The Computer and The Artist. The computer is the greatest thing to happen to the artist since the paintbrush. The computer is a paintbrush -- and canvas, and paint. So much of the drudgery of creating art is lost through the use of the computer. I created the collage above with scanner and digicam -- and a whole lot of time with Adobe Photoshop. The image below is a scan of a collage that I did the old-fashioned way, with scissors and glue stick -- and a whole lot of time bent over a desk until the wee hours of the morning. With the computer there was no mess to clean up. No random scraps all over the room.
Beyond that though, there's only one real difference between the two. You trust your muse the same way -- your instinct -- making choices that don't seem to make sense in the midst of it, but seeing why later. You focus the same way -- feeling the energy of the piece building until it actually begins taking form before your eyes. Fragments, like the tiny image that caught your eye in the classified section of Scientific American earlier that day, find their place on the board or screen in a magical and oddly removed manner, ultimately forming a synergistic whole, that leaves a lasting resonance between your soul, your mind, and your body. There is only one other difference.
However, this is an important, and very fundamental difference:
When you apply glue to the back of a carefully snipped out necktie or clockface, and slap it against the background of a perfume ad taken from the back page of Rolling Stone, you are COMMITTED to that end. Once it's there, there ain't a damn thing you can do about it. Like it or not, you've got to live with it.
But, in Photoshop and just about all other software, there's a nifty little command -- naturally the first one on the "edit" menu -- called Undo. With this immensely powerful click you can undo whatever you just did. The freedom this affords, through the tremendous reduction in risk, topples some of the obstacles of fear that afflict virtually any artist. Indeed, the very basic option of being able to change your mind takes the pressure off.
Computers are a miracle.
Some artists (but mostly art critics I would imagine) might argue that commitment to one's art, and therefore the momentary commitments of artistic decision, are necessary to the creation of quality work. I disagree. I like being able to keep my options open as I create a piece, and I think this makes the finished product better in the long run, even if it does make for a longer run.
I use Photoshop 4. Photoshop's newest version, 5.0, allows for unlimited undos. 4.0 only lets you undo your most recent action. At this stage, I'm comfortable with that. I need some kind of enforced commitment or else I'll repeatedly undo all the way back to the blank canvas. If you have too many options, and test every possibility, you never get anywhere. Creating good art is just like living a good life, to do so risks must be taken.
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