Toward a Digital Aesthetic


Introduction: The Transparent Revolution
Digital art tools were known to me, in the early 80’s, as proprietary TV production paint systems costing over $55,000 per unit.  So, it was not until 10 years later, when the proliferation of the personal computer and truly elegant imaging software brought these tools home for less than one-tenth the original price.  The cost of increasingly sophisticated art making tools had dropped more than 90% in ten years.  I have been making and writing about digital art ever since.  Visit for a good selection of my art and more writings on the topic of digital art.

Thanks to Don Archer, John Labadie and Victor Johnston for reading this essay and offering their support and editing suggestions.

The Death of Styles
Just my opinion, but now that nothing is “new” and we are, at last, “unshockable”; no one seems to know what to do next.  I read a recent piece about a major art opening and panel discussion where the critic spent a lot of words critiquing how the artist, who had received a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant”, had dressed for the occasion.

The Legacy of Pop
My most current source for information about the artists, history and implications of Pop Art is “Pop Art: A Continuing History”, by Marco Livingstone, Thames & Hudson, 2000, ISBN 0-500-28240

A Brief Digression
Alessandro Bavari, .  I quote and paraphrase from news releases posted on Alessandro’s website and from e-mail exchanges of August/September 2003.

Shannon Hourigan, .  I quote from an e-mail interview conducted September/October of 2002.

Steve Danzig, .  Taken from various artist statements posted on his website and an e-mail interview of September 2003.

Robert Brown, .  Quotes and many good ideas were paraphrased from an e-mail interview of August 2003.  He is the one that suggested the idea of the “finality” of traditional photographic imagery.  Good one!

I cannot mention Collage without acknowledging the work of Romare Bearden and wondering what he would have done with a computer and Photoshop.  What he did with scissors was amazing enough.

There are already excellent books on digital printmaking; in particular, “Mastering Digital Printing” by Harald Johnson, (ISBN: 1929685653) will answer all your questions about techniques and what to look for in a high quality digital print.  Also visit .  A word to the wise should be sufficient…”Now”…is the time to begin collecting digital art.

Beyond the Drawing Board
In May of 2003 the American Print Council met in Albuquerque and Jim Kraft, member of the New Mexico Digital Fine Arts Society, (  ) posted his notes on the various topics discussed.  Here are some excerpts:  Concerning the use of a computer and digital printer to make art, ”They don't seem to care what role the computer and printer play so long as whatever finds its way into a collection will last and they concede that many ink jet/paper combinations have met an undefined yet tangible "baseline."  And, concerning the numbering of limited editions, “In fact curators as a group seem to feel it's OK what you do, just write it down.”  It would appear that as long as a digital artist is using good materials and is keeping accurate and complete records of the number of prints made, when and what size/materials etc. used to create each print; that the American Print Council finds this work acceptable for galleries and collectors.

The Velocity of Imagination
The original quote, by digital illustrator Hiroshi Yoshi, “I hate traditional media.  It’s too slow.  With the computer, I have a tool that works as fast as my imagination.” first appeared in “EFX, Art and Design” magazine and I have paraphrased him liberally since then.

Outside the Box
“Current Painting” for me, as it is for many, is a mediated experience; not often a part of my firsthand environment.  But, from what I see, filtered through various magazines and films, there appears to be digital ideas and even familiar elements of composition cropping up in many new works on canvas.  How lucky I was to find such an articulate and thought provoking artist, such as William Bitunjac, to quote and paraphrase.

What Does Digital Art Look Like?
There are thousands of artist websites and “e-galleries” to visit.  See for yourself at:                        
and many many more!

JD Jarvis
November, 2002
Las Cruces, NM

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