Steve Connell

Steve Connell's Method

I create these paintings in a primitive way but my medium is as high tech as it gets. I use the most simple brush – my finger; the canvas – an iPad. The act of finger-painting on an iPad is like painting with light itself. There is a satisfying immediacy to the medium. The subjects I choose to paint shine in the night. Some of them are well known, others just attract me like a moth. The streets of Chicago offer an endless source of possibilities.

I have painted with traditional methods for years – oils, acrylics. I started finger-painting digitally first on an iPhone, then an iPad just a few years ago. I adapted quickly and grew to love the medium, especially with this night series.

I start by taking reference photos, then create a sketch based on them, taking artistic liberties as I go. I move and subtract certain things. I build a painting just like I would with traditional media. I pick a color palette, brush styles, opacity levels, but it's all digital and I use my finger as a brush. I can zoom in to do detail work and zoom out to create broad brushstrokes.

Once finished, I move my files to the computer, and from there, I can print the paintings as small or large archival high-quality prints on paper, mounted woodblocks or large canvas giclees.


I live and work in Chicago as a commercial illustrator . I fell in love with Chicago back when I used to visit as a tourist. The architecture and the unique neighborhoods struck an instinctual chord. I have always been drawn to the visual nature of nighttime in large cities...the streets, the alleys, the lights, the corner diners and bars. I admire and am influenced by Edward Hopper's night paintings.

This Chicago Night series just sort of naturally emerged as I started finger painting on my iPad. 

Painting on an iPad is still novel but is ultimately just another tool in the artist's arsenal. Artists have always been adopting new technology, each of which inspires in its own way.