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February 08, 2012

Artists Use Live Skype Chats for Inspiration

By Amanda Ciccatelli, Web Editor

Skype (News - Alert), founded in 2006, is the global online video tool that has forever changed how we communicate with each other. The videoconferencing program has many uses, including artistic inspiration. Some artists have even found Skype to be a creative outlet.

According to, Scottish actor Sandro Kopp recently held an exhibition called “There You Are,” a solo show of portrait paintings at Lehmann Maupin gallery in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The portraits were painted from live Skype chats rather than photographs.

The exhibition featured several facial close-ups, slightly abstract and hazy. There were portraits of celebrities like R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, Chinese performance artist Zhang Huan and actress Kirsten Dunst.

Painting via Skype was a chance for Kopp to connect with people, according to Kopp’s first Skype painting was of Indian-American jewelry designer Waris Ahluwalia. states that Kopp works to replicate as closely as possible the image he sees on the computer screen including the blocky abstraction. He finds there to be immediacy to the picture because you’re not distracted by too much detail.

The colors of the portraits also reflect the digital context. Several of the portrait subjects are illuminated only by the cold, blue light of a laptop display. Kopp aims to combine a “super old-fashioned medium” like oil painting with something contemporary.

Barbara Muir is a Canadian portrait artist who sketches Skype images for a living. According to her website, she was given the opportunity to draw Oprah Winfrey via Skype.

Muir began by sketching her son while on a video call. Later, she sketched portraits of her friends and posted them daily on her blog. According to, her work caught the attention of freelance journalist Howard Wolinsky who interviewed Muir and posted the video on Youtube, ultimately opening doors for her. She was soon invited to sketch guests at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and even Oprah Winfrey.

Skype’s main purpose is to connect with people through video no matter the distance, however, creating art through videoconferencing allows artists to use technology to design more cutting-edge and creative work.

Edited by Stefanie Mosca
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