The Master’s Touch
Main Street, a digital dead end

 (see artwork below)

By Rodney Pygoya Chang, digital painting designer

  February 28, 2008


     Not many critics can criticize the craftsmanship of the oil on canvas painting entitled “Main Street.”   I, the “creator” of the piece, had it executed with the finest traditions of photo-realism in mind and in intent.  Truth to what was captured by the camera was strictly adhered to.  Note the piece of litter on the left curve of the street (below corner of building in left foreground).  It’s in the artist’s opinion a fine documentary of life, as it now exits, in Pahoa town on the Big Island of Hawaii.

    But was the creation of a masterful depiction of this town scene the objective for undertaking this work?  Not by a long shot.  Was it to display my talent as a painter of realism?  Not so.  In fact, like the kid being judged for worthiness to get a gift from Santa in the film, “The Polar Express,” begs “I didn’t do it!” (bad behavior), I didn’t “paint” the picture.  But I claim authorship.  Through the stewardship of my creative process the world is rewarded another great artwork.  I don’t literally have to “do it” in my formulated creative process to wean fine arts from the digital realm.

    Here’s how I do “do” it.  The scene was captured with a digital camera as I rode in a car through town.   Then I had fun “photo-manipulating” the scene until it echoed my sentiments, felt frozen forever in time, and elicited a sense of nostalgia for the disappearing of Small Town America (due to the changing global economy).  Taking out the specifics of time of day, specific place, and the bright and gaudy colors of this funky tourist street, I deemed the result successful in the creation of a generic American scene, quickly becoming extinct in the 21st century.  

     Ok, so much for the romantic reason and attraction others have for this work of art.  Now how about fine art issues, such as turning over a photograph to somebody to paint as collaborator?  For a buck?

     Here’s the way I see it.  I prefer to do my own thing, adhere to the digital abstract where I’m in complete control. No leaning on Mother Nature to provide me subject matter that assists others to understand.  Pure integration of color, shapes, forms, space, and light, albeit of the digital kind, not paints on a tangible surface.  Like classical music the beauty is captured in the interplay of such fundamental compositional elements.  No need for lyrics, or here, subject matter as a guiding narrative.

     Here’s the point, the true reason why this realistic painting breaks new ground.  Heaven knows so many other works have been rendered at this level of photographic realism.  So that’s not the criteria as far as I am concerned that determines its aesthetic worth.  (Nice picture, though, quite soothing and nostalgic.)  But the artistic “statement” is this - through digital tools, such a work can be materialized effortlessly.  I click; I push and pull, collage in Photoshop, then farm out the digital file to be rendered by a “human printer.”  Without a digital “blue print” file the painting craftsperson wouldn’t have anything to “copy.”  The skill level of my staff is so masterful that the reproduction (the oil on canvas) is identical to the original digital image.  Well, almost.

     This particular piece does have another innovative perspective.  I choose to include the dashboard of the old car to defy formal standards of portraying the classical landscape.  The viewer rides along in the automobile, eliciting both a sense of transience as well as unimportance of the moment.  This isn’t a heroic moment like the Marines planting the flag at Iwo Jima.  Nah, just a tourist passing through town, taking a “quickie” snapshot to record this moment of his trip.  (At that moment, little did I know it would become this famous “painting.”)   This attempt to capture an insignificant or mundane moment makes the painting kindred to the earlier Pop Art movement.

     Now in my process I then take it to the professional print shop, have the painting redigitalized to a massive 100+-megabyte size digital file.  This enables me to produce huge 40x50 inch giclee prints.  By magnifying the scale I then can exhibit “Main Street” at a size much larger than my itty-bitty 17-inch monitor.  In a lush and expensive looking frame, I then welcome the digital simulation of reality (Nature), veiled as a painted imitation, to the brick and mortar world where I, the apartment wall, and my couch exist.

Main Street - Pygoya, 2008


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