this is aaronland

the hills were covered in a seal fur of grass

Tomales Bay (2023)

We had the opportunity to spend some time on Tomales Bay looking across the water at Point Reyes recently. These are some of the "drawings" I made on my phone while we were there.

Under the hood

A few years ago I got an iPad and an Apple Pencil to try "drawing" pictures with. I hated it. It's all very impressive technology and there's no question that other people are making some remarkable images with it. It is not my medium, though. Fast forward to last year when Apple started bundling their Freeform shared-whiteboarding application in iOS. Among other things, the application allows you to make freehand drawings using a small set of "tools" one of them being a bezier-fill tool that automatically closes any path you draw and fills it with the selected colour. These images were made this way.

Unlike the Pencil and the many sketching apps which attempt to mimic real-world, analog, tools one of the reasons I find the bezier-fill tool fascinating is because it feels uniquely digital. For example, many painters would kill for an analog equivalent and there's a whole other discussion about whether or not this is what Matisse was chasing in his cardboard cut-outs. For me, right now, it's an interesting medium and corresponding set of constraints to work with. It makes me wonder whether being able to adjust the tolerances of those constraints, for example how "taught" a curve is, would be.

If there's documentation on the file format that the Freeform application stores things in I haven't been able to find it. Nor have I been able to find where the files are stored, either on my phone or my laptop. The only way I've found to export these images is as PDF files. Once they are exported as PDF files they are also encoded as raster images rather than the native vector graphics I assume them to be. This is disappointing because in my efforts to figure out how to give these images some degree of permanence outside of a digital infrastructure it would be helpful to have the raw vector instructions. Sol Lewitt jokes are left as an exercise to the reader.

In the meantime I have written some tools for exporting the Freeform PDF files as high quality JPEG images with the relevant date information from the former embedded into the latter. Many thanks to Mandy Koh's prism library for wrangling the correct colour space details when translating the PDF files in to JPEG images. This was the source of quite a bit hair-pulling and annoyance before I found Mandy's code. Colour issues continue to plague any attempt to translate these images to print. It's the same old story and I am still thinking about whether, and how, to approach the question.