This story is over 5 years old.


Meet The Digital Finger Painter Creating Hyper-Surreal Tablet Art

With his hyper-detailed tablet artworks, Jaime Sanjuan puts the "digits" in digital painting.
Butterfly Effect, 2014

Images courtesy of artist

About four years ago, we asked the question, "Is tablet fingerpainting an art?" Now, in 2014, the answers to that question can be found throughout a vibrant marketplace of interactive websites, painting apps, and brand new art-viewing technologies. Today, The Creators Project debuts Butterfly Effect (above), an exclusive painting by digital artist and Universidad de Zaragoza PhD candidate Jaime Sanjuan. With his Dali-esque finger-painted tablet artworks, Sanjuan exemplifies the leaps and bounds that have been made in the tablet-based artform.


Over the past year, Sanjuan has painted portraits, landscapes, and still lifes that warp, slice, and melt everyday objects until they adopt brand new meanings. His works, which often take up to 100 hours to create, communicate his passionate beliefs about the Universe. "Nothing is forever," Sanjuan told The Creators Project, in an interview. "The reality as we know it today ceases to exist every second." The idea is especially present in paintings like Spheniscus Magellanicus, his depiction of a pleased-looking penguin who happens to be melting into the sky.

Spheniscus Magellanicus2014


Aside from exploding animals, Sanjuan also captures moments ripe with the supernatural. Paintings like Cutbacks, which depicts cleanly sliced beverages, Natura, which captures an animal form trapped in a vast cloud of fog, and Memories, an image of a man's mind literally opening up (Sanjian's only stylus-aided image) all fall under this conspicuous category.

When Sanjuan begins messing with physics and warping the human body, his work takes on a distinctively sci-fi tone. In line with non-tablet illustrations like those of Simon Stalenhag and Michael Kerbow, exploding objects, crazy creature hybrids, and flying humans all populate the uncertain worlds the painter creates in each new work.

The Creators Project spoke to Sanjuan about how he creates his worlds, the differences between creating and discussing digital art in the modern age, and why he still paints with his fingers:



The Creators Project: First off, why use a tablet for your illustrations? And why paint with your fingers, rather than a stylus?

Jaime Sanjuan: When I finished my studies in fine arts, so began the global economic crisis! I had no job and had not enough money to rent a studio. Therefore, I stopped painting for four years, until a year ago, when I was given an iPad which changed my life! With the help of this tool I do not need a studio, and there is no need to buy any materials for creating my paintings.

I have always painted with my fingers. When I painted with oils, I used my fingers to blend the colors. The gradients you can achieve with your fingers are unsurpassed. I love pastels, too—in this technique you have to use your fingers a lot. The most natural thing for me was painting with my fingers on my iPad.


How do you create such detail in your images? Take me through your software choices and processes.

So far, I've always painted with Procreate, but I'm trying other interesting applications. Normally, I paint my paintings using a brush size of 2-4 pixels… and a lot of zoom! When I paint my paintings, I almost never see the finished work. I only see the fragment I'm painting.

It's as if you are painting a large mural; you have to go far to see the entire work. It is a very slow process (that sometimes takes 100 hours), but the results are worth it.

Your body of work includes portraits, landscapes, still lifes, and more. Where do you get your inspiration?


My paintings are filled with objects from my own house! I think an artist has to capture the reality around him. Of course, when I do not have the objects I need, I search on the internet.

Where do the more abstract elements, like the halved glasses and melting penguins, come from?

All the surreal elements of my paintings come directly from my mind… Do you think I have to worry about it? [laughs]

Abyss, 2014

How does your ongoing PhD research influence your development as a painter?

By studying the relationship between art and new technologies, I have seen the work of many digital artists and its evolution over time. Thanks to this analysis, I have acquired a great visual culture that has inspired my work.

Of course, I've also noticed that digital art will play a very important role in the future. Do you remember the tremendous impact of digital photography? A few years ago there was no digital photography and now…

The world is becoming increasingly digital, and the same will happen with art.

Iphone Juice, 2014

As an active member of both the academic and practical realms of digital art, what is the biggest difference you notice between the digital arts and academic communities?

The biggest difference I've found between these two realms is that the academic community lives outside of reality. When you move between academics, everything is—in theory—possible. In practice, the theories face reality, and you realize the gap that separates thse two worlds.


I would like it if the academic world was a little more realistic, and the practical world was more idealistic.


Beyond the medium, are there overarching themes or messages behind your paintings? Do they exist together, or as individual, self-contained works?

It may seem hard to believe, but you are the first to ask me that.

The vast majority of my paintings speak about the relativity of existence. Everything, absolutely everything, is relative. Nothing is forever. Even the hardest rock in the world will become dust in a million years. The reality we know today ceases to exist every second. That's why I paint dematerializing objects. The rest of my paintings are metaphors inspired by my own experiences.

Can you tell me about the most difficult painting you've ever made?

Some paintings are harder than others, but I remember one that was especially difficult for me: Breakfast Light.

This was my second digital painting and the first hyperrealistic one. (And a big headache!)

What's the biggest advantage to being a tablet finger painter?

Being able to work anywhere. My studio fits in a backpack!

Finally, what's next for you?

I would love to work full-time on my digital finger paintings. Right now, I have many interesting proposals on the table… I think I'm very close to getting my dream. Now I have to work hard to get it.

Black Hole

Old Fox

Almost Human

Long Wait

Lynx Pardinus


Visit Jaime Sanjuan's website to view his full collection of paintings, and his prints page to buy a piece of detailed digi-surrealism of your very own.



Intricate Pixel Art Peels Back The Layers Of Imaginary Worlds

"Artistect" Fuses The Styles Of Legendary Painters And Iconic Architects

Retro-Future Robots Populate These Detailed Sci-Fi Paintings

Hand-Drawn Animation Combined With A Cell Phone Creates Unique AR Cartoons