Jeremy Sutton is not your typical painter.
His studio at 1890 Bryant St. brims with paintings and prints: musicians frozen in mid-performance, sweeping landscapes, and funky portraits of Einstein splashed in glossy color all compete for space. But take these creations at face value and you miss a big part of what makes them unique — because many hide a secret, second life.
Point a smartphone camera at one of them (once you’ve installed a free app called Artivive) and it suddenly bursts into movement on the screen. Each brushstroke Sutton made in painting them is replayed, so the viewer can see the piece created from scratch.
“You’re going to see some magic,” Sutton laughed as he prepared his phone to view the paintings in motion. This wizardry is possible because he is a digital live painter, an unusual form of entertainment that he has been practicing for more than 20 years.
Sutton is often contracted to perform at corporate events or concerts, where his iPad paintings are projected on enormous screens for attendees to enjoy as they are created. Recently, he has been experimenting with recording the performances and then triggering them as augmented reality videos.
Originally from England, Sutton studied physics at Oxford University before heading to the United States in 1988. He discovered digital painting in the early 1990s after a chance encounter at a party, and realized it was the perfect way to combine his interest in science and technology with his artistic side.
A few lucky breaks (read: painting Richard Branson aboard his private jet) and a lot of hard work later, Sutton managed to establish himself as an artist/entertainer.
Sutton does not fit the stereotype of the isolated artist living in his garret. Good live painters, he said, need to be extroverts and quick problem solvers.
“You’ve got to be able to create in the moment with an audience and love it,” he said. And, even after 20 years, he added, he still does.