Used as a traditional painting device, the iPhone and iPod touch aren’t terribly impressive, reducing the interaction to a kind of simplistic finger painting. (Ditto any touch device, really.) But attach dynamic, generative brushes to your fingers, and the act of painting digitally is transformed.

Behind the scenes, it’s not the software or the technology that makes digital mobile painting come alive: it’s the people. Just as traditional painting required extensive knowledge of the physical properties of paint, a community of digital artists is honing skills in making the generative language that can make this medium more expressive. And it’s reversing the relationship of the blog to the subject matter, making the blogger curator, record label, and instigator.

SKTCH is the work of a group of artists whose creations came together on the site, built with the free development tool OpenFrameworks. Dividing the contributions of those different coders into classes, SKTCH itself is a tool built through collaboration: the different “generative ink” behaviors all come from different artists, simply dragged and dropped into the main creation. The website in this case organized the development effort, the output, and the distribution.

Many of these kinds of creative applications have a chewing gum-style relationship with the user: pick it up, try it out, suck out the sugar, move on. But as SKTCH creations are shared in a Flickr pool, there’s a greater sense of meaning to these generated sketches. The sharing process that began in developing the tool moves on to the user. And so, while I’m late in posting this, what’s happened in the meantime is that output from this tool has collected on the Flickr pool.

And, oh, yes – the results are beautiful. Exquisite work. Feature request: iPad support, video out support. I can see this showing up at live gigs.

SKTCH is US$1.99 for iPhone and iPod touch. Details:
SKTCH [iPhone, openFrameworks] [CreativeApplications]

SKTCH – Preview from CreativeApplications.Net on Vimeo.

This does make me wonder about other models. The $2 purchase price does encourage more development. But there’s potential in the free software model, too, particularly when it comes to collaboration. Likewise, while there are definite advantages to the “native” quality of this app, I could also see these kinds of tools working in the browser, across platforms, where the lines between the site for collaboration and sharing and the creative tool itself might be blurred. (Actually, even there, there’s no saying you couldn’t build the sharing apps directly into this app, and OpenFrameworks can support other platforms, too.) There are plenty of additional frontiers here. First, it’ll be interesting to watch how SKTCH itself is received.