Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 10, NO. 11 / NOVEMBER 1984 / PAGE 279

The making of a computer artist. Saul Bernstein.

We artists are a strange lot. We are insecure people who use art as an entree to society. If we attain any notoriety at all, we are reluctant to give it up. We seldom know whether it is our intellect or our ability to manipulate paint that makes us successful. We have a tendency to be suspicious of anything new--like the computer, which does not allow color to drip or blend or build up. When we look at the famous artists of the past, however, we see that just the opposite is true of them; they embraced the new and the different.

We look at an art book and assume that bronze sculpture and oil painting have always been there. The truth is that there was a time in man's development when oil painting did not exist, when there was no such thing as bronze sculpture. For an artist to eschew the computer is to behave in a manner that would have been alien to the likes of Rembrandt, Da Vinci, Goya, and El Greco. If history tells us anything it is that great men have committed themselves again and again to the new and the different. Communicating with the Collector

History also offers us a handy way to evaluate the ways in which today's art is communicated to today's collector. In the past, the church and the royal families had custody of works of art old and new. Later, as these institutions suffered from diminished power and resources, museums were established.

After a while, the museum establishment grew corrupt. Contemporary artists who, for whatever reason, failed to win the favor of museum curators could not have their works displayed. This led to the creation of the first art gallery about 100 years ago. Today, therefore, we are left with two kinds of institutions, both of which allow people to view works of art and both of which force people to go out of their way to do so.

Today, too, we have satellites orbiting the earth, transmitting signals to cable companies throughout the land. The average American family has two television sets in use six hours a day. That means that for 18 hours a day those TVs sit unused. Our satellites have the ability to transmit 24 channels each, and yet, out of 384 possible channels, only 122 are currently in use. I can see the day that every home will have a computer tied to at least one TV set and be able to receive over those unused channels contemporary art that will become the user's personal collection.

This would be a far better situation than we have today, for after an hour's ride into the city to visit a gallery or museum, all the viewer has to show for his trouble when he gets home is a catalogue of the show. Comparing that to the experience of having every dot in memory is like comparing a reproduction in a book to an original oil painting.

The natural art for television is not oil painting or bronze sculpture; it is the art of the computer. The computer and the television are natural partners: they are both electronic, and they both transmit color in the same way--with pixels. The computer is also a natural vehicle for the artist, for it allows him to control every dot on the screen. The Making of a Computer Artist

I am frequently asked how a person can prepare himself to produce art on the computer. I start by recommending that he take school work seriously, for that is the ground upon which all skill is built. If a person can communicate with the written word--or even via mathematics or science--he can feel assured that he is on his way to achieving the true interaction that is a prerequisite of art.

Second, I urge him to read about great people, for in this way he can choose role models. Young people need a familiarity with greatness to spur them to higher levels of performance. Familiarity with the traits of great people also helps the young person to learn what to look for in people of his own generation.

Third, I encourage aspiring young artists to study art in the traditional way so they understand fully the anatomy of drawing, color, and composition. A student who is well grounded in the study of anatomy can understand the function of almost anything and, therefore, need not be afraid of anything new. Without this background, the computer artist may end up producing clever images devoid of meaning.

I also believe that the young person should be given a computer so that he can learn the potential of what I call "image reassembly." Using this technique, the user puts the information into the computer in accord with his normal way of seeing. Then he asks the computer to work its magic. The effects are fantastic; the computer displays a multitude of possibilities that no human being could think of. It is a wonderful learing experience that should not be missed by even the most experienced artisan. It clearly shows the limitations of the human brain. It allows the artist to exercise the most important part of his body--his brain.