Rooney is a freelance designer and illustrator based in Auckland. As a musician who’s been involved with various bands throughout his life, he says he got into the art industry through his involvement with music, designing record covers, posters and merchandise.
Working in the creative arts suits him as he likes the idea of being his own boss, he says, as well as being able to do different projects day in, day out, as he gets bored doing repetitive work.
“Creativity is interpreting something through your own context, personality and take on life,” he says.
It was this kind of mindset that led to Samsung bringing Rooney on to take part in an art battle of epic proportions to launch its new Galaxy Note9 phone. This model boasts connectivity with a new S Pen, which has a fine 0.7mm tip and 4096 pressure levels the user can draw directly onto the screen with, imitating the graceful feel of putting pen to paper.
The new phone and S Pen’s creative abilities were put to use by Rooney and fellow artist Otis Frizzell at a launch party in Auckland’s CBD. With the outside of the M Social Hotel being used as a canvas, Rooney and Frizzell engaged in a high-speed, three minute art battle, creating a unique artwork on the 6.4” phone screen. The art works were projected directly from the smartphone across nine storeys of the building for the onlookers to ogle, while the public at home voted on social media who had the winning design.
Frizzell (left) and Rooney with their designs
To give Rooney and Frizzell a leg up, Samsung gave the duo a few days to practice with the tools they’d have on the night of the competition: the Galaxy Note9 and the S Pen accessory.
Rooney says he’s used to doing his designs by hand, so he had to wrap his head around drawing onto a digital device initially.
“When I first got it, I’ve never dealt with a tablet or an electronic pen before, so it was quite challenging and daunting at first, but it was good after a while. It’s quite different to how I usually work,” Rooney says.
“There’s an array of tools to use, so it’s quite similar to photoshop – you can do a sketch layer and play with the opacity, and then draw over it in a more clean manner than I’d usually do with pen, so it’s quite flexible.”
After having a week to prep their designs, the moment of truth rolled around. Frizzell and Rooney debuted their designs.
The brief given? For the first three-minute round between the pair, each artist had to show their own interpretation of a specific feature of the phone, such as its long-lasting battery, computer-sized storage or its intelligent camera. For the second art piece, which had a 35 minute time limit the brief was to create something illustrating the idea of power to celebrate the phone’s powerhouse qualities.
Rooney said having time to practice helped him get the hang of using the S Pen, especially when it came to the time pressure of the first round.
“For the first one, I was interested in the camera function so it was a quick scribble of an eyeball, as the camera is trying to emulate the human eye in a way,” Rooney says. “And for the main piece I did a giant pharaoh head, a monolith-type sculpture on a horizon with kind of a vintage, 70s sci-fi, psychedelic treatment.”
Rooney says in terms of the projections, he’s seen his work in advertising but never blown up to such a large degree before.
“It was interesting doing something different – I’m quite old school, paper and print, to have something live projected digitally on a mass scale is cool,” he says.
And after spending a week or so playing on the Galaxy Note9, he says can see how the phone and its pen would be a helpful tool to have on hand for people who work in the creative sectors.
“If you want to get something down, fast, it’s really good and it’s quite flexible, so you can quickly, sketch up the ideas, move them into the computer, work on them later and vice versa.”
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