The Art World Today:
Digital Art Makes Inroads
Just prop your iPad up on an easel or sit in front of your Mac and you can become an artist. That is the promise of ArtRage, an interactive art product created by Ambient Designs, a New Zealand-based global software design company. The system, which can be used on the iPad, Mac, Windows, interactive white boards and touch screens, provides a large number of tools for the digital artist to simulate actual painting. It combines attempts to make the art experience seem “real” with an array of shortcuts, controls and aids. The user chooses type of painting surface (e.g., canvas, paper) and medium (e.g., oil paint, chalk, pen) and enters a world of heavy support and control. A tool held by the “artist” that looks and feels like a traditional bristle brush picks up virtual color from a color wheel on the screen and helps apply it. The tool monitors thickness, wetness (for watercolors) and stroke and adjusts the results of the user’s movements. Smearing and blending for effect, as well as erasing, are possible. Pencils have an auto-smoothing option which straightens strokes made by an unsteady hand; a ruler system causes a wobbly free-hand line to snap to an edge. In fact, any shape can function as a ruler, making for clean, crisp edges. A utility tool can resize or reposition any object in a painting. Stencils are available or can be created for lettering and design. Special effects such as glitter, fuzz, and sticker sprays have tools. There is even a tool for producing hair and mustaches. The ArtRage system encourages perfection and realism. A pre-existing digital photo can be imported to the screen and traced. A painting tool will even help the artist by picking up color samples from the original image. Additional functions continue to be added to ArtRage. One of the latest is the ability to record the making of a painting as it happens, stroke by stroke, together with highlights and notes, and to play it back, perhaps to be used as a teaching tool.
So, is the work produced with ArtRage art? We live in a tech era and the arrival of digital art is a natural consequence that has real benefits. Created images can be shared, with certain applications particularly useful, such as stage and home design and exchange of visual ideas. David Kassan, a traditional paint artist, explains that, while studying work in museums, he meticulously copies paintings on his iPad, slowly uncovering nuances and details he would have missed in a quick sketch. General practitioners seem to enjoy using the system and take pride in what they produce. The experience, however, seems to be one of using and mastering technology rather than of aesthetic awakening and creativity. It is a digital interaction that probably would benefit from a focus on creating an art form possible only with the new technology rather than “simulating” painting and attempting to copy an already established art tradition. #