The Evolving World of Digital Art

While purists may express disdain, digital art has become an undeniably significant presence in the art world – and in the public conscious. We are surrounded by technology; it has become not only ubiquitous but a seamless, ingrained part of modern life. Digital art is simply work that uses technology at some point in its creation, presentation, or both. As technology evolves, so too does the artwork inspired and created by it.

A Quick History of Digital Art

While innovators have churned out technological advancements at a fast and furious pace in recent years, digital art is actually much older. In the 1980s, for example, Andy Warhol used a Commodore Amiga to transform an image of Debbie Harry (perhaps better known as the blonde songstress who fronted for the band Blondie) into an iconic technicolor work.

In fact, though, the digital art movement began even earlier. In the 1950s, for instance, Ben Laposky manipulated electronic waves using an oscilloscope. The waves were transmitted to a small screen; using long exposure photography, Laposky recorded the undulating, constantly moving waves. The result: large large photo printing make it look more natural that captured something no one else had, a fraction of a second in time made permanent.

For those who consider “real” art to be limited to paintings and sculptures of the masters, it is important to recognize that digital art has a long and rich history of innovation. Of using tools – like the oscilloscope or the Amiga – in new and fresh ways. Of seeing the world in a unique way and seeking to share that view with others. That, really, is the heart and soul of art, whether it is created with a paintbrush or a piece of high-tech software.

Today digital artists from Chris LaBooy and Victor Oritz to Obery Nicholas and Alberto Seveso are gaining wide recognition in the art world and beyond. And that, more and more, includes exhibits and shows at museums and galleries all over the world.

Digital Museums

Paris: the City of Lights – and of art. The Musee d’Orsay. The Louvre. The Modern Art Museum of the City of Paris. Musee Rodin. The city is a veritable feast for art lovers who crave the beauty of ancient art and modern masterpieces. But Paris is also home to the innovative and high-tech L’Atelier des Lumières.

The museum occupies a 19th Century foundry on Rue Ste. Maur. The massive building is industrial chic with concrete and steel elements. Inside is a world filled with Chagall, Klimt, Bosch, and other luminaries of the art world. Their works will be digitized and projected onto the walls; the effect brings visitors into the paintings as they walk through light and shadows cast by the masterpieces.

L’Atelier des Lumières will also feature a customized, original soundtrack that complements the artwork. The total effect is one of immersion into the work. Strolling through is an experience that occupies and engages all of your senses.

Set to open in 2017,  L’Atelier des Lumièreswill offer patrons a new way to look at and interact with art. It combines “traditional” mediums with technology to stunning effect. The Paris iteration will be quite similar to Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux-de-Provence. In 2012, the digital museum opened with an exceptional “Gauguin, Van Gogh the Painters of Color” exhibit. It features 100 video projectors and 100 servers; with coordination from a production computer, images are projected onto the walls in full HD. 3D audio is customized for the location, creating high-quality sound so visitors can enjoy the bespoke soundtrack with pristine clarity no matter where they are.

As a review in Conde Nast Traveler points out:

Not only do the size and scope of the exhibits allow viewers to better appreciate the depth and richness of the works; but the multimedia angle may also help generate enthusiasm for a younger set by playing on several of the senses rather than one, and making art education a more active, and more interactive, experience.

Tools of the Digital Art Trade

It’s not the tools that make the artist; it’s the imagination, the insight, the willingness to take risks or express themselves through their medium. Warhol created magic with a Commodore! Artists use the tools to which they have access. That said, there are some important supplies that can help digital artists create.

Today, there is a wide variety of tablets that while not an exact match to the sketchbook of the past is a slim-lined, portable tool that enables artists to capture ideas anywhere. Add a stylus, digital pen, or blue tooth-enabled brush, and you have the tactile experience that is so important to many creators.

Software also plays an important part in the process. Adobe Photoshop is, of course, a widely used tool. As well, there is a number of other art programs and apps to help artists do everything from sketch and paint to integrate special effects or work on perspective and posing.

Again, it’s not the tool that makes the artist – but in the right hands, these tools can help create magic.

Digital art continues to evolve. In some cases, such as  Carrières de Lumières and  L’Atelier des Lumières, it integrates more traditional modes of art with highly sophisticated new tools. In other cases,
the art is created solely from digital means. No matter what,  though, it has the ability to keep viewers guessing – and wanting for more.