At the ‘Drawing Fashion’ talk with Colin McDowell at the Design Museum in London last Friday, Giles Deacon wowed his audience when he admitted to doing some of his design drawing on his iPad, using his favourite finger-sketching app.

“It’s super good!” he said, getting his beloved gadget out, and eagerly tracing some elegant, spider-leg-ish doodles on the touch screen with his index finger to show us all.
“You use your finger – isn’t it great?” he said. “So caveman-ish. I love it.”

On the subject of using his iPad as a sketching tool, he said:
“It’s so useful, because I can quickly get ideas down, and send them to people to show them what I mean. And you can store them and play with them, and its fun too – look at me explaining it, I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about! You are all probably thinking: ‘What, that old app? We’ve known about that for ages, catch up Giles!’…”

We all laughed. His finger danced, quickly and confidently over the touch screen, leaving a dark trail of scratchy lines and rough blocks of shading. The crowd craned to see. His expanding sketch was projected by video camera onto a huge screen behind him, in the lecture space at the Design Museum where we sat. He had been (obligingly) drawing for some time, on paper, and simultaneously being interviewed by Colin – demonstrating an extraordinary ability to use his hands and listen and speak at the same time. He drew fluidly, dandling the black marker against the paper with fond efficiency as the fantastic lines spread across the page.

“Doing really, really quick shapes can be super good,” he said. “You don’t really know where you’re going, some might be a success and some might not be. This one is starting to look like it might not be…’ he giggled, charmingly.

His drawings on paper were lovely, characterful explorations – really fantastic to watch, and obviously a bit of fun. But by some chance, as he was doodling on the iPad, things suddenly took a more serious turn. Giles went quiet for a moment.

“Thats very good,” said Colin, appraisingly, over his shoulder.

“Yes, it’s turning out alright, isn’t it,” said Giles as he continued, engrossed. The audience drew in a united breath of excitement as a quiver of splintered lines exploded under his hand to form a daring, catwalk-ready outline.

“Yes, this might really be something…” he muttered, and the silent awe of his audience was broken only by furious camera snapping.

“Why don’t you pop another one next to it?” Colin murmured, his eyes twinkling, and we watched with baited breath as Giles worked. A little thrill went through us all. Another silhouette emerged beside the first – gaunt and spindly – a fan of feathered shadows bursting over its jutting hip.

“I think I’ll save that one,” said Giles.

He touched the icons on the screen, and continued to scribble on a new digital page. Around me I heard the frantic screen-tapping of a hundred arts students, making notes to themselves on their own appliances to download the finger-sketching app for themselves at the earliest possible opportunity.

I breathed a sigh of condolence for the Pencil. Poor thing – it cannot be with us long.

First published on Student Fashion Blog, 21st March 2011