ARTIST Neil Patterson has been painting the scenes of Tynedale for decades, but recently he’s put down the paintbrush, and replaced it with a top of the range iPad instead.

Neil, who lives in Barrasford, first started his career as a professional portrait artist, but had to discard his dreams of painting full-time once he’d welcomed his first child.

“Once I’d become a father, I had to find a more reliable way to pay the bills and put food on the table,” Neil said. “And life as an freelance artist just doesn’t provide the financial security.”

From then, Neil worked as a art teacher for 30 years, with 16 of those being at Hexham Middle School, but recently took early retirement in the hope of making a full-time career as an artist, now that his children have flown the nest.

“I realised that if I didn’t take the leap now at 56, I would run out of time,” he said. “So now I’ve got to throw everything I have into making a go of this.”

On first glance, Neil’s work might appear to resemble a photograph, or a traditional acrylic painting, but each piece is in fact produced entirely on a app called Sketches Pro, a electronic sketchbook downloadable for tablets. Using a specially deigned pen, Neil paint on to the screen similarly to how he would on a canvas, only all the creative tools he needs are stored within his iPad.

“The tools available are similar are what you might find in an art studio.” Neil said.

“There are fine-line pens, brushes of all different sizes and techniques available for artists to create different depths and varying opacity levels.

“It’s great for me because I don’t have to carry all these tools around with me when I’m out in the countryside painting – all I need is the tablet.”

Neil first began experimenting with electronic art after he purchased a top of the range iPad on the recommendation of his sister-in-law, but said that he never expected the device to be such a revelation to his style.

To begin with, Neil was only using the drawing apps he’d downloaded to doodle, as he believed that he could never produce the same standard of detail which he could on canvas, due to the size of the tablet’s screen. But then, inspiration stuck.

“The idea of dividing up an entire painting into several smaller sections occurred to me,” Neil said, “because focusing in on one specific area at a time allowed me to achieve the same level of detail and quality that they would be on a canvas.”

One section of Neil’s painting can take anywhere from hours to days, depending on the amount of detail in the frame.

It’s also a process which means you have you expect inconsistencies, Neil said, such as slight variations in colour or symmetry, because he only sees his painting in full during final stages of placing each individual piece together.

Once finished, Neil exhibits all his iPad drawings with their original breaks as part of the artwork, believing that to disguise how the piece was created and attached together would be to take away from the technique.

“I like the fact that its something different,” he said. “And I believe that’s part of the arts appeal.”

Neil’s latest artistic muse has been Hadrian’s Wall, which will be the focus of several paintings he will be producing for the national park visitor centre at the Sill – a big step towards Neil’s career as a professional artist.

For inquiries contact Neil on