Digital art is a type of art done with the help of a computer. Digital art has produced different forms of art which have become popular today. These artistic works include digital painting, digital photo artwork, 3D models, animations, games, web sites and illustrations used in books. Digital art has many applications and is mostly used in entertainment and advertisement industries. The 3D models are used to make movies, video games and animations while digital photo work is used in advertisements and posters. Digital art combines the disciplines of mathematics, art, science and science technology. For one to become a digital artist, the knowledge of computers, design and art is required. It has taken many years for digital art to develop and become what it is today.
Arts and crafts have always been held with prestige by humans. Ancient art was drawn in caves and on rocks. Later in time leather products and colors were used to make art more attractive. Most of these ancient artworks were hard to reproduce and all were prone to environmental degradation. Unlike traditional forms of art which are affected by the environment, digital art can remain in a computer as file forever. It can also be duplicated with accuracy and an artist is given unlimited possibilities since many colors and tools are available to use (Ambrose 246). It is hard for a day to pass without coming across some form of digital art. It has become a part of our lives and it is important to know how it has changed over the years.
Digital art began in the 1950s. The digital art pioneers used mechanical devices to make digital art. In the same period analogue computers were used by some artists to create art. One of the famous arts was created by the artist Ben Laposky using an oscilloscope. The art was called Oscillon 40 and was created by manipulating electronic waves using an oscilloscope. The manipulated waves then were captured by a fluorescent screen to produce an image (Manovich 2015). The image was not recorded on paper at that time but through long exposure photography the image was able to be recorded. The picture recorded at that time was black and white and decades later a colored image was produced called Oscillon 520 (Ambrose 253).
In the 1960s computers were hard to access and the computer technology was expensive. It was also difficult to use them since one was required to know how to write programs. The computers could only be found in universities and research laboratories. They were used at that time by computer scientists and mathematicians (Ambrose 247). It was then difficult for artists to use them to create art. However some of the some artists began to experiment on the creative potential of computers. They had to work with computer programmers or learnt to program because the computers lacked a user interface. Another challenge that faced the artists of this period was the limited output of computers. The two sources of output were the plotter and the impact printer. The computer program controlled the movements of the pen and brush to produce a drawing when using a plotter. One of the famous drawing made by a plotter was 'Hommage a Paul Klee 13/9/65 Nr.2' created by Frieder Nake in 1965 (Drunker 6).
Bell Laboratories gave the greatest contribution to digital art in the 1960s. It formed the Experiments in Art and Technology which made up of many artists and computer scientists. One of the achievements of the Experiments in Art and Technology was the launching of performances called '9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering'. In these events thirty engineers and ten artists made performances using new technologies. Bell Laboratories was the first to make computer generated animations. Ken Knowlton was an artist working with Bell Labs and created a programming language called BEFLIX which was used in bitmap film making. Leon Harmon and Ken Knowlton made an image called Nude using small electronic symbols (Manovich 26).
In the 1970s many artists began to teach themselves how to write and use programs. They wanted to reduce the reliance on computer programmers. Many of them were from a fine art background and saw computers as a tool which could expand their artistic capabilities. The University of London in the Slade School of Art started the Experimental and Computing Department. The aim of this department was to integrate the use of computers in arts. The department had a good computer system dedicated to teaching and practice in art (Drunker 6). It was here at Slade that Paul brown studied and produced computer generated drawings. The drawings were made by using individual elements and using simple rules, they would multiply to produce an image. This technique that brown developed was called the tile-based image generation system.
In the 1980s digital technologies were widespread. The computers were cheaper and easy to access. Personal computers were introduced and in businesses people used them. Films such as Tron and Star Trek II used computer graphics and special effects. Television programs also started using digital art. In this period computer games and videos gained popularity making computers familiar. These factors led to demand and growth of digital art. In this period too, computer companies such as Apple and Microsoft became established and their software made computers east to use (Ambrose 246). There was also creation of off-the shelf paints software. The Paint software packages meant that artists could create digital art without having to learn how to program computers. Another major boost to digital art was the development of inkjet printers which were cheap and printed in color. In 1889, Kenneth Snelson 3D computer made an image called 'Forest Devils' MoonNight'. The picture combined two identical images creating an illusion of a 3D environment.
In the 1990s digital art became widespread. There was creation of many software packages for painting, films, video making and sound. Computers in this period became an essential tool in art as the computer technology grew. Many artists in different fields of art recognized that digital technology was indispensable for making new art forms. Using of computers to produce art and design was cheap and produced very beautiful artworks easily. Another trend that emerged in the 1990s was the combination of both traditional art and digital art to make artworks. James Faure Walker is the one who pioneered this (Drunker 6). Being a digital artist and a painter, he used computers to generate images which he painted by hand.
From 2000 to the present the digital art has grown exponential. Modern software packages have complex algorithms and are capable of generating breathtaking artworks. Animations, 3D images, 3D videos, 3D printing, and virtual reality are the developments that have taken place in digital art. Digital art is now readily available and is easy to make. There are free software packages and guides on how to make digital art (Manovich 20). Cameras that are cheap and take quality pictures have been developed. Digital photography has grown with growth of devices fitted with cameras.
The growth of the internet has led to growth of digital art. Software packages for making digital art are easily bought over the internet and many are free. The artworks are also easily shared in social media platforms and education platforms. Making digital artworks have become easy with the growth of easy to use software packages with tutorials on how to use them. Development of printers which produce quality colored picture identical to the one created in the computer have helped representing art physically. The 3D printer is revolutionary as it has allowed digitally made sculptures to be printed (Manovich 23). The printer can also be used to print many forms of art.
The growth of digital art has been made possible by the growth of computer technology. Software packages have made it easier for artists to produce art cheaply and faster. The art produced is beautiful and some of the art forms could not have been possible without the help of computers. Software such as Photoshop, Illustrator and many others have made it possible for artists to make more quality digital arts. Digital art have achieved so much in a span of a few decades. The demand for digital art continues and this means more developments will continue to be witnessed in the coming years.
Ambrose, Kirk. "Digital Art History." The Art Bulletin 97.3 (2015): 245-245. (Ambrose 246)
Drucker, Johanna. "Is There a Digital Art History?." Visual Resources 29.1-2 (2013): 5-13.
Manovich, Lev. "Data Science and Digital Art History." International Journal for Digital Art
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