So what is Digital Fine Art?

A thoughtful article on what is digital fine art.
In the interests of stimulating some debate, I propose to attempt to
answer this question and then encourage you to email us your
reactions/feelings/ideas for publication.

I would define digital fine art as any art in which computer or digital
technology has been used in some part of the artistic process. This is
a very broad definition but a good one I think. One could be very
limiting and say that digital fine art is only that which is entirely
‘made’ using digital processes. Whilst this is also a valid definition
it is too narrow for our purposes here. Whilst I can foresee a point
where the word digital can be dropped and we can simply concentrate on
the art, not the technology of the process, we are not their yet. We
are at a point in time where some individuals have seen the potential
of digital technology in the artistic process but the vast majority
have not, or consider it too ‘easy’ to really be art.

Digital technology can be applied to the whole artistic process or to
only part of it. An example of the latter is the following. My wife is
a traditional decorative artist who tends to leave the digital side to
me. She was commissioned to do a large, quite complex painting that had
important issues of perspective and scale to resolve. Rather than doing
this in her more usual trial and error method I convinced her to
prototype the painting on the computer. To do this we scanned various
elements from books of photographs that were close to what she wanted.
We then played around with these, changing their size and perspective
until we had a mock-up of the painting that worked compositionally and
impact wise. We than printed this off as a reference and off she went
to paint in her usual acrylics. Here the end result is totally
non-digital yet an important roll was performed in the digital domain.
The same could have been achieved with pen and paper but the ease with
which we could reposition things and experiment greatly facilitated the
process and improved the end result.

Digital technology can be applied to any of these areas and processes of art:

o    Photography;

o    Painting and drawing;

o    Printing of the painting, drawing or photograph;

o    The physical painting of the artwork;

o    Planning;

o    Design of sculptures;

o    Production of sculptures;

o    Motion picture, video and animation work;

o    Lighting and sound for performance art.

The most important thing to remember is that you can incorporate as
much or as little digital technology into your art process depending on
what you feel comfortable with, what works with your vision and what
you can afford.

Further, we can divide digital fine art into a number of categories. As a working basis we can divide it into the following:

o    Algorithmic or mathematical art;

o    Digital replacement for natural media;

o    Photo-manipulation;

o    Digital Synthesis.

Algorithmic or mathematical art includes a number of areas of digital
art. We have all seen Fractal art, which was very popular for a while.
Other types of algorithmic art include initiatives in artificial
intelligence to allow computers to ‘paint’ and various programming
approaches to turning images into paintings (some of the Photoshop
filters, for instance). Some other authors include 3D art in this
category, arguing that the production of models of objects, the
positioning of lighting and the camera and then allowing the computer
to ‘render’ the scene by mathematically calculating the light/optical
effects puts it in the algorithmic category. I actually disagree with
them and, as we shall see, put 3D in a different category.

Digital replacement of natural media basically uses the computer to
emulate various ‘conventional’ artistic processes and materials. The
results of such work are frequently indistinguishable from ‘the real
thing’. The actual process of creating the work is effectively similar,
except that rather than brushes, a canvas and paints, we use a graphics
tablet, monitor and software. Digital natural media offer advantages
and disadvantages over the real thing. It can be far quicker to work,
easier to mix otherwise incompatible media, like oils and watercolours,
and the ready ability to correct mistakes leads to a bolder
experimental style. Also since the output is actually significantly
independent of the creation process, it is possible to later choose
things like the size of the work and the media it is printed on. The
disadvantages are that it is not real paint, the tactile sensations are
not there and the reality is that some techniques that are so natural
when working with natural media don’t translate well into the computer
(at least not yet).

Photo-manipulation is perhaps the most prevalent form of computer art.
In many ways this is also digital natural media because most of the
things that you can do to photographs in the computer could be done in
the darkroom, just usually more slowly and far more difficultly. The
most heavily commercial of the digital art areas, along with 3D, it
offers the challenge for surpassing the ‘play’ to be truly fine art.

Digital synthesis or what I would rather call ‘Holistic or Integrative
Art’ uses any and all techniques, including conventional ones, to get
the result you want. In this form, quite akin to ‘mixed media’ the end
result is what matters, not the ‘racial purity’ of the techniques used
to create it. My own preference for this type of art (and digital art
specifically) is that it puts the focus where it should be, on the
quality of the art, its message and how well it communicates it. Whilst
the media used has some relevance to a collector or gallery when
considering issues of permanence and suitable display and storage
conditions, it has, I believe, been too long used as a form of
selective snobbery.

In reality there are very few digital artists who work purely in one
mode. For example, when I was heavily involved in algorithmic art, I
would still commonly use photo-manipulation techniques on the resulting
images to finetune colour, contrast and composition. I would then often
use conventional techniques to arrange multiple images into one
‘piece’. This is also why I don’t put 3D art in the algorithmic
category alone. As an artist that works in this area I actually feel it
combines many techniques. It mixes sculpture, set design, industrial
design, photographic lighting and photography with digital natural
media painting, and mathematical art. I have also never seen 3D art
done well without post-production photo-manipulation. Thus it combines
so many forms of conventional art with all the forms of digital art.



So Where’s The Beauty?

A good friend of mine, Steve Danzig, and I were having a long ICQ chat
the other day and ended up discussing beauty in digital art. It had
occurred to me that when you look at a wide cross-section of digital
art it not only divides to into looks: beautiful and optimistic; and
dark, depressing and im
ages to cut your wrists by. Interestingly most
of the beautiful and optimistic appearing digital imagery that is not
kitsch lies in the mathematical art domain, whilst the dark imagery is
mostly photo manipulation and 3D. Is this a real perception? Does it
reflect the personality types of the people drawn to these differ
ent
approaches? Email in your thoughts.

The old examples of my algorithmic art show one type of such work.

THE BASEFIELD PROJECT: THE COMMONS

In the last two years, through the sale of donated artwork at the annual Basefield exhibition, they’ve raised over $15,000 for local children’s charities here in Melbourne.
Press Release

In the last two years, through the sale of donated artwork at the
annual Basefield exhibition, we’ve raised over $15,000 for local
children’s charities here in Melbourne. It is an amazing achievement
and a great thing that a group of individuals have created through
networking and community building!

Artists from Europe, North and South America and Australia have been
involved in past Basefield Projects.  Possible only in the cyber
age, Jade has fostered relationships online, selecting artists whose
works inspires and who share his passion to make a difference within
the community.  The work is often edgy, always original and has
its roots in the art of the streets.

Some of the amazing indviduals who have donated their work from the
last two shows have included: Evan Hecox, Paul Clark, Steven
Harrington, Lee Misenhiemer, Dmote, Delta, Tofer, Rinzen, Fafi, Derrick
Hodgson, Kev Grey, Niko Stumpo, Mike Giant, Geoff McFetridge, Tim
Biedron, Merda, Cody Hudson, Mr Jago, Dalek, Ben Frost, Richard Colman,
Travis Millard, Michael Leon, Sam Flores & Misery.

We are not stopping there, and the 2005 Basefield Exhibition is based
on the legendary Aesop’s Fables and will showcase over 80 artists from
around the globe. The exhibition will be known as The Commons, with
each artist receiving a small collection of Fables to explore in any
medium they choose.

This will be the third year that the Chapel have supported the
Basefield Exhibitions and this show is kind of special as it will be
the last time we will be exhibiting at the Chapel! Something exciting
is hopefully just around the corner, so add the date to your dairies,
planners, etc and we hope to see you at what we promise to be a thumper
of an exhibition, with more than one surprise!!!

This years artists include: Merda, Lee Misenheimer, Paul Clark,
Chistofer Chin, Richard Colman, Neasden Control Centre, Andrew Pommier,
Derrick Hodgson, Kev Grey, Mr Jago, Jeremy Fish, Andy Sargent, Robert
Mars, Tiffany Monk, Cody Hudson, Kyle Ranson, Travis Millard, Regular
Product, Andy Jenkins, Stormie Mills, Tobin Yelland, Nathan Jurevicius,
Chad Buckingham, Robert Hardgrave, Jon Burgerman, Ben Frost, Anthony
Skirvin, Kelly Tunstall, Luke Canning, Niko Stumpo, Josh Petherick,
Etsu Meusy, Vicki Wong, Karen Ingram, Dalek, Rick Froberg, Esao
Andrews, Dmote, Mike Giant, Steve More, & Remi Rough, Michael
Sieben, & Todd St. John, to name a few.

The Commons  will open – an occasion in itself – at the Chapel
Galleries on 27 July from 6.30pm and will remain on exhibition until 15
August. Chapel Galleries are located at 12 Little Chapel Street,
Prahran. The Galleries are open 12pm – 7pm weekdays and 10am – 5pm
weekends.

For further information about The Basefield Project visit www.basefield.com

David Ho

David Ho is a digital artist who creates very painterly images using Poser.
I became aware of David Ho’s art work preparing our coverage of the
2001 International Digital Art Awards. Again, while judging the 2002
IDAA this time, his work jumped out at me and screamed for attention.
Dealing with the inner, esoteric and personal aspects of life, David’s
work lives up to his motto: “the duty of an artist lies in making the
metaphysical physical”.

David is an American, born in New Jersey. At a young age he moved to
Taipei, Taiwan and awas there before moving back to the US during his
early teens to Northern California, where he lives to this day. Doing a
sociology degree at Berkeley, after graduation he decided to become an
artist so did another undergraduate degree in Art History and Fine Arts
at San Jose State University. So the sociology degree, and probably the
psychology studies that were part of it, plus the fine art degree has
provided the melting pot from which David creates his art. He works as
a freelance illustrator and graphic designer.

David Ho has been creating these digital fantasies for the past 8 years
now. He creates them for one reason only – to quiet his demons. Making
art is a form of self-therapy for him. He works on the Power Mac
utilizing software like Photoshop, Poser and Bryce. Many of the
textures you see in his works are traditionally created and later
scanned into the computer from his flatbed scanner. His works have
appeared in numerous publications including the Society of Illustrators
annuals, Spectrum Annuals, Design Graphics Portfolio issue, Chicago
Tribune, MacWorld Expo digital gallery, Step-by-Step illustration
annual, Applied Arts illustration annuals and more.

David’s way of working is most interesting. David uses Curious Lab’s
Poser and Corel’s Bryce to create his scenes in 3D. The rendered images
are then taken into Photoshop. Here David drops all the colour out of
his images, by converting to monochrome and then back to colour. Here
he adds textures, which he often paints conventionally and scans on a
flatbed scanner. By working in monochrome at this stage it allows him
to concentrate on composition, texture and lighting without the
distraction of colour. Once David is happy with the result he then hand
paints in colour (so easy to do digitally by painting colour on a
separate layer and setting the blending mode appropriately), taking
care to only enhance the message of the image by the subtle use of
colour.


Learning More

For those interested in learning more about his work you can visit his web site at http://www.davidho.com/

David also has a book out of his work, Shadow Maker – the digital art of david ho.

This book is a MUST READ. In 192 pages there are over 100 full colour
illustrations that do a wonderful job of showing his work. Unusually
for a book by a digital artist, David provides a five page step-by-step
guide to how he creates his images. I say unusually because most
artists are pretentious and secretive about how they do their work.
David is a truly nice guy and it comes over in his book. You can learn
a lot from this book.

I would call this one of the must have books of the year. You can buy
it direct from David via his web site www.davidho.com and I notice it
can also be bought from amazon.com. Help an artist who does great work
and buy a copy.