Artist creates astounding works by 'finger painting' with her iPhone

Annie Raman kept her creativity going in lockdown by using the Notes app to turn her smartphone into a 'modern-day pocket easel'

11 July 2021 - 00:01 By Declan Gibbon
'A flower for you' by Annie Raman.
'A flower for you' by Annie Raman.
Image: Annie Raman

Antoinette “Annie” Raman is a fine-arts graduate in the advertising industry.

She's a mixed-media artist with no discernible style, expressing her varied life experience and emotions through ranges of colours and textures.

During lockdown she challenged herself to create art during the lonely nights; what emerged were gorgeous, bright and colourful “finger paintings” done on her iPhone Notes app.

She tells us more:

How did you start?

One sleepless night in 2020, another night in lockdown, I was listening to music on the floor and at around 2am I recalled a cheeseburger I'd drawn on an old iPhone. I felt enthusiastic about this challenge and opened the Notes app on my current phone and put thought to finger, and finger to screen. And here we are.

What's your creative process?

Overthinking. If I'm really being honest, that's where it always starts. My process starts with overthinking about totally non-creative things; emotional or numbing thoughts that eventually manifest in colours. Once I start thinking of colours, I attach a colour to a thought, and the thought to a picture. What the picture turns out to be is left to my fingers.

Since the improvements and updates on the iPhone operating system, the Notes app now has a full colour palette, pen, brush and pencil with adjustable stroke width and textures, and a great ability to play with colour opacities.

My mobile phone was transformed into a modern-day pocket easel, not confined to pages or places, so I can make something new anytime, anywhere. I use my fingers like a digital paintbrush, to challenge myself and to avoid the expenditure of a stylus. That's what makes this body of work more profound.

What inspires you?

God, colour, motion and movement, random thoughts, meaningless objects, eating, outside, childhood memories, emojis and human rights (or lack thereof). I love water and fire. I really don't like the colour pink. All my artworks mean something; most portray things I'd never say out loud to anyone. The stuff you keep hidden. That's what's so great about art — you can hide all your secrets in it.

I love what colour and motion do to a person in a painting or drawing. The mixing of subdued tones, with moody shades that seem to move, and then shocking strokes of colour overlaid, turns odd thoughts into something surprising. It wakes you up when you probably didn't even realise you were asleep inside.

'Sour fruit' by Annie Raman.
'Sour fruit' by Annie Raman.
Image: Annie Raman
'Ponderer' by Annie Raman.
'Ponderer' by Annie Raman.
Image: Annie Raman

Any advice for beginners?

Just begin. Once you start, you're not a beginner anymore. You're an artist. The worst thing you could do is not try. Don't put pressure on yourself, you may find your best work will be done when you're able to express your anxiety, fears or desires in your work. Art is a space for both good and bad emotions; use your medium as a cathartic release. The most important thing is to respect your ability to create something first — anything. Be humble but take yourself seriously enough to call yourself an artist.

How do you exhibit these unconventional works of art?

They currently all live on my Notes app. Some are posted on my Instagram account and will be uploaded to my artist webpage once it's live. I'll look at exhibiting online and in galleries in the near future.

The artist behind the app?

I was born in 1987, towards the end of apartheid, and came from little to nothing in a family of four Indian women. I am a creative director with 13 years in advertising and have a qualification in fine arts. I am also an anti-human-trafficking activist and have no doubt that I was given this gift and this empathy for others rather than myself.