Rodney Chang



Creating art on the computer is not for all artists. One must give up direct manipulation of art materials, such as paint, clay or stone. by pressing typewriter-type keys, moving an electronic "pen" or even a "mouse," the artist creates his images. Even the location of the resulting mark is not where the manual force is applied; it appears at the distant monitor screen. Aesthetic marks are made almost as cleanly and swiftly as the act of a competent surgeon. Through both careful serial thinking and impromptu intuition the works develop, pending both on the cerebral process of the thinking artist and the automation of professional quality graphic imaging.

Unlike the painter or sculptor who cannot turn back from mistakes during the evolution of a work, the computer-based artist can easily delete elements of the developing work, even save unfinished works that can be later developed into a series of variations from a common visual theme. One picture, one idea, leads to a ramification of other experimental possibilities. With a developed eye, the artist can then edit his efforts to lead further up the ladder to works that demonstrate heightened sensitivity for his medium.

Unlike paints and sculptural materials that remain timelessly suitable substances with which to communicate, personal computer software has a very limited aesthetic shelf life. The competition among cheap graphic software in the personal computer market is fierce. This is fortunate for the artist who thrives on accelerated change, for unlike any other media, constant new material (software packages and hardware upgrades, including different computer hardware brands) beckon to be purchased and explored. A computer artist's work would quickly begin to look dated if he or she did not continue to expand the graphic software collection. In fact, the way I see it, every computer artist who keeps up with the offerings of technology for the personal computer records, in his works, the history of the development of graphic software technology, of computer fine art.

The limitation for computer art, at the present, seems to be the output end. New visual effects continue to become within the means of the computer artist. However, he must still resort to traditional printing means to present and sell his artwork. Bridging the computer monitor image with photography and fine art printmaking weigh down the computer artist with the same large production costs of the traditional artist. He is additionally burdened with the maintenance and constant upgrade of his computer system. Presentation is definitely the economic bottleneck for the computerized artist. The first generation image, that displayed and designed on the monitor, is always the richest; the monitor image is, at this state of the art, an "emperor" without clothes."