Why I was drawn to Digital Art

My grandmother is an amazing oil painter, my mother is great at drawing horses (except for their feet), my mother-in-law is an incredible fine artist and my husband is pretty hot too! My aunt went to art school and was a flamboyant painter, punk and new romantic and my other granny had a wonderful 1950’s style of interiors never shy of strong lively colours.

As we look back we can usually see what shaped our lives and art has always been around for me. Add to that new landscapes and horizons moving house every two years as I grew up giving me a freshness and excitement to that which was normal and routine for most.

  Chelmsford Market in Winter 1923 - Relics from my Grandmother's travels.

Chelmsford Market in Winter 1923 - Relics from my Grandmother's travels.

My school taught me drawing and history of art and sensible girls subjects but I liked big bold statements, intricate patterns, interesting structures and spatial positioning, I liked Dali, Mondrian, Warhol. My father and I had this thing together, he would take me to museums and galleries to see old Masters, I would take him to see new ones. Recreating real life wasn't my thing but it wasn’t until four years later that I discovered what my thing was.

Something that dealt with colour, space and pattern, an abstract layout that helped people to make sense of the content and feel emotion or produce a reaction. That vocation was graphic design. I retrained, through a BTEC which taught me how to use the tools of my trade and then a degree which covered not just graphic design but woodwork, metal work, creative writing and textile design. As part of this course I spent time at Ecole Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Marseille where I also studied life drawing, architecture and structural drawing.

“As humans we focus on the ordinary not the extraordinary”
 Courtesy of Secretescapes

Courtesy of Secretescapes

I heard a quote recently that said “As humans we focus on the ordinary not the extraordinary”. Taken at face value that quote seems sad, but if you focus on the ordinary for even just a short amount of time it makes us realise the ordinary is extraordinary and it was during my time in Marseille that the ordinary became extraordinary for me. Living in the foothills of Les Calanques - as the lonely planet puts it “Marseille abuts the wild and spectacular Parc National des Calanques, a 20km stretch of high, rocky promontories, rising from brilliant-turquoise Mediterranean waters.” On the other side was the eternally fascinating industrial wilderness of cranes, containers, ships, structures with a myriad of colour and pattern as they weathered and rusted from the sea at the ancient port, apparently now housing  a buzzing art scene and cool multicultural crowd.

"Strong, unapologetic shapes and colour alluding to a moment in time in nature." 
Pattern

But this juxtaposition cemented what I love about art - strong, unapologetic shapes and colour alluding to a moment in time in nature. It showed me that pattern is the building blocks of our world - framed by a lense you can create patterns from any formation - and that abstract only becomes abstract if you take it out of it’s structural context.

During my time at university graphic design was carried out without computers but with pens, pencils, brushes and scalpels just like any art form (well maybe not the scalpels). Straight after uni at my first job it was apparent that our industry was changing fast and becoming fully computerised. To begin with this was difficult, clunky, a destroyer of my creativity, we are after all only as good as the tools we can use so my design could only be as good as my knowledge of this complex tool.

This is no different however from learning to use a pencil, paint brush, charcoal, watercolour or oil paint, once mastered they become an extension of our creativity not the purveyor of it.

Alongside my job as a graphic designer - which quickly became intranet design, then website design and into interface design - along the way I still tried in my spare time to create my own ‘artistic’ work. I felt I must leave my computer and go back to the drawing board, printing, etching, and cut out was a favourite, layering colour and shape a little like my original graphic design training, but I tried comic strip, watercolour even potato printing to no avail I couldn't find my artistic mojo.

All the while I was honing my my skills on the computer, software was becoming more and more agile as the graphic design industry moved into digital design.

It wasn't until a happy accident some years later with a destroyed hard drive that some fantastically bold simple structured colourful patterns blinked out at me from my screen where all my photos used to be, initial panic gave way to a realisation that this was a graphical layout that I could manipulate to show me the structural shape, the assumed colour palette and the atmosphere of the original landscape.

Raw

This abstract art exactly brought together my digital skills with a much more free form artistic, non commercial form of design. My love of using a computer as my tool of choice could now be used to create works of art. At last I had found my artistic mojo.

Over recent years the paper and printing techniques for digital art have caught up in line with those used for non-computerised art, making it an exciting time to be exploring the digital field. We already have a wealth of data artists such as http://www.brigittewilliams.net/http://www.brendandawes.com/http://www.joshuadavis.com/ and with the progress of 3D printing this I feel will extend more into digital sculpture.

I  hope that over time there will be  no distinction between digital and non digital art just an admiration for how each artist masters their tool of choice.

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I am a digital abstract artist based in Suffolk.
Have a look at my gallery.