Computers, Cavemen, and a Crunchy Question

Posted by on September 24, 2014

In the Beginning, there were no pixels. But our hairy, mouth-breathing, knuckle dragging ancestors beginning around 40,000 BC were talented artists and produced superb paintings using ground lumps of mineral pigment, animal oils as binders, primitive crayons or brushes from animal hair, and blow pipes made from bird bones for spraying color. They liked to doodle on the walls after a hard day at the office.

cave painting

Unfortunately, these primitive paintings didn't last very long after a cave was opened in our time exposing the delicate pigments to conditions that caused rapid deterioration.

Materials weren't much different in the Renaissance Period. Artists could obtain mineral pigments from the 'colormen' who sold them off the back of a donkey and steal eggs from under chickens for egg tempera. Waxes and resins used as varnishes endowed paintings with greater longevity.

Why am I telling you this? Think of it as the story of the evolution of the digital print. Printmakers during the Renaissance printed on hand-molded papers made by the same dedicated companies that continue to make them today -- with special coatings for digital printing. And you can use archival pigment inks.


In the Beginning, I was going to save the world one tree at a time or learn to levitate or live in a cave with one spoon and bowl or at least be a rock star but that's not what happened. I was always an artist at heart so it was no surprise to me that I 'became' an artist. I'm not sure exactly when it happened. One day I was relatively normal, and the next I was whipping up some French ultramarine in a bucket and then pushing it around on a big canvas stapled to the floor. The Atlanta Bee-Mop was thus put to higher, nobler levels of functionality and I'm betting that one day the manufacturers will use my idea to open up their market even more. Or feature me in a floor mopping commercial so I can hire a tidy-maid to do the mopping.

abstract painting BRIGHT SERAPHIM
Bright Seraphim acrylic on canvas 80 x 77 in. © W. Skog
*Images are monitored by a copyright protection service.*

I went to Toronto and New York and Los Angeles and looked at live paintings, the best in the world and couldn't wait to demolish my garage and build a studio. And some very distinguished experts in the art world came and looked. And I painted alongside some of the best contemporary artists world-wide. I was painting the violent and disturbing as well as the excruciatingly beautiful.

This spring I entered a new dimension, the micro world of pixels and dpi, and digital monoprints. I set out to prove to myself that fine art must be made with the human hand in intimate contact with the medium. Creating images on the computer was much more difficult and challenging than I could ever have imagined. After hundreds of manipulations and many test prints on paper, I finally produced 7 pigment ink prints on archival papers a combination expected to last 200 yrs. Then just to see what would happen I printed on aluminum plate. I found that the fickleness of aluminum is no hyperbole. My first clue should have been that all the employees in the metal market shop where I obtained the raw aluminum were covered with black smudges. But I persisted to the very end which involved a Mercedes clear coat finish on them by way of Three Point Motors and are therefore well protected from the rain or other contaminants. Still I recommend handling with care. These initial works were recently exhibited in my show Nuance alongside my large abstract paintings at Martin Batchelor Gallery in Victoria, BC.

And the results of my philosophical experiment? I discovered that art is made with the brain and/or heart and that the hand or the technological substitute is only the willing servant or messenger. This was a radical shift in thinking since I was such a purist in the beginning but how soaring is the heart and/or brain when something so wonderful finally appears on the monitor and you rush to the studio to print it.

Diamonds and Dust
digital print
pigment ink on archival sugar can paper
22 x 28 in. framed
© W. Skog

digital monoprint DIAMOMDS AND DUST
*Images are monitored by a copyright protection service.*

There was a period in my painting career from around 1997 to 2004 when I explored image in a very loose and painterly way evoking controversial issues associated with contemporary human conditions. See images from that period. In making artist's proofs which I think of as creating 'pixelations', I will have the opportunity to revisit that mindspace. And of course, I love to work with still life and nature studies as you can see on the print gallery page.

still-life painting WASTELANDS
Wastelands acrylic on canvas 87 x 56 in. © W. Skog
*Images are monitored by a copyright protection service.*

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