poor people,our healthcare system, the environment, the workplace,
poor people,our healthcare system, the environment, the workplace,
A couple of weeks ago I attended a presentation by Digital Painter Bert Monroy. Bert wrote the first book I ever saw and used about computer art. It was a tips and tricks book for Photoshop 1.0! I loved that book. Bert demonstrated how to paint photo-realistically in Photoshop. I devoured every tutorial (how to paint glass, metal, chrome, etc.) and his book set me off with a thirst for experimenting with painting in the computer. I was still in college – art grad school – at the time and already knew that I had the computer bug and would somehow be a computer artist and digital storyteller. This was around 1990!
25 years have gone by and it was fascinating to see the different paths our art has taken. Like Bert, I was originally fascinated by how I could create all the objects in a digital painting on a separate layer – this allowed me to move things around and change / edit objects very easily because everything was always a separate piece on its own layer in the master file. I did not flatten (meld all the layers) the file until I was ready to make a print version, and always kept the master file with its layers intact, too. But, over the years, I grew tired of having such huge files as layers went from a few to a few hundred in a painting (the more advanced computers became, the more layers – larger file size – we could work with). I also began to notice that once a painting was finished, I never went back to its layered file like I had thought I would. Eventually, I gave up that layering technique. Really the last painting I painted all on layers was Digital Olympia (which I will link to here when I have a minute). That was a 60 inch wide digital painting printed on a huge piece of water color paper and displayed so far only once at the Digital Eclectic group show at the Art Institute of Hollywood around 2010. It was very high resolution, and had to be printed that large to see the details I had painted into it – like all the facets on the stones in the model’s ruby necklace.
I still use layers – but for different purposes now: for instance, I might paint the shadow of a face on a layer above it, or I might apply an effect to one layer and then meld that layer with another. But today, I have developed different digital techniques, and I treat my digital canvas more as a canvas: I commit most of my art moves to one layer, and if I don’t like it, I undo it or start again.
Bert Monroy, meanwhile, demonstrated the other night how he has taken layer work to the ultimate. His files are HUGE, he still paints every object on a separate layer, and he showed us one painting that had 70,000 layers. Ayee! What he now has to do, just to keep track of everything, and to make the size manageable even with our way more powerful computers, is to create each object in a separate file. So, for instance, in a city scene, one lamppost will be in its own file, and contain hundreds or thousands of layers. Rather than flattening one big layered file at the end, when he is ready to print, he actually has to assemble a printer version from all the separate files. Wow. Yes, our process paths have definitely diverged.
I admire his work still – but I see it as more “constructivist” to my “painterly.” If you go to his website, you will see billboard sized paintings at extremely high resolution. Zoom into them and you realize that what he has done is to capture all the minute detail of his objects thanks to the ability to paint at such high resolution today. He builds a digital painting like an architect and contractor construct an elaborate building. I, on the other hand, have abandoned that construction aspect of creating digital paintings and turned to a more painterly approach – one that makes use of all the digital options that are not available when painting in oil on canvas. For me now the purpose of painting is more about the meaning, the feeling, the ambience, the composition, than the construction.
This is not to demean Bert’s constructivist technique at all – what strikes me is that the world of digital art has actually grown quite sophisticated over the last 20-30 years, yet the public and art critics still think of it as a new thing! There is an entire history of style, technique, evolution that really should be documented – but I don’t think much of that is being done. Bert is touring for Adobe Software, not the Metropolitan Museum. Most of us working in this world have been so passionate about our working that we have spent little time making it public; there is also, of course, the fact that there was so much prejudice about digital (computer) art in the early days that many of us kinda pulled out of the mainstream art world – they didn’t want us in their club, so some of us retreated and just worked making art (an in my case, writing interactive multimedia books and composing music, too). I am posting this art and story so at least I have made an effort to document more of digital art’s history.
You can find Bert’s amazing work at bertmonroy.com.
The painting I am posting here is one I painted this month for my Calendar Month Series in Bert’s honor (it’s on one layer): October 2015 – iPhone and Coffee.
I once heard a woman say that no woman would have a second child if our minds were able to remember the pain and process of childbirth. Well, I think moving is kind of like that. I am in the last throes of a move, and really looking forward to getting back on track with the creation and publishing of my upcoming interactive multimedia iBook, Light 2.0 (see mediabench.com), plus related music performances and art shows. And, of course, back to my RiffingOnBooks blog.
When most people talk about the pain of moving, they are not referring to what a new media artist goes through! Not only did I move my living space, but my multimedia studio space as well – with all its computer gear, music gear, art gear, writing space and files, and the accompanying supplies and work. I am happy to report that the move is almost complete.
Of course, I set up my computer system first. Still have to hook up all the music gear. And this morning I had space to practice my guitar for the first time. Feeling rusty. But I love my new place and look forward to many hours of creation to be spent here.
Outside one of the rooms’ windows is a giant oak tree, which makes me happy because I love looking out to nature, but also because it reminds me of my roots in Northern California – where oak trees are abundant. My cat, Salomé is also in cat heaven with unlimited squirrels to keep an eye on all day!
I have so many stories to continue now! I will post more images of my Digital Eclectic art show, which runs through June 17 and had its reception last week. I will get back to riffing on Proust Was A Neruoscientist, too. And on to the new books I am reading – by Freeman Dyson and I’ve started Cutting For Stone as well as reading more books on Learner-Centered teaching (of which I am a big proponent). In the meantime, I am doing some new music work. Performing with Goh Kurosawa and a few other friends at the Fireside Concert Series in Newbury Park on June 10, and, you understand – I need to spend some time practicing!
Sometimes one life lived by a multimedia/new media artist, me, casts a shadow over another of her lives. I don’t refer to a dark, negative cast. More like a temporary solar eclipse. In this case, my art is eclipsing my book riffing. But instead of disappearing from my literary blog until the eclipse passes, I thought I’d bring my art world into this space temporarily. I have, after all, been riffing a great deal lately about creativity and science. And my “whole” as a creative person plays a large role in my riffing on any subject.
A month ago some of the students in the WEB and interactive media design department I manage came to ask me to visit their sound design class. They wanted me to see the interactive sound boxes they were building with their instructor, Mike Winter.
About the same time, at one of those interminable and political staff meetings that one often sees played out in movies and novels about academia, one of the directors of another department at the college commented that we directors should not call students when they receive bad grades or have attendance problems, because the students perceive of a call from a director as a negative, authoritarian thing. He was making a case, instead, for peer or faculty mentoring, and believed the students would be more likely to answer and respond positively to a phone call from someone other than a director.
I did not speak up in response to his proclamation at the time because I was in one of those non-participatory moods. I was, rather, in an observational mood, and what I was observing was how he so easily convinced his audience of what I believed was faulty reasoning. Continue reading I curate a digital art show: Digital Eclectic