Technology’s impacton figurativeart

Technology’s impacton figurativeart

David Ligare holds a color-slide loupe to his eye while painting in his Carmel Valley, California, studio

During my 25 years at the feld of fgurative painting, I have observed two aggressively conficting schools of thought about using technology from studios. As a generation X’er who grew up ahead of the web and cell phones, I have a nostalgia for simpler times. However, I acknowledge the two points of view.
I frst experienced this split in 2006, when I transitioned from a couple of years of mentorship beneath the California classicist David Ligare (b. 1945) to an apprenticeship with Norwegian painter Odd Nerdrum (b. 1944).
Ligare’s primary visual testimonials are 35-millimeter colour slides he chooses of his areas during the”golden hour” just before sunset. The photographic specifcity of this Mediterranean mild as it refects of Monterey Bay is a central notion in Ligare’s work.

At left, Martin Wittfooth’s Photoshop color sketch mockup for Pandora; at right is his finished painting (2018, oil on canvas, 60 x 42 in., private collection)

With Nerdrum, in contrast, there’s a strict taboo against reference photography; he warns that its use is”such as a virus in the imagination of the painter.” Nerdrum and his team prefer painting fgures from life, situating them in spaces awakened by the imagination. Even though the subject matter of the two Ligare and Nerdrum may be called classical, their attitudes toward technologies are diametrically opposed.
Luddites are a rarity among artists nowadays because the majority of them find technology as a highly effective instrument. Photo editing, gambling software, and 3D printers can save yourself money and time by speeding up innovative procedures, facilitating the utilization of sanctioned copies, and improving precision beyond human capacities. It is only normal for us, as tool-using sapiens, to wish to employ something which might bring us more success and convenience. In the long run, however, tools can never compensate for a lack of ability and creativity.
Editing software like Photoshop is now used extensively by painters of my creation. These applications enable the manipulating and mixing of multiple images as layers within a single composition. Imaginative realists such as Martin Wittfooth (b. 1981) create complex arrangements of fgures and creatures as mockups in Photoshop until they begin painting.
Their densely packed compositions are nearly impossible to stage in real-life photoshoots.

At left, Kazu Hiro’s 2017 design for a pour case made using 3D printer software; at right is the actual pour case after being assembled.

After gathering their own photos of friends or pets, as well as images found on the Internet, these artists slice them together into digi tal collages. The component images’ hard edges can be mixed, based on how much time and efort the artists choose to invest in the computer before beginning the picture . The collage proves handy at different phases of the painting process: as a guide for your first essay transport (which frequently involves a digital projector), also as a primary reference viewed on a screen.
The speed of technology is constantly accelerating. Photo editing software has been devised just 3 decades ago, yet already it sounds”old school.” Some contemporary artists make it a point to stay up-to-date with the latest tools out there. Having discovered particular efects cosmetics while still in high school, he is entirely self-taught and now the global leader in hyper-realistic palaces and special efects prosthetics. After devoting 25 years into the flm industry, Hiro left to concentrate on his very own double-life-size busts of historical fgures such as Abraham Lincoln.

Kazu Hiro works on his double-life-size clay sculpture of Abraham Lincoln’s head, 2013.

Although Hiro’s procedure involves many state-of-the-art substances and technology, he starts the old-fashioned manner — by hand-sculpting a lifesize bust in clay. Upon completion, this is captured by means of a 3D scanner and its own 3D parts are recorded as an”OBJ fle.” Hiro takes this information and opens it in the”slicing” program because of his 3D printer, where he can then easily enlarge the sculpture to twice its original size.
With programs like Cinema 4D and Zbrush, Hiro can manipulate this doubled-in-size scan to make fles used to 3D-print both plastic elements required to make a negative mold: a double-size copy of the first sculpture and an outer shell called a pour instance. Then he pours liquid silicone to the narrow space between the inside of the pour instance and the outside of the enlarged sculpture. After the silicone”heals,” what remains is a negative mould that has precisely recorded the outside of this printed sculpture.
Hiro admits that the technology is great but not perfect. On occasion the 3D printer may miss data so that details get difused. To correct for technology’s shortcomings and to pack much more detail to the fnal bit, Hiro makes another clay version. He starts by putting a half-inch-thick coating of clay to the negative mold. This layer will sit upon a plaster service core to prevent it from becoming misaligned. Once the clay is removed from the mold, Hiro works into the expanded surface.

The Next Rembrandt ’s much-discussed portrait (2016) was created with digital media on canvas.

Satisfed using the larger clay, Hiro takes yet another 3D scan. This is used to print a negative mould of the larger sculpture (a”coat”), as well as a core slightly more compact than the sculpture. Hiro pours a silicone skin to the distance between the coat and the heart to create a replica of this enlarged clay sculpture. He makes further enhancements using the makeup methods he created in Hollywood, including skin tones evoked using homemade silicone paint along with the addition of baldness.
Painters also turn to 3D-imaging apps to design their 2D compositions. Born in Italy and based in Los Angeles, Nicola Verlato (b. 1965) was using video game and animation applications because he watched the flm Tron (1982) and observed that the similarity between the vector images employed for its special efects and Brunelleschi’s view drawings from the Renaissance. Much like Kazu Hiro, Verlato begins in the old school manner — in his case, sketching with pencil. With Zbrush he participates his handmade marks into 3D data. Employing gaming applications, these digital versions can be turned in space and illuminated with virtual light. It is even possible to explore diferent perspectives — low or high, close or far — simply shifting the point of view around the digital area concerning the digital version.
Verlato has noticed an overall shift toward”dematerialization,” where everything is converted into digital language. As an artist, he’s working hard to reverse this tendency. To make his temples and palaces, Verlato rematerializes digital data gathered from the Web — such as written stories, songs, or flm — and coalesces them into painting and sculpture. In his opinion, the resulting physical items rightly belong further up the hierarchy of material experience.

At left, Nicola Verlato’s compositional sketch in pencil for The Cave; at right is the computer-generated image he ultimately created with Zbrush, 2017.

Verlato has also been investigating the world of digital reality. In his VR project The Merging, he’s made an interactive experience for museumgoers that joins reality and the digital world. He hopes it will help engage a wider audience for art, particularly for those unable to get museums and younger audiences already infuenced by electronic devices.
You will find additional VR projects that expect to reinvigorate public interest in painting. 1 example is The Night Cafe — An Immersive VR Tribute to Vincent van Gogh (2015). Its video quality is blatantly shaky, almost perceptible, to mimic our being inside a moving, altering painting. The 2017 flm Loving Vincent shares a number of these attributes, but the simple fact that its cartoon frames were hand-painted means that its detail is quite a bit more convincing. Digitally generated images often lack the textural detail and natural variant that result from handcraft. Markmaking is proof of innovative process and helps us to imagine the artist at work, thus improving our powers of empathy. Take, by way of instance, Rembrandt’s rocky impasto, or the hollows left by Rodin’s thumb because it moved through clay. Though Loving Vincent took squads of hard-working artists to make this handmade look, most technology entrepreneurs are replacing artists with software-based logic systems called algorithms. The Next Rembrandt, a project spearheaded by the Dutchman Bas Korsten and supported by such corporate giants like Microsoft and ING, made headlines globally in 2016 when it promised to have resurrected this Dutch master. Its assumption sprang from the idea that”if you can take historic data and create something new out of it, why can not you unleash a painter’s artistic DNA from his surviving artwork and make a new work out of that?” Utilizing this data, they came at the very unremarkable example possible: a portrait, painted in the span 1632–42, of a Caucasian man with facial hair, aged 30–40, sporting a wide-brimmed black hat, black shirt, and white collar, facing directly. Then the group collected high-resolution scans of every Rembrandt painting that matches that description. Analyzing this information, they made a”painting” of a ideal eye, then other facial features they constructed by averaging geometric facial factors.

Pindar Van Arman and his robotic arm (left) at work in the studio

The second Rembrandt also made use of newly developed methods for scanning painting surfaces to analyze the texture of brushstrokes, which the team tried to replicate via 3D printing multiple layers on a surface. The outcomes may be convincing for those unaccustomed to studying paintings, but Korsten confessed,”I feel that the expert eye sees that this is not an actual Rembrandt.” Those familiar with the magic of a real Rembrandt surface, especially from his late period, will fnd this”averaged” seem fails to convey his tackling’s snowfake-like uniqueness.
While some calculations assert to resurrect the dead, other technology entrepreneurs are”instructing” computers to become artists in their own right. Based in Washington, D.C., the American Pindar Van Arman (b. 1974) creates paintings using robotic arms directed by a”creative” algorithm which analyzes, extracts, separates, and assigns computational data to the style and content utilized in existing pictures. Then it may mix and match new pairings of these data sets to create new pictures. Utilizing a computerized model of our mind’s visual system, that the programmers call”convolutional neural networks optimized for object recognition,” this algorithm separates visual components in a way akin to our”human operating system”
Style Transfer requires massive amounts of computer memory and loading time, so most users scale their picture fles to about 1000 x 1000 pixels. If delivered to a printer, such fles appear unimpressive, which is why Van Arman instead uses robotics to make paintings. In addition, he’s developed a software application, Cloudpainter, that remembers its past work and attempts to improve it, inducing its style to evolve through the years. He clarifies,”Cloudpainter and the robots can view what they’re doing because they use cameras to observe their job and make alterations. I am attempting to replicate human creativity, and now my computers are on the precipice of creative liberty”
Really, Van Arman genuinely believes his computers could be creative:”If I wanted to make something beautiful, I would only use a printerbut I am attempting to get something interpretive with more serendipity.” Skeptics debunk this chance, of course. Ken Goldberg, an engineering professor at the University of California, Berkeley, points out,”When you inject any type of randomness to a program, you get behaviour that you may not predict, but there is a distinction between that and saying the robot has been creative today.”
Recently Van Arman succeeded in creating a computer-generated painting that he feels is authentically abstract, instead of directly representational or completely random. When asked about psychological content, he answers,”Obviously a robot can’t make emotional art until it is itself psychological. But that does not mean, when we look at an artwork, we can not get emotions from it.”
Unfortunately, we still assess the ability of artifcial intelligence (AI) by its capacity to fool us.

Pindar Van Arman’s Portrait of Hunter (2017), a robotic painting on canvas made using the Style Transfer algorithm

The humans who use AI technologies to make artworks see the algorithms as performers themselves. How that they discuss their procedure is showing. The human who utilizes an algorithm to make a painting is an artist using technologies as a tool. The computer cannot be considered an artist of course, it becomes able to invent its own mythologies, as envisioned by Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
We humans experience our understanding at precisely the exact same time as our intelligence. Computers have intellect but no comprehension. Despite their best eforts, AI artists are fnding that human imagination, even at the comparatively ancient felds of painting and sculpture, is one of the very difcult felds to replicate and automatize. The things most resistant right now are the creative jobs.” With that, most creatives can exhale a sigh of relief.
Our attitude toward technology is one of the strongest forces changing the global civilization of the future. As opposed to using technologies to replace or replicate ourselves, we could utilize them to help us spend more hours deepening our understanding of the qualities of being human which distinguish us powerfully from machine intelligence.

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