Pixel Palette

Published Date
01 - Apr - 2005
| Last Updated
01 - Apr - 2005
 
Pixel Palette
During the Renaissance period, artists such as Leonardo da Vinci attempted to observe, study, and recreate objects with a greater degree of realism than previously existed. Renaissance artists created lifelike images of people and animals, set against backdrops that presented the illusion of depth and distance-like in the famed Mona Lisa-by using certain stylised techniques.

Today, 21st century offerings such as Adobe PhotoShop, Corel Painter, Adobe Illustrator, 3D Studio Max, Macromedia Freehand and SketchPro are helping artists go where the palette and brush weren't able to-achieve a greater degree of realism as well as manipulate the 'real'-through the medium of digital art.

The term 'digital art' is expansive-it can refer to purely computer-generated art or digital image manipulation (synoymously used with terms such as 'retouching' or 'morphing') of images or scanned photographs created on vector-based programmes.

The Medium Is The Message
As a medium, computer-generated art has, and continues to evolve with technological advances.

While traditional art was confined to the canvas or paper, computer art can exist in different forms, such as images, an animated sequence, video, website, installation or 'kitsch' art forms. Photo manipulation is another emerging area of expression for digital artists.

Today, most advertisement banners (vinyl), animated films, and SFX sequences also employ variants of the digital art form. Digital art is an integral part of desktop publishing-consider  jacket-design for books and cover design and/or layout for magazines and other periodicals.

Many traditional artists view digital art as a poor substitute for 'real' art. But, as artist and assistant professor G V Sreekumar of the Industrial Design Centre (http://www.idc.iitb.ac.in/) at IIT-Bombay says, "The visual grammar of digital art is entirely different from traditional art forms. Artists shouldn't try and recreate the same styles or effects, but should treat the two media differently."

Artists like Sreekumar who first experimented with the digital medium several years ago still remember the Apple Macintosh fondly. "Back then we didn't have the WWW and relied on our own experiments with Mac." Sreekumar currently uses Photoshop CS, QuarkXPress, Macromedia Freehand and Fontographer.

IDC, which believes in intuition-based learning, conducts workshops on design software such as 3D Studio Max and Maya. Sreekumar himself uses "forums and the IDC Yahoo! Group" to keep himself up-to-date on the latest trends. Magazines such as Folio, Computer Arts, and Publish also offer valuable tips.

Today, digital artists have access to tools that offer a wide range of options-from colours to styles to layers, perhaps imbuing in them a greater urge to innovate. Artists such as Baiju Parthan (http://snipurl.com/dhio) for instance, work extensively on the digital medium.

Says Parthan, "Since there are several forms of media art that employ information technology in its various guises-such as interactivity, artificial intelligence, surveillance systems, and so on, I use the term digital art as a reference to art created on a computer and then printed out as hard copy."

Web Resources 
GFX Artists: www.gfxartist.com
CG Talk: www.cgtalk.com
Sijun: www.sijun.com
Surf Union: www.surfunion.com
CG Tantra (Indian CG Community): www.cgtantra.com
Furiae: www.furiae.com
Deviant Art: www.deviantart.com
Digital Art Museum: www.dam.org
ARS Electronica: www.aec.at/en/index.asp
Rhizome: www.rhizome.org
Leonardo Electronic Almanac: http://mitpress2.mit.edu/e-journals/LEA/

According to Parthan, aspiring digital artists ought to "browse the Web regularly, to stay abreast of recent developments. They should not be afraid of trying out new software and techniques, and should also have a fair understanding of the way information technology is reshaping our perception of the world."

Apart from a digital camera and a scanner, Parthan uses 3D graphics and image processing software to composite his digital prints. "When I work with media-based art such as interactive video installations, I depend a lot on Flash movies and action-script coding," he says.


Aspiring digital artists should not be afraid of trying out new software and techniques 
Baiju Parthan, Painter and Digital Artist

Shankar, a freelance designer based in Hyderabad nods in unison. He is quick to point out, "Digital art provides designers like me the opportunity to create paintings as authentic as those created by using a real brush. In addition, design software provides different textures, background lighting options, and many other useful features."

For instance, software such as Corel Painter offers options such as Pencil, Charcoal, Acrylic, Oil Paint, and Pastel to name a few which help recreate the brush-and-palette effect.

Cyber-Communities For The Digital Artist
While most artists assert that there is absolutely no substitute to self-learning, meaning fooling around with software and discovering new shortcuts and effects, cyber-communities are also a useful resource for the cubicle-bound design professional.

Digital art forums are akin to the Guru-Sishya tradition where commercial artists exhibit their paintings, critique others' works and offer useful tips. Online communities are a treasure-trove of data, software tips and tricks.

Designers, students of Fine Art, and commercial artists use the forums to interact with other artistes, enhance their skills, source projects, and offer invaluable guidance to their peers and newbies.

Photographers like Atul Sharma (http://www.atulsharma. com/), based in New Delhi, who use image-editing software for digital manipulation and enhancement, recommend Adobe's online tutorials. Read the manuals carefully; but after a certain stage, the artist has to experiment with the software. The more styles you try out,         the better your portfolio is      going to look.

International Web communities such as Deviant Art offer newbies a platform to exhibit their work. Art forums such as  CGTalk (www.gctalk.com), Sijun's Forums (http://forums.sijun.com), andSurfUnion   (www.surfunion.com) are also popular haunts for digital artists.

Guruspeak 
Sanjeev Kothari (www.sanjeevkothari.com) is a name to reckon with in the world of digital photography and imaging. Hailed by photographers and artists across the globe as one of the most talented photographers in the media today, Kothari has offered his expertise to Adobe in the development of Photoshop 3 and 4. Currently based in New York, Kothari's work has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, GQ, Wired, Newsweek, Time and Fortune. His philosophy regarding photography is "to embrace every possibility, digital or analogue, in the process of creating a more meaningful picture."

Q: How does one evolve as a digital artist?
A: Well, I started off with Photoshop, then moved to Illustrator and other 3D programs. I think in an evolving medium, a combination of skills and inclination to innovate is imperative.

Q: Design software you work with?
A: I primarily use Adobe's PhotoShop CS for photo design.

Q: Do you use any Web-based resources to upgrade your skills?
A: I frequent Shift (shift.jp.org), a Japanese e-zine that features new and innovative design and photography.

Freelance designers like Shankar rely heavily on forums for work-related inputs, ideas as well as constructive criticism. "Not only do we obtain valuable feedback on our work, we also make a few good friends on the forum… sometimes, people who I've never met. Forums help us share our thoughts, ideas, and software tips with like-minded artists," he says.

Perhaps the most interesting facet of online communities is the absence of the language barrier. This reinforces the 'art has no boundaries' dictum. By facilitating knowledge sharing, these cyber communities play a greater role-nurturing, perhaps, the Ravi Varmas and Van Goghs of the digital world.



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