Digital art

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Irrational Geometrics digital art installation 2008 by Pascal Dombis Dombis 1687.jpg
Irrational Geometrics digital art installation 2008 by Pascal Dombis
The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment at the University of Illinois, Chicago CAVE Crayoland.jpg
The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment at the University of Illinois, Chicago
The hybrid art 2007 combines an algorithmically generated image with an acrylic painting through Neural network. The cover art by Ryota Matsumoto for Postdigital Aesthetics: Art, Computation, and Design, London: Palgrave. Those Who Affirm the Spontaneity of Every Event.jpg
The hybrid art 2007 combines an algorithmically generated image with an acrylic painting through Neural network. The cover art by Ryota Matsumoto for Postdigital Aesthetics: Art, Computation, and Design, London: Palgrave.
Linguistics River, 2012 MoMa educational net art project Linguistics River.jpg
Linguistics River, 2012 MoMa educational net art project

Digital art refers to any artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process. It can also refer to computational art that uses and engages with digital media. [2]


Since the 1960s, various names have been used to describe digital art, including computer art, electronic art, multimedia art [3] and new media art. [4] [5]


Lillian Schwartz's Comparison of Leonardo's self-portrait and the Mona Lisa is based on Schwartz's Mona Leo. An example of a collage of digitally manipulated photographs DaVinci MonaLisa1b.jpg
Lillian Schwartz's Comparison of Leonardo's self-portrait and the Mona Lisa is based on Schwartz's Mona Leo. An example of a collage of digitally manipulated photographs

John Whitney developed the first computer-generated art in the early 1960s by utilizing mathematical operations to create art. [6] In 1963, Ivan Sutherland invented the first user interactive computer-graphics interface known as Sketchpad. [7] Between 1974 and 1977, Salvador Dalí created two big canvases of Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at a distance of 20 meters is transformed into the portrait of Abraham Lincoln (Homage to Rothko) [8] and prints of Lincoln in Dalivision based on a portrait of Abraham Lincoln processed on a computer by Leon Harmon published in "The Recognition of Faces". [9] The technique is similar to what later became known as photographic mosaics.

Andy Warhol created digital art using an Amiga where the computer was publicly introduced at the Lincoln Center, New York, in July 1985. An image of Debbie Harry was captured in monochrome from a video camera and digitized into a graphics program called ProPaint. Warhol manipulated the image by adding color using flood fills. [10] [11]

Art that uses digital tools

Digital paintings are completed in much the same way as traditional ones. 2009-8-Quetzalcoat.png
Digital paintings are completed in much the same way as traditional ones.

Digital art can be purely computer-generated (such as fractals and algorithmic art) or taken from other sources, such as a scanned photograph or an image drawn using vector graphics software using a mouse or graphics tablet. Artworks are considered digital paintings when created similarly to non-digital paintings but using software on a computer platform and digitally outputting the resulting image as painted on canvas.

Amidst varied opinions on the pros and cons of digital technology on the arts, there seems to be a strong consensus within the digital art community that it has created a "vast expansion of the creative sphere", i.e., that it has greatly broadened the creative opportunities available to professional and non-professional artists alike. [12]

Computer-generated visual media

Designer Madsen created a picture art generated by a picture generator: Midjourney. Named "Road" RoadByDesignermadsen-dfbtgqs.png
Designer Madsen created a picture art generated by a picture generator: Midjourney. Named "Road"
A procedurally generated photorealistic landscape was created with Terragen. Terragen has been used in creating CGI for movies. Terragen 2.jpg
A procedurally generated photorealistic landscape was created with Terragen. Terragen has been used in creating CGI for movies.

Digital visual art consists of either 2D visual information displayed on an electronic visual display or information mathematically translated into 3D information viewed through perspective projection on an electronic visual display. The simplest is 2D computer graphics which reflect how you might draw using a pencil and a piece of paper. In this case, however, the image is on the computer screen, and the instrument you draw with might be a tablet stylus or a mouse. What is generated on your screen might appear to be drawn with a pencil, pen, or paintbrush. The second kind is 3D computer graphics, where the screen becomes a window into a virtual environment, where you arrange objects to be "photographed" by the computer. Typically 2D computer graphics use raster graphics as their primary means of source data representations, whereas 3D computer graphics use vector graphics in the creation of immersive virtual reality installations. A possible third paradigm is to generate art in 2D or 3D entirely through the execution of algorithms coded into computer programs. This can be considered the native art form of the computer, and an introduction to the history of which is available in an interview with computer art pioneer Frieder Nake. [13] Fractal art, Datamoshing, algorithmic art, and real-time generative art are examples.

Computer-generated 3D still imagery

3D graphics are created via the process of designing imagery from geometric shapes, polygons, or NURBS curves [14] to create three-dimensional objects and scenes for use in various media such as film, television, print, rapid prototyping, games/simulations, and special visual effects.

There are many software programs for doing this. The technology can enable collaboration, lending itself to sharing and augmenting by a creative effort similar to the open source movement and the creative commons in which users can collaborate on a project to create art. [15]

Pop surrealist artist Ray Caesar works in Maya (a 3D modeling software used for digital animation), using it to create his figures as well as the virtual realms in which they exist.

Computer-generated animated imagery

Computer-generated animations are animations created with a computer from digital models created by 3D artists or procedurally generated. The term is usually applied to works created entirely with a computer. Movies make heavy use of computer-generated graphics; they are called computer-generated imagery (CGI) in the film industry. In the 1990s and early 2000s, CGI advanced enough that, for the first time, it was possible to create realistic 3D computer animation, although films had been using extensive computer images since the mid-70s. A number of modern films have been noted for their heavy use of photo-realistic CGI. [16]

Digital painting

Digital painting [17] mainly refers to the process of creating paintings on computer software based on computers or graphic tables. Through pixel simulation, digital brushes in digital software (see the software in Digital painting) can imitate traditional painting paints and tools, such as oil, acrylic acid, pastel, charcoal, and airbrush. Users of the software can also customize the pixel size to achieve a unique visual effect (customized brushes).

Artificial intelligence art

Artists have used artificial intelligence to create artwork since at least the 1960s. [18] Since their design in 2014, some artists have created artwork using a generative adversarial network (GAN), which is a machine learning framework that allows two "algorithms" to compete with each other and iterate. [19] [20] It is usually used to let the computer find the best solution by itself. It can be used to generate pictures that have visual effects similar to traditional fine art. The essential idea of image generators is that people can use text descriptions to let AI convert their text into visual picture content. Anyone can turn their language into a painting through a picture generator. [21] And some artists can use image generators to generate their paintings instead of drawing from scratch, and then they use the generated paintings as a basis to improve them and finally create new digital paintings. This greatly reduces the threshold of painting and challenges the traditional definition of painting art.

Generation Process

Generally, the user can set the input, and the input content includes detailed picture content that the user wants. For example, the content can be a scene's content, characters, weather, character relationships, specific items, etc. It can also include selecting a specific artist style, screen style, image pixel size, brightness, etc. Then picture generators will return several similar pictures [20] generated according to the input (generally, 4 pictures are given now). After receiving the results generated by picture generators, the user can select one picture as a result he wants or let the generator redraw and return to new pictures.

In addition, it is worth mentioning the whole process: it is also similar to the "generator" and "discriminator" modules [19] in GANs.

Awards and recognition

In both 1991 and 1992, Karl Sims won the Golden Nica award at Prix Ars Electronica for his 3D AI animated videos using artificial evolution. [22] [23] [24]

In 2009, Eric Millikin won the Pulitzer Prize along with several other awards for his artificial intelligence art that was critical of government corruption in Detroit and resulted in the city's mayor being sent to jail. [25] [26] [27]

In 2018 Christie's auction house in New York sold an artificial intelligence work, "Edmond de Bellamy" for US$432,500. It was created by a collective in Paris named "Obvious". [28]

In 2019, Stephanie Dinkins won the Creative Capital award for her creation of an evolving artificial intelligence based on the "interests and culture(s) of people of color." [29]

Also in 2019, Sougwen Chung won the Lumen Prize for her performances with a robotic arm that uses AI to attempt to draw in a manner similar to Chung. [30]

In 2022, an amateur artist using Midjourney won the first-place $300 prize in a digital art competition at the Colorado State Fair. [31] [21]

Also in 2022, Refik Anadol created an artificial intelligence art installation at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, based on the museum's own collection. [32]

Art made for digital media

In contemporary art, the term digital art is used primarily to describe visual art that is made with digital tools, and also is highly computational, and explicitly engages with digital technologies. Art historian Christiane Paul writes that it "is highly problematic to classify all art that makes use of digital technologies somewhere in its production and dissemination process as digital art since it makes it almost impossible to arrive at any unifying statement about the art form. [33]

Digital installation art

Boundary Functions (1998) interactive floor projection by Scott Snibbe at the NTT InterCommunication Center in Tokyo Boundaryfunctions 1.jpg
Boundary Functions (1998) interactive floor projection by Scott Snibbe at the NTT InterCommunication Center in Tokyo

Digital installation art constitutes a broad field of activity and incorporates many forms. Some resemble video installations, particularly large-scale works involving projections and live video capture. By using projection techniques that enhance an audience's impression of sensory envelopment, many digital installations attempt to create immersive environments. Others go even further and attempt to facilitate a complete immersion in virtual realms. This type of installation is generally site-specific, scalable, and without fixed dimensionality, meaning it can be reconfigured to accommodate different presentation spaces. [35]

Noah Wardrip-Fruin's "Screen" (2003) is an example of interactive digital installation art which makes use of a Cave Automatic Virtual Environment to create an interactive experience. [36] Scott Snibbe's "Boundary Functions" is an example of augmented reality digital installation art, which response to people who enter the installation by drawing lines between people, indicating their personal space. [34]

Internet art and

Internet art is digital art that uses the specific characteristics of the internet and is exhibited on the internet.

Digital art and blockchain

Blockchain, and more specifically NFTs, are associated with digital art since the NFTs craze of 2020 and 2021. Digital art is a common use case for NFTs. [37] By minting a piece of digital art the owner of the NFT is proven to be the owner of the art piece. [38] While the technology received many critics and has many flaws related to plagiarism and fraud (due to its almost completely unregulated nature), [39] auction houses like Sotheby's, Christie's and various museums and galleries in the world started collaborations and partnerships with digital artists, selling NFTs associated with digital artworks (via NFT platforms) and showcasing those artworks (associated to the respective NFTs) both in virtual galleries and real life screens, monitors and TVs. [40] [41] [42]

Art theorists and historians

Notable art theorists and historians in this field include Oliver Grau, Jon Ippolito, Christiane Paul, Frank Popper, Jasia Reichardt, Mario Costa, Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Dominique Moulon, Robert C. Morgan, Roy Ascott, Catherine Perret, Margot Lovejoy, Edmond Couchot, Fred Forest and Edward A. Shanken.

Scholarship and archives

In addition to the creation of original art, research methods that utilize AI have been generated to quantitatively analyze digital art collections. This has been made possible due to large-scale digitization of artwork in the past few decades. Although the main goal of digitization was to allow for accessibility and exploration of these collections, the use of AI in analyzing them has brought about new research perspectives. [43]

Two computational methods, close reading and distant viewing, are the typical approaches used to analyze digitized art. [44] Close reading focuses on specific visual aspects of one piece. Some tasks performed by machines in close reading methods include computational artist authentication and analysis of brushstrokes or texture properties. In contrast, through distant viewing methods, the similarity across an entire collection for a specific feature can be statistically visualized. Common tasks relating to this method include automatic classification, object detection, multimodal tasks, knowledge discovery in art history, and computational aesthetics. [43] Whereas distant viewing includes the analysis of large collections, close reading involves one piece of artwork.

Whilst 2D and 3D digital art is beneficial as it allows the preservation of history that would otherwise have been destroyed by events like natural disasters and war, there is the issue of who should own these 3D scans i.e., who should own the digital copyrights. [45]


See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fractal art</span>

Fractal art is a form of algorithmic art created by calculating fractal objects and representing the calculation results as still digital images, animations, and media. Fractal art developed from the mid-1980s onwards. It is a genre of computer art and digital art which are part of new media art. The mathematical beauty of fractals lies at the intersection of generative art and computer art. They combine to produce a type of abstract art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Generative art</span> Art created by a set of rules, often using computers

Generative art refers to art that in whole or in part has been created with the use of an autonomous system. An autonomous system in this context is generally one that is non-human and can independently determine features of an artwork that would otherwise require decisions made directly by the artist. In some cases the human creator may claim that the generative system represents their own artistic idea, and in others that the system takes on the role of the creator.

Computer art is any art in which computers play a role in production or display of the artwork. Such art can be an image, sound, animation, video, CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, video game, website, algorithm, performance or gallery installation. Many traditional disciplines are now integrating digital technologies and, as a result, the lines between traditional works of art and new media works created using computers has been blurred. For instance, an artist may combine traditional painting with algorithm art and other digital techniques. As a result, defining computer art by its end product can thus be difficult. Computer art is bound to change over time since changes in technology and software directly affect what is possible.

Graphics are visual images or designs on some surface, such as a wall, canvas, screen, paper, or stone, to inform, illustrate, or entertain. In contemporary usage, it includes a pictorial representation of data, as in design and manufacture, in typesetting and the graphic arts, and in educational and recreational software. Images that are generated by a computer are called computer graphics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Digital painting</span> Type of art created using computers

Digital painting is an established art medium that typically combines a computer, a graphics tablet, and software of choice. The artist uses painting and drawing with the stylus that comes with the graphics tablet to create 2D paintings within a digital art software. Digital artists utilize multiple techniques and tools, the main one being digital brushes. These come standard with all digital art programs, but users can create their own by altering their shape, texture, size, and transfer. Many of these brushes are created to represent traditional styles like oils, acrylics, pastels, charcoal, and airbrushing, but not all. Other effective tools include layers, lasso tools, shapes, and masks. Digital painting has evolved to not just mimic traditional art styles but fully become its technique.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Graphic art software</span> Subclass of application software

Graphic art software is a subclass of application software used for graphic design, multimedia development, stylized image development, technical illustration, general image editing, or simply to access graphic files. Art software uses either raster or vector graphic reading and editing methods to create, edit, and view art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Virtual cinematography</span> CGI essentially

Virtual cinematography is the set of cinematographic techniques performed in a computer graphics environment. It includes a wide variety of subjects like photographing real objects, often with stereo or multi-camera setup, for the purpose of recreating them as three-dimensional objects and algorithms for the automated creation of real and simulated camera angles. Virtual cinematography can be used to shoot scenes from otherwise impossible camera angles, create the photography of animated films, and manipulate the appearance of computer-generated effects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Algorithmic art</span> Art genre

Algorithmic art or algorithm art is art, mostly visual art, in which the design is generated by an algorithm. Algorithmic artists are sometimes called algorists.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">3D computer graphics</span> Graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data

3D computer graphics, sometimes called CGI, 3-D-CGI or three-dimensional computer graphics, are graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data that is stored in the computer for the purposes of performing calculations and rendering digital images, usually 2D images but sometimes 3D images. The resulting images may be stored for viewing later or displayed in real time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Casey Reas</span>

Casey Edwin Barker Reas, also known as C. E. B. Reas or Casey Reas, is an American artist whose conceptual, procedural and minimal artworks explore ideas through the contemporary lens of software. Reas is perhaps best known for having created, with Ben Fry, the Processing programming language.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Computer graphics</span> Graphics created using computers

Computer graphics deals with generating images and art with the aid of computers. Today, computer graphics is a core technology in digital photography, film, video games, digital art, cell phone and computer displays, and many specialized applications. A great deal of specialized hardware and software has been developed, with the displays of most devices being driven by computer graphics hardware. It is a vast and recently developed area of computer science. The phrase was coined in 1960 by computer graphics researchers Verne Hudson and William Fetter of Boeing. It is often abbreviated as CG, or typically in the context of film as computer generated imagery (CGI). The non-artistic aspects of computer graphics are the subject of computer science research.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New media art</span> Artworks designed and produced by means of electronic media technologies

New media art includes artworks designed and produced by means of electronic media technologies, comprising virtual art, computer graphics, computer animation, digital art, interactive art, sound art, Internet art, video games, robotics, 3D printing, and cyborg art. The term defines itself by the thereby created artwork, which differentiates itself from that deriving from conventional visual arts. New Media art has origins in the worlds of science, art, and performance. Some common themes found in new media art include databases, political and social activism, Afrofuturism, feminism, and identity, a ubiquitous theme found throughout is the incorporation of new technology into the work. The emphasis on medium is a defining feature of much contemporary art and many art schools and major universities now offer majors in "New Genres" or "New Media" and a growing number of graduate programs have emerged internationally. New media art may involve degrees of interaction between artwork and observer or between the artist and the public, as is the case in performance art. Yet, as several theorists and curators have noted, such forms of interaction, social exchange, participation, and transformation do not distinguish new media art but rather serve as a common ground that has parallels in other strands of contemporary art practice. Such insights emphasize the forms of cultural practice that arise concurrently with emerging technological platforms, and question the focus on technological media per se. New Media art involves complex curation and preservation practices that make collecting, installing, and exhibiting the works harder than most other mediums. Many cultural centers and museums have been established to cater to the advanced needs of new media art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">3D modeling</span> Form of computer-aided engineering

In 3D computer graphics, 3D modeling is the process of developing a mathematical coordinate-based representation of any surface of an object in three dimensions via specialized software by manipulating edges, vertices, and polygons in a simulated 3D space.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Computer-generated imagery</span> Application of computer graphics to create or contribute to images

Computer-generated imagery (CGI) is a specific-technology or application of computer graphics for creating or improving images in art, printed media, simulators, videos and video games. These images are either static or dynamic. CGI both refers to 2D computer graphics and 3D computer graphics with the purpose of designing characters, virtual worlds, or scenes and special effects. The application of CGI for creating/improving animations is called computer animation, or CGI animation.

Krista Kim is a Canadian-Korean contemporary artist and Vogue Singapore's metaverse editor known for incorporation of light, digital technology, and sound into her artistic creations. Her portfolio includes touring installations, displays, and the sale of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), some of which were developed in collaboration with major corporations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Non-fungible token</span> Unique and non-interchangeable data

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a unique digital identifier that is recorded on a blockchain, and is used to certify ownership and authenticity. It cannot be copied, substituted, or subdivided. The ownership of an NFT is recorded in the blockchain and can be transferred by the owner, allowing NFTs to be sold and traded. NFTs can be created by anybody, and require few or no coding skills to create. NFTs typically contain references to digital files such as artworks, photos, videos, and audio. Because NFTs are uniquely identifiable, they differ from cryptocurrencies, which are fungible.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Artificial intelligence art</span> Machine application of knowledge of human aesthetic expressions

Artificial intelligence art is any visual artwork created through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) programs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dangiuz</span> Contemporary Italian artist

Leopoldo D'Angelo, better known by the pseudonym "Dangiuz" is an Italian contemporary visual artist, digital artist and art director specializing in sci-fi themes. His work has been featured in art networks, books, TV channels and magazines such as RAI, Arte, Wallpaper*, NVIDIA Studio Standouts, Juxtapoz Magazine, Sohu and Digital Production, and showcased in various museums and galleries worldwide. He also took part in the creation of Rui Hachimura's Cherry Blossom kimono design and Maserati's MC20 concept art.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mike Winkelmann</span> American digital artist

Michael Joseph Winkelmann, known professionally as Beeple, is an American digital artist, graphic designer, and animator known for selling NFTs. In his art, he uses various media to create comical, phantasmagoric works that make political and social commentary while using pop culture figures as references. British auction house Christie's has called him "A visionary digital artist at the forefront of NFTs". Beeple was introduced to NFTs in October 2020 and credits Pak for providing his first "primer" on selling NFTs. The NFT associated with Everydays: the First 5000 Days, a collage of images from his "Everydays" series, was sold on March 12, 2021, for $69 million in cryptocurrency to an investor in NFTs. It is the first purely non-fungible token to be sold by Christie's. The auction house had previously sold Block 21, an NFT with accompanying physical painting for approximately $130,000 in October 2020.

<i>Everydays: the First 5000 Days</i> Digital work of art by Mike Winkelmann

Everydays: the First 5000 Days is a digital work of art created by Mike Winkelmann, known professionally as Beeple. The work is a collage of 5000 digital images created by Winkelmann for his Everydays series. Its associated non-fungible token (NFT) was sold for $69.3 million at Christie's in 2021, making it the most expensive non-fungible token ever.


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