Meet the Innovator Making Artistic Waves with an iPad

By Andrea Masenda

New Haven native Raheem Nelson is no traditional artist.

While he found his love of art as a child buying comic books in downtown New Haven and emulating what he would see on the pages, he now finds himself in the center of a new digital form of artistic representation: iPad art.

He uses programs like SketchBook, ArtRage, Brushes Redux and Procreate, and each caters to a tier of his staple style respectively: art, technology and fashion. Nelson is working to bring iPad art to the forefront while also educating aspiring artists on the craft.

Raheem Nelson at work.

Raheem Nelson at work.

“The biggest misconception now with iPad art and digital art is that the artwork we create isn’t real,” Nelson said.

When Nelson first watched a man creating iPad art in a YouTube video nearly seven years ago, he knew it was real.

“I knew I wanted to get an iPad but I didn’t really have a good reason until I saw the video of this guy just demonstrating how to do some character design,” Nelson explained. “I put two and two together that it might be a good avenue for me.”

After purchasing this first tablet, Nelson made a challenge for himself.

“The challenge was basically [for me] to make this stuff look as good as my traditional work, or else I’m not going to share it, or post it or give it the time of day,” Nelson said.

He finally decided to share his work on the picture gallery sharing website, Flickr, where he received feedback from fellow iPad and iPhone artists who would later become a network of friends and mentors.

Nelson continued to grow in his artwork while building a brand and a social media presence for himself.

Nelson's iPad art

Nelson’s iPad art

iPad art has since given Nelson various opportunities, from commissioned artwork for businesses to creating animated commercials and even running workshops at an Apple Store in New York City.

While the opportunities do come, the misconceptions around iPad art still exist. Nelson realized early on that educating others on iPad art would be critical for business.

“I like to create videos and like to do lectures to help educate people that it takes a lot of skill to do what I do,” Nelson described. “If they don’t know how it’s done, they’re not going to buy into it.”

He teaches art classes once a week in New Haven. He also teaches one-on-one classes with a 15-year-old aspiring artist.

A year ago, Ann Robinson was introduced to Nelson in New Haven. She later introduced him to her grandson, R.J.

“He represents this whole new global movement,” Robinson said.

Nelson saw potential in R.J., and Robinson soon began bringing her grandson to weekly classes.

“I didn’t know what iPad art was or what it meant,” Robinson said. “It’s a really unusual new art form, but I like it.”

Nelson's iPad art

Nelson’s iPad art

Outside of honing in on R.J.’s love of cartooning and animation, Nelson is also hoping to put R.J. on a path to succeed by showing examples of his work to representatives at companies like Apple and Sega to get feedback on his early work.

“I can tell you as a grandparent how thrilled I was and am to have a grandson whose work went off to someone at Apple,” Robinson said. “Mr. Nelson is giving him a wide, broad view of what goes in this new world of iPad art.”

Nelson learned from his own experience and added marketing one’s self into the curriculum.

“I want to make sure he’s ready to start promoting his own work, so that before he gets to college, he’ll kind of be able to establish his own fan base with what he’s doing because he’s really talented,” Nelson said.

In addition to continuing his teachings in New Haven and with non-profit art organizations, Nelson also hopes to do more traveling with his art in the future. He’s also currently completing a visual journal of New Haven and New York landscape paintings that will be released next year.

See more of Nelson’s art on his website.

ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF RAHEEM NELSON

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