MEET THE DEVELOPER
The minds behind Procreate
The creation of an App Store design great.
Sketch, paint, create.
When global hotbeds of app development are discussed, Tasmania is not likely to come up. And yet this Australian island is home to Savage Interactive, the developers of the hugely popular painting app Procreate.
Adopted by artists and illustrators across the globe, Procreate can frequently be seen in use by well-renowned fashion illustrators on the front row at New York fashion week and is the tool of choice for many of Instagram’s most followed artists. It was even used by artist Kyle Lambert to draw the promotional poster for Stranger Things.
But it all began in Tasmania's capital, Hobart, where Savage Interactive was founded by James Cuda. He had spent six months exploring and painting the island's unspoilt wilderness before becoming a freelance designer, creating websites.
A chance encounter with young developer and neighbour Lloyd Bottomley created an alliance that was poised for something big, and the launch of the iPad in 2010 created just the opportunity. Cuda combined his creative and entrepreneurial talents with Bottomley's coding skills to create Procreate for the iPad.
“I’ve always had this idea that whatever life is, it has to have some meaning, and for me personally, having the ability to make someone’s life a little bit better, is huge,” explains Cuda.
After more than 100 design reviews and three complete rebuilds, the small team rolled-up projects from the web development business and with AU$20,000 (around US$15,000), set about creating Procreate.
For Cuda, this leap of faith was a logical decision: “I grew up quite poor... so for me, risking everything was a very natural thing, because I thought ‘Well if it doesn’t pay off, hey, I’ve been here before and I’ll be fine’.”
“I’ve also had a fiercely independent streak in me since I was a young boy,” he adds. “So I think, that my ability to not only take the risk but to enjoy the risk, coupled with a personality that loves to be completely free and independent, means I didn’t have a choice, really. I felt like I needed to do it.”
Thankfully, the gamble did pay off. Greeted with immediate interest from designers and artists, the app has gone from strength to strength through regular iterations and innovations, including the synchronisation with the Apple Pencil.
With Procreate, Cuda has developed a new medium for art: “Procreate gives you all these ‘super powers’ that you can’t get with traditional media,” he says, “it challenges what art is. That’s the power of the digital medium.”
Now with 17 employees, the studio is housed in an inconspicuous building in North Hobart, the hipster part of town, with trendy coffee shops galore.
Cuda feels strongly about keeping the studio here, wholly owned and operated. He’s confident that if the app is good enough, the financials will look after themselves. He’s not in it for the money after all; this is art.
Continuing to fulfil his aim of creating a meaningful, useful tool to help people explore their creativity, Procreate Pocket – a streamlined version of Savage’s iPhone app – has just been re-released.
From his small studio at the end of the earth, Cuda’s laser focus on Procreate continues to be a gift to artists the world over.