Kawai! Little jumping penguins from artist Taka designed for your mobile screen – thanks to FlashLite art.

Mobile Flash Art: cellphone as artistic platform

If you think of the mobile business – in terms of content most of it is – well – commercial, of course. But as with any business there is always a niche that finds its way and manages to avoid using it as a mere platform for marketing and selling content. One thing you might know for example is that in Japan you can easily watch NHK (national TV) on your mobile.

Written by Verena

But you might not expect that a cell pone can become a creative playground for designers, illustrators or animators: a platform for visual expression, though somehow small in size.

Up until now most people are used to take pictures with their mobile camera and use that as wallpaper. Thanks to FlashLite – an application that does all sorts of animated magic and is now so common on Japanese gadgets – artists take over this tiny screen and create their version of an animated wallpaper, screensaver or calendar. Or they even create designs for the menu trying to find new ways of customizing the mobile user interface.

What could that possibly look like? Here are some examples. PingMag talked to Tokyo-based Mao Sakaguchi about his mobile art project called Gendai Geijutu Hakurankai.


Gendai Geijutu Hakurankai’s website from a cellphone perspective.

Compared to other countries mobile entertainment is definitely huge in Japan. Meaning, in addition to using the phone solely for information or business matters there is a constant need here for new wallpaper designs and other forms of customization.

Mao: I just read the other day that the average high-school girl in Japan spends around 15 000 yen per month for mobile content. (about 99 Euro or 127 Dollars!). So if there is such a demand – why not making art for the tiny screen and show the kids that there’s more in it!

This April Mao’s newly founded project Gendai Geijutu Hakurankai started collecting Japanese illustrators, graphic designers, street artists or character designers to make cute little animated interfaces. Nevertheless it had taken him six months before he managed to convince the content provider GignoSystem Japan to engage in his mobile art collection.

Mao Sakaguchi checking designs by various artists on his mobile phone

Let’s take a visual walk then through his Gendai Geijutu Hakurankai project or this website and browse the list of currently 20 artists via the mobile. Mao found most of them through his exhibit space in his BBS TOKYO store, run by the designer clothing chain HP France and the New Yorker drum&bass shop Breakbeat Science.

Although many of the artists originated from illustration or street art they nevertheless liked to engage in FlashLite, too. However, there are still a lot of traditional ‘analogue’ artists Mao would like to convince to have a go in the world of mobile animation.

Baku’s Jang Ken Pong! as a mobile animation.

Mao: I want more collaborations between traditional drawing or painting artists and Flash people. At the moment we use Mixi to build up a private social network between artists of different genres and encourage them to exchange their art and improve the designs.

Here is a small selection of all the amazing mobile art created for Mao’s project:

Minimal graphics by Sapporo-based Baku Maeda: the illustrator and character designer made a cute little Jang Ken Pong! screensaver (the equivalent to the Western paper-scissor-stone game). He shows his stylistic variety moreover with cute geometric shapes, on the other hand he designs jagged screen menus (see further below).


Baku

the characteristic torn pandas from Nagi Noda found their way to the mobile

Kiyoshi Kuroda is active in both: commercial design and art. He recently did a live painting at Design Tide and on December 2nd you can watch him draw delicate ornaments during the opening of his solo exhibition at Nanzuka Underground.

Kiyoshi Kuroda

Ogi Graphics

Kenji Matsuda

Now there’s someone that brought the It! Girl to the mobile screen: After studying in the US, Ogi Graphics combines Graffiti with collage-like drawings of cool women. Furthermore he is designing toys.


JYNX

Another artist that designs tastefully for the tiny little screen is Kenji Matsuda: His mixture of photographs with graphics or ilustrations match the simple dashes and dabs of paint. Often he uses strong colours like black, white and yellow, as you can see below in his floral girl illustration.

JYNX is yet one more Graffiti artist that delightfully transfers street art into colourful paintings, e.g. an animated screensaver.

Baku Maeda was already featured earlier. Here he shows his funny new interface designs based on the idea “Why not turn the banal menu options of your phone into cute little boxes?”


Baku’s menu design

Shunsuke Kanosue’s interface

Shunsuke Kanosue aka The 7th Brother – the animation director and motion graphic artist explores new ways of mobile interface design. For him a mobile menu is not just a simple user interface. His stylized version of grass has menu options represented by hopping rabbits, all embedded in a strong colour arrangement of black and green.


Another menu from Shunsuke Kanosue.

Camouflage by Shunsuke Kanosue

Pushing away the usual “based on grind”- menue structure Shunsuke Kanosue creates interfaces in an intuitive freestyle design. He positions the menu options freely on an animated scenery, a tree with deer moving in the back.

For another menu , he chose a camouflaged surface that reveils the option if you move the pointer over each item. Check out his website to see the animations in action.


MHAK!!

Graphic designer MHAK!! does also a lot of live painting and Graffiti style. His animated wallpaper with delicately falling leaves for the autumn season was quite popular recently. It is a lovely combination of fragile flower patterns with dynamic Graffiti letters that serve more than an ornamental décor.

Famous for his use of rainbow colours or hip portraits of people with huge Afros: GEWGAW comes from street art and also likes to embark with minimalistic colours, like his screensaver showing the time surrounded by a vast industrial shore.


GEWGAW

Keita Takano

Keita Takano loves the little greedy monsters in a colourful setting, something of which you would never get tired of looking at on your little screen.

It is really worth taking a look Mao’s other great street artists that enrich your mobile screen, like the magnificent Kanako Anamachy or Ryo Ono.

Thank you Mao Sakaguchi for showing us what can be done in terms of mobile Flash art!

  • munchy

    thank you very much!!! i ve saved all and prepare to add some color and fun for my little hand phone!!

  • puri

    Since my Japanese is still poor, though I live in Tokyo, I had no idea that a cool service like this exists! Thanks for giving little pleasure to me everytime I take my mobile phone out.

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    The article is great, and the links very interesting… (despite I tend to get lost on them because I am clueless about Japonese). By the way, I have seen in a couple of places a strange black & white icon: http://web.peex.jp/gengei/archives/images/qr.gif
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