In Retrospect, After 25 Years as Computer Artist

Rodney Pygoya Chang
June 30, 2009

      I first discovered the personal computer as a promising "art tool" in 1984.  It is now 2009.  I have been committed over this period of my life, dedicated to see how far I could go as an artist, using the PC, in developing my personal style of fine art.  Boy, did the 25 years just fly by!
     I am in a wonderful place (in a mental sense) today.  I am master, with the assistant of digital technology, at producing beautiful artworks, requiring a minimum of my personal time, through a systems approach that incorporates team collaboration.  In other words, I have arrived at a station of life whereby in less than half and hour of my time, I can create a masterpiece (at least for the realm of digital arts) at will.
     After 25 years of effort, it all boils down to a cookbook version for making art in the digital age:  photograph, play with software, hand paint the printout, re-digitize with a digital camera, print a test proof, edit with software, then produce the final archival quality Giclee print.  Step by step, quality of end product predictable.
     So why did it take this long to get to this methodology of producing consistent quality and innovative imagery in the arts?  
     First, it took decades for the hardware and software to improve from crude graphics better suited for business bar graphs and pie charts to the current software capability of photo-realistic simulation of physical reality.  Second, there was no Internet until 1996 for artists to setup cyber-studio sites and be able to network globally with other artists.  Third, it took time to develop person style as an artist, not just technically but philosophically as I personally experienced  the different ages of maturity as a human being.   Fourth, and I think most importantly, has been the struggle of confining my effort with digital imagery to meeting the expectations of the traditional arts and its institutions.   My personal interest in the digital medium has also been to "bridge traditional painting with digital art."  Such a narrow scope for my application of digital technology also pressures me to always move my art closer towards its oil-on-canvas or watercolor-on-paper brethren.
     I was active in art installations and performance early on in life.  For example, the dental-disco environment of "Da Waiting Room," the ghetto graffiti warehouse Soho too Gallery & Loft,  the "Pygoya House" more suitable as a museum than as a family residence, dancing (1978-2006) as the famous "Disco Doc," and performing  in the "Harmonics," a 60s award winning rock band in Honolulu.  But when the Internet arrived, I created my last "place" to experience art, online at "Truly Virtual Web Art Museum," at
     As I continued to pursue my art ambition, I had other roles and responsibilities to fulfill, such as doctor, father, husband. investor.  I am fortunate in being successful at finding inspiration for making art through non-art activities, for example, marathon running.  I used art to prolong my marathon running "career," photographing courses in search of suitable scenery for digital artworks.  In this case, I used art as the motivating factor to keep running many marathons a year after the age of 60.   Combining art with ordinary life activity sprouted (2005-2009).
     What comes next?  I discovered a few years back that even without a computer, my occasional traditional brush paintings have a digital feel to it.  Maybe, in the twilight of my life,  the challenge might be to stop using the computer and return to painting and sculpture using only traditional media.  If I choose this life path as artist, there is the possibility that these works may have cultural significance because within the paint, stone, clay or metal, the digital aesthetic sensitivity of the artist continues to emerge and contribute to the overall aesthetics of the works.  But then again, this would mean divorcing my life-long lover,  my beloved personal computer, which is just unimaginable.



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