Digital Aesthetic v.2- Giordan on Graphics- | 2 | WebReference

Digital Aesthetic v.2- Giordan on Graphics- | 2


The Digital Aesthetic v.2 -

page 2


There is a very famous, if much overused quote where Pablo Picasso says that when he was a child, he could draw like a master, and he spent the rest of his life learning to draw like a child. This underscores the need for all artists to focus more on the expressive and emotive component of our art, and to spend less time cultivating craftsmanship. Picasso realized that many artists were brandishing technical skill and virtuosity as the ultimate goal of their work, holding it up as a sort of validation of their right to call themselves an artist.

The computer allows the artist to focus more on the message, with less emphasis on the execution. The ability to render an image, choose color, scale, repetition of imagery, and lighting is handled so easily that it no longer becomes a question of how to do it, but indeed what to do. Making art is about making choices and establishing priorities, and the computer simply gets the encumbrances out of the way and lets the artist combine variables until his intentions are realized.

What would Picasso have done were he able to change direction in a painting while still retaining an exact copy of it? I am confident that someone like Picasso would have run to embrace digital media. The component that would have excited him, and that should excite the rest of us, is the computer's ability to help us work through ideas. He spent hours working through a piece, modifying and combining images in various ways until he got a sense of where a painting was going. He would then put the painting aside and start fresh, recreating the first paint on the second canvas after working through his intentions.

The act of combining multiple images and effects quickly allows for more intuitive and fluid access to visual images which in turn results in a more cohesive and articulate piece. Picasso defined himself as an artist, as someone interested in showing people how he saw the world, and telling us what was important to him. Digital art would have put the universe at his disposal, and he would have defined that universe as the world inside his head and heart.

I often find that I'm too easily satisfied by the first thing that that my computer spits about you?

Today's digital artist has the ability to click a mouse twice and open a program that someone else spent months or years developing. He then is able to appropriate an image and click the mouse once or twice more to apply a filter to that image which will result in breathtakingly beautiful effects. It is easy to be seduced by this effortless process, which could potentially result in a scenario where the computer manipulates the artist more than the artist manipulates the computer.

The intelligence is not artificial, and it does not rest inside of the computer, instead it rests in the skills of the programmers who created these amazing effects generators. As an example of this, a friend told me of a well-known computer art magazine that ran an art competition, soliciting work from digital artists across the country. Unlike many competitions of this sort where the winners simply get published, this competition was giving substantial cash awards amounting to thousands of dollars. Out of the hundreds of entries they received, one was chosen as the best of all, given a prominent place in the magazine, extolled for it¹s mastery, and of course, given the cash. It was only after the fact that the magazine learned that the ³designer² had created the piece by taking an image and applying only one filter to it, then printing it out. This approach, involving perhaps one or two mouse clicks, and precious little time or effort, was the approach given the prize. Whether this is a techno-version of an urban legend or not, the digital art community¹s eagerness to believe it underscores this issue.

While in art school, I took a painting class where the stated goal was to show the student how to recreate a famous painting. The instructor would tell the student what materials to buy, how to mix his paint, and in some cases even put the paint on the canvas or panel for him. This class was very educational for showing technique and giving a glimpse of other potential ways of working. It was never assumed that any creative capacity was being developed by the student, it was pure emulation. If my art school had only given courses like this one , it would have simply turned out artists who reiterated the works that had come before. All of the graduates would have been able to paint wonderful Rembrandts, Pollacks, and Rothkos, but would have been deficient in their ability to express their own individual creativity.

The artistic process seeks to reveal things that are hidden, to allow the individual to express himself honestly and accurately. In this search, the artist has always had to fight against being too easily satisfied. In elevating the caliber of digital art, the first thing to do is establish priorities. First and foremost is the fact that we are creating art rather than flirting with technology. Following that is the responsibility that all artists have in mastering their medium, and using it to do their bidding. Therefore, it is not my intention to dismiss computer effects books, or to denounce the use of filters and unique software applications. I merely wish to demystify their capabilities, and suggest that the creation of good digital art does not rest in owning the latest program. The digital art community needs to put more brains and heart behind the mouse. It needs to think , feel, and ultimately be more discerning about it's product.

I'll pick this thread up in the next installment....


Created: Nov. 1, 1998
Revised: Nov. 1, 1998