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entering the glass city...

of computers and visual arts...

Before you continue reading, look carefully at the accompanying paintings. The word "paintings" may not be appropriate, because the technology involved in their creation is new, so the precise word for this painting technique, like photography, does not exist yet.The terms "computer graphics", "compugraphics", or "rendergraphics" also does not precisely define the technique used to create the paintings.

The technique involved it this case is using the computer. Whether it is a painting technique, only time can tell. It took a long time for the photography to be recognized as an art, which it undoubtedly is. Recognizing and accepting anything new takes days, if not years and centuries... The parallel with photography is not accidental, as it too, in its beginnings, was thought of as a mechanical technique for recording reality. After a time, copying the painters, the photographers realized that their technique could create the results apart from just recording the reality, and blossom into an art, enabling the artists, despite the cold and precise machines involved, to express themselves and mark their creations with a sensibility that sets them apart and renders them timeless.

The new technique today can be compared to photography before. On the average, the computers are thought of just as the machines that should do manual an repetitive tasks, calculations, and so on, but they became a lot more. The same as a camera, or any other artistic tool, the computer is only as powerful as the imagination and the sensibility of the artist who uses it.

Different techniques of painting embed their inherent limitations, borne by the technique itself. Those limitations are not necessarily negative, as they in some cases make the fundamental properties of an art. For example, the photography cannot portray anything that is not lit by a natural or artificial light, but that is the limitation that defines its true meaning - capturing the value of a moment in a perception of a real world. The sky, the clouds, the fog - all of that is impossible to adjust, except waiting for, if the motive is static, different lighting conditions to bring themselves about according to the artist's sensibility. The possible adjustments are limited to focal length of a lens, different viewpoints, contrast filters, depth of field ... It is also possible to further change the captured moment in the darkroom, nevertheless what exists in a photography has to exist in the real world.

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On the contrary, classic painting techniques, requiring extensive craftsmanship, and mastery of the different ways of creating a painting, enable an artist to show something that could never exist in the light of a day, his imagination limited only by his articitic abilities. The new painting technique, using pixels of the computer's monitor, also has no limits except the imagination and the mastery of the artist. In this case, the mastery over a graphics software. The absence of any physical touch with the painting, contrary to the classical painter touching his canvas, paint and brushes, can be defined as a limitation. Here, the physical touch is impossible, as everything, including light, canvas, brushes, paint ... is simulated.

Using rendering and animation software, one can create, as in the classical painting, the objects that really cannot ever exist. The limitation of the background, which is usually a static image, requires a feeling of unifying the lighting of that image with the lighting of the scene generated by the computer, that can be changed. Searching for the right vantage point, choosing the field of view, and adjusting the lights, resembles photographic work. It is possible to check lots of different settings in a short time, adjusting numerous parameters - but, the feeling is crucial! One needs lots of intuition and experiment to achieve certain visual goals. Assigning the sponge texture to the pillars, and human skin to the ground, are some examples of such effects.

The true touch of the author, however, can be seen in the use of image processing sofwares, creating the final touch. There, the sense of atmosphere and wholeness is imperative. Lots of tools that allow postprocessing of contrast, brightness, sharpness, and other features of the whole image, or just a part of it, create numerous possibilities. Except basic effects, common to almost all the softwares of this kind, there are lots of plugins, that supplement the basic software wonderfully.

Any artistic creation is a fight with the white canvas, that has no end and no result, contrary to the craftmanship that has a definite result. The wish to show an image to others, and the existence of the audience itself, is the essence of any artistic work. The image as a final product of this creative fight in this case is just a picture on the computer monitor, gone with the power off. These images can last only transferred to a hardcopy device, such as color printers and slide makers, whose performance is even today enough for creating exhibition material, and getting better all the time. Using computers, the artists can present their creations to the audience in a new way. The internet, the global way of communicating and exchanging information, can be used for sending and exhibiting the images without the loss of quality, in minutes between the continents. The number of people that can see the images is infinitely larger than in any other way of presentation. Classic and virtual galleries shall yet coexist for some time, because, despite user friendly operating systems and the increasing ease of use of the software, the computers still require a certain amount of technical knowledge. In the world of art they are established as powerful graphic design tools, but not as a pure painting instruments yet. The time comes when, simultaneously with the further democratization of the personal computer, painters will realize that a powerful studio is there, close by, and the future has just begun ...

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entering the glass city...
Kolja Tatic, '98