Pygoya (Rodney Chang)

November 17, 1999


Good digital art, like any other art, or fine cuisine prepared by a master chef, must above all be pleasing. To be pleasing usually also means tasteful, here meaning provoking sensory sensations that are satisfying to most everybody else. Not pleasant for the weird exception with unpredictable behaviors but to the public at-large, especially those who can judge best for us all. The connoisseur of the arts, the critic who elucidates for the rest of us whether our senses are correct.

Make art that appeals to the majority especially if one starts with the computer, some who may consider such an unorthodox tool for making art as potentially offensive to one's values of good taste. The young begin by throwing everything into the pot with no sense of proportion, creating graphics that may shock the eyes instead of placate the mind. But the master chef of digital imaging carefully prepares a subtle new look to bridge the uninitiated towards new servings of art that now emerge through the evolution of culture through mediation by high technology.

A simple place to start in cooking up acceptable digital art is to start with the basics.  Gain control of the elements that make up the final image, including a solid dose of understanding and practice of the same principles of any refined art, such as control of the elements of composition. You know, art school stuff like color theory, perspective, shading, texture, balance and rhythm of line and form. Only through practice, practice, practice, feedback, feedback, feedback, will the beginner eventually perform sophisticated work. But at the beginning why worry about that ultimate outcome, there is so much art to produce along the way. Enjoy the social acculteration of the budding artist through entering contests, winning awards, remaining unnoticed, getting rejected. Give cynical art critics a reason to earn their keep. Make audacious visual statements without good technique, revolt against acknowledged standards of quality -  that has become boring to you. Play, shock, get depressed, fly into a rage, and learn from your mistakes.

A simple dishing out of acceptable digital art pleases the eyes of just about anybody. Even the pitiful spectator, who relentlessly places his grasp for "appreciation" of an abstract work solely  on the discovery of "what is it?" (subject matter), can be unconsciously seduced into feeling free floating pleasantness by the work's successfully composed visual elements. Through such hedonistic stimulation can any work of art, digital or traditional, be worthy to be framed, hung and lived with. Careful attention to detail with seasoned practice, sprinkled with adequate dedication and persistence, can make the building up of blocks of visual components add up to something more than the whole. Taken in all at once, the constituted work of art is a visual delight, a beauty in its own right.

The digital artist should keep in mind that a work of art can be enjoyed even further if it there is a conscious effort to place it within a context or situation of experience. There is sometimes a let down when the same work is purchased and displayed in one's own home. Somehow, once removed from the glamour, the perfected gallery setting of viewing fine art, the colors appear dull and energy seems draining from the piece, especially if now lit under glaring florescent tubes of light! As a participant enjoy  digital art within the gallery setting with all its formalities, given approval of this type of image as really real art. The opening is especially special as a well-heeled group, pampered with fine food and wine, communally bestow the rite of passage of computer pictures as accepted fine arts. Go back to the cyberstudio, be inspired with the dream of your work someday also exalted in such a ceremonial situation. Enjoy the special mix of digital selections, like those in the India lst Digital Art Exhibition, where the privileged, the fortunate, the distinguished can sample the best entrees from around the world, all selected by a connoisseur  who is capable of  isolating excellence from mediocrity. Trust in his taste, sample  his own special visual recipes.

As you get pass the basics of reading the manual, knowing how to use the computer effectively as a paint brush, get to a higher consciousness. How? Don't try to know everything. Don't try to control everything. Don't knick pick. Don't get cross-eyed blending every stray pixel. Don't become a technician and devote too much of your time chasing better equipment instead of just improving with the old computer and programs you already own. Be open to unexpected visual effects, hidden bugs in how graphic software works, keep marks and processing effects that the programmers of your tool can't figure out how you derived. Cut and paste these with other accidental visual effects not predictable by the manual. Through the years, start to understand, feel, move with an invisible connectivity of all your works. Respect your past work instead of calling it "my student" or "early" works. Each and every creative effort is a link to evolving to a higher level of success for you digital art, like any other art form. Things remain in one's work over time, other visual elements disappear, become extinct as its triviality becomes evident after the initial excitement of discovery wanes over time. There is a true progression of developing digital works as one evolves along with the hardware, software, techno-culture and personal digital craft abilities. Don't quit stewing digital visuals until your taste is perfected! Have confidence that your self criticism leds to refinement over the parade of work executed that will eventually evoke the same aesthetic experience from an audience. Your sour grapes will eventually turn into sweet wine - if you have the talent to create a new brand of digital fine art.

Once you build up and deliver the perfect tasting digitals, there is the opportunity to help the public norm move up in standard. Only then can digital imagery gain respect and be acceptable as another fine arts medium. If the work looks awesome, the threat of the new, the risk of machines taking over the job of making our art, is tempered by the public's appetite to embrace the new. So it's foreign, nothing like the oils and marble we learned long ago as the definitives of "art." So it has nothing to do with indigenous bordered cultures anchored by generations of heritage and devotion. If the imagery is strong enough we can all rise together to a new level of aesthetic experience through the expanded integration of reality of emerging technologies, of living in this new shrinking world, one that now suddenly brings "computer artists" from around the world to our doorsteps. Comingling of cultures, history, art media and a global changing of the times requires an adaptation in our philosophy of art. Ignore this and be threatened to be personally left behind in the fading millenium. Enjoying the isolation of looking at old pictures in old ways is not for everybody, especially the young of the world, now being weaned on computers, eyes hungry for new aesthetic stimulation.

The good artists works evolve by being attuned to things that cause conflict to established traditional tastes. That norm of art media include no computer graphics today in many parts of the world. In commercialized areas of the planet, the computer, as art tool,  has been considered a monkey wrench causing havoc under the hood of the art world. It has been quarantined out of the established art world for over decades, terminally diagnosed not really a  fine art but a flash-in-the-pan form of commercial art. But in reality there is no actual boundary between the aesthetic and non-aesthetic. Man has always been creative enough to invent new art from new tools. In fact, new tools make new art make new tools.  For example, first generation PCs beget low resolution prints which in turn necessitated the need for better computer printers.   Even as today's digital imagery attempts to mimic the appearance of traditional art media, there lies on the horizon the glimmer of hope that new visualization of concepts, feelings and experiences can emerge from the computer, making it totally irrelevant which tools/art medium was used to spring forth their revelation.  This is where we hope to be in 2000+