you want to ‘finger paint’ with. If you go to Scott Gries’ site and look at the original Morgan Freeman, there isn’t a hair out of place, or probably a pixel. It’s been touched up, (blurry in center) but basically it’s an exact copy.

  9. Surely this is nonsense. It’s nothing like the artist’s other work, which is good but hardly photo-real. Even if he did recreate it, it’s just pixel copying and certainly not done to scale on the ipad screen.

    1. I would tend to agree with your points here. The ‘frame’ of an iPad, slowly becoming larger on the screen in the beginning of the video, also looked bogus.
      In addition, I believe it might be some sort of marketing project to promote Procreate, whatever that is. If it had appeared on television, we might consider it a commercial.

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