Virtual creation

An artist using the electronic mode to paint doesnít have the creative freedom
that he gets in a conventional painting, writes S S Bhatti

Computer art or painting, which is gaining popularity these days, stands in sharp contradistinction to the process, materials, tools and techniques of a conventional painting. Contrary to the common belief that it is easier than the conventional painting, an artist, using the electronic mode, is faced with umpteen problems and inconveniences. There is many a difficulty one faces in a computer art. For instance, although the artist uses his hands yet he is not in direct contact with the surface on which he is drawing or painting. Nor is he holding his tools, or paints, or other materials in his hands. Besides this, he is misses the unique joy that he experiences when he draws or paints with his hands directly on the paper or canvas.

In a computer painting, one gains in terms of speed, mechanical precision, quick reproduction and fanciful variation of colour schemes
In a computer painting, one gains in terms of speed, mechanical precision, quick reproduction and fanciful variation of colour schemes

The monitor shows only virtual not actual textures
The monitor shows only virtual not actual textures

The screen of the computer monitor is his virtual paper or canvas. His only real tool is the "mouse" which, unlike a brush or a pencil, does not lend itself to easy manoeuvring ó a skill that is indispensable in creating varied effects of tonal values. The brushes and pencils and paints are virtual tools, which he merely sees rather than uses. It is not possible to correctly visualise how the finished artefact would emerge because such product would be known only after the print is taken out. There is a problem of scale in what the computer artist sees on the monitor. It is relatively different in size from the ultimate end product.

There is no way in which he can mix paints or change tonal values on the monitor for such facility does not exist in the standard software of the computer.

The same is the case with variations of textures. The monitor shows only virtual not actual textures. Texture being the surface quality of the canvas or the paper is a great aid to the creation of richness in tonal values and lighting effects.

In a restricted sense, computer painting is akin to graphics or the art of printmaking. In both the cases, prints are taken out after what may be called the "prototype" image (not the work) has been finally prepared. And this process entails the use more or less of mechanical equipment in either case.

Arguably, in the conventional method of painting, the artist cannot easily prepare another work of art exactly like the one he had originally created. Therefore, this one work is, indeed, a prized one. But the same may be true in the case of computer painting if the artist takes out only one print and then destroys the "prototype" image. Alternatively, he may produce more prints than one, number each one of them and then authenticate them by signing them ó like it is done in graphics or print-making.

Then, depending on the number of prints, the total price of the work could be divided equally among them. For example, if there are 10 prints, and the total price is fixed at Rs 100,000, each print would be sold at Rs 10,000. Each print should then be numbered: 1/10, 2/10, 3/10`8510/10, and for authentication affixed with the artistís dated signature on it. In the case of a single print, it should be inscribed "Solo Original" and signed by the artist with date.

Of course, to do so, in all intellectual integrity and occupational honesty, would be part of the professional ethics that the graphic artist and the computer painter must themselves lay down, respect, and practise for the honour and glory of their unique Art-Forms. It is pertinent to point out that, when the artist is well established, it is his signature, not so much his work, which actually sells. According to a popular belief, this, indeed, was the oft-expressed lament of the great Pablo Picasso on the tragic commerce of Modern Art.

The widespread patent objection that computer painting is relatively much easier than a conventional painting is far from the truth, if not downright silly. What one gains in terms of speed, mechanical precision, quick reproduction, fanciful variation colour-scheme, etc. with the aid of computer, one hopelessly loses by way of creative freedom that is best encountered and exercised only when one is using oneís hands directly in gay abandon inherent in the conventional mode of painting. The springiness of the canvas, in response to the sensual touch of brushwork, the varied pressure on the brushes to modulate tonal values, the manipulation made possible by the grip of fingers, the lusty movement of the wrist, and the mudra-like sway of the arm together produce a creative joy. This is exactly what sustains the artist in his crusading belligerence that he unconsciously deploys to demolish the outdated and to create the novel, according as his sensibility dictates and his heart validates.

Simple though the act of creating a work of art may seem, especially when you watch someone do it like an expert in your presence, it is well nigh impossible to copy another artistís computer painting or his painting when he is working in the conventional mode. In this curious, but sacrosanct, sense, computer painting is exactly like a conventional painting. At any rate, the purpose of this exposition is to stress the moot point that computer painting is legitimately a new mode of artistic creation brought into existence by the worldwide revolution in the field of electronics and technology. It will take quite some time for the viewers, artists, art lovers, art critics, and the general public alike before they could ungrudgingly accept it as a familiar artistic activity.