Tuesday, 7 May 2013


Questionnaire: What do you think digital art is?

In the “Types and Artists” section I referred to Christiane Paul (2008) who observed that digital art has many forms and it is still debatable of how exactly it can be defined.

In order to find out how people feel about digital art I carried out my primary research in the form of a questionnaire. The questionnaire consisted of one question; I asked professionals or who have an understanding of digital media about their opinion of digital art.
This research helped me understand where digital art is heading and what new forms it might take.
The result of my questionnaire supports Paul’s view; all of my subjects agree that it is an active field with a broad meaning.
According to Kyoko Street-Yasuda (Figure 1), MA Digital Media Practice student, digital art can be any form of art which is made by electric elements. She named methods of digital sculpture, like 3D printers, video works of conventional sculpture or sculpture which is connected with electric device (Kinetic type) as example.
Kyoko’s opinion is justified by David S Carlin (Figure 2), BA Digital Media Design student, who claims digital art is any kind of artwork that is presented in a digital format. David has given me a summary of what he thinks constitutes the existence of digital art, mainly the rise of Digital Media.
David believes the development of digital technologies, such as the computer, pocket calculators, digital cameras, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), digital TV signal were all responsible for the emerge of this form of art.

“Just put art digitally online or transmit it digitally across television broadcasts, thus Digital Art. However, it has its own unique culture and with the advent of the digital age has made a huge difference to the world.” (Figure 2)

David also thinks that the growing market of personal digital hand devices are an important way for changing the way people view data and information. The existence of these devices makes it possible for anyone who can purchase, borrow or utilise it to produce professional quality artwork.

Chris de Roux (Figure 3), BA Digital Media Design student, shares the same view as David.
As examples, he names compositions on the iPhone and iPad, artwork created with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, animations made suing Flash and HTML5. Chris considers even music and light shows as a form of digital art.
In an interesting way, he believes many websites are pieces of art too with their well thought out layout structures.

Linda Carlin (Figure 4), Member of Winchester Photographic Society and Wonston Worthy’s Photographic Society, claims digital art is any 2D or 3D visual object which effectively expresses something that a person can respond to or appreciate, like or dislike.

She believes Adobe Photoshop changed photography into digital art, but there are still debates over it. While some dislike the idea, others see it as a way to enhance an image.

“Since one definition of art is “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture” it seems to me that expanding it to include the multitude of mixed media and composite images which involve a visual element is not unreasonable.” (Figure 4)

Here, we arrive to the point which is the thesis of my dissertation: does digital art have a future in web design?
Both Chris de Roux and Linda Carlin agree that even websites can include digital art, because there is a great deal of skill involved in designing clean, clear images, including brand logos.

 The result of my questionnaire shows that everyone shares the same view about this new and innovative trend of contemporary art, even web design can be considered as a form of it.

The Future

Pros and Cons for Digital Art

Before I start discussing the thesis of my dissertation, I would like to list the advantages and disadvantages of digital art. To demonstrate it I will be comparing an oil painting with a digital one.

The main difference lies in seeing an artwork in live in a gallery or a museum and in seeing a digital painting on a screen.

In case of a real oil painting one can see the frame, the true colours, texture, the exact size of the painting, and the quality of the brushstrokes which are all visible to the observer.

An oil painting is a 3D object with a history of its own; it can be viewed from different angles. Because of this it can change the mood it conveys, the impression it gives and even the effects of light (shadows, highlights, colours). These are not possible when looking at a digital work of art (unless they are 3D).

Louisa Wood Ruby (2008) claims that although advanced technologies we now have can aid our understanding of a work of art, the physical experience of standing in front of a work of art can never be replicated by seeing it on a flat screen.

She explains that a digital image is static which only allows us to experience the painting from one direction, making it impossible to grip the exact size of the work of art.

On the other hand, in the case of a digital painting the viewer has the leisure to study it without uncomfortable physical distractions such as large crowds, noise or tired feet.
Because it is digital, one can enjoy the work from the comfort of their home, office or where ever they are. Furthermore, there’s no time limitation, one doesn’t have to consider someone else’s schedule; and one can look at it for as long as they like without being disturbed.

If a work of art is digital or online, it has a wider distribution because there is no physical component. The web gives access to works of art that one would perhaps never be able to see if it was a real painting, because they are either in private collections or in a gallery too expensive to visit. Accessing a digital painting is much cheaper; one doesn’t have to buy tickets
Of course, the viewer is dependent on the quality and capabilities of the website on which the painting is displayed.

Problem of colour accuracy and quality of the monitor on which the painting is viewed is another issue. Different monitors and projectors can produce vastly different colours.
When I had to present a Christmas card design which I made for the University of Winchester, I encountered similar difficulties. The card represented an angel in the University’s colours, blue and gold. While on my laptop the colours where the exact shade I wanted them to be, on the projector the gold was almost lemon yellow. This altered the meaning my design tried to convey; instead of a Christmas card it had a summer feeling.

Another benefit of digital art is that thanks to the high-quality and zoom technology digital paintings can be examined very closely, revealing greater detail.

A disadvantage is that an oil painting has a richer history: sometimes a painting has to be restored, added to, cut down, have bits painted over; there might be underlying paint layers or initial sketches/ first efforts/ corrections made to achieve the final picture. A digital painting doesn’t have these, though there might be some copies of initial sketches. However, there is the undo option, if one made a mistake one can undo it or step back.

Thanks to the Internet one can find out more about works of art. For example one can view videos on Youtube about the process how digital portraits are being painted (David Kassan’s paintings).

Wood Ruby (2008) suggests that Rembrandt himself may not have approved of all this. According to a roughly contemporary author, he pulled people away who passed too closely to his pictures when visiting his studio.

Whether digital art is better or not, it is subjective but my opinion is that it brings art closer to people, making it more accessible and contemporary.

Does digital art have a future in web design?

When I started carrying out the research this was the main question I was hoping to find an answer for.
My primary research revealed that everyone shares the same view about digital art: even web design can be considered a form of it.

All works of art are ‘painted’ against the cultural canvas, the deep background of society. Culture is a set of learned ways of thinking and acting that characterizes a decision-making human group. It determines our paradigms, worldview, values, and aesthetics. Our cultural landscape is morphing and art is morphing with it, and in many cases leading the way with artists as pathfinders. Media is the environment or cultural ground of 21st century life.
(Miller, 2008)

Miller suggests that digital technologies are the new medium which creates new environments of perception and they have a significant effect on society.
She believes digital art transforms culture in a variety of ways, both educational and on the production end (in both “input” and “output”). It is a subject, a tool, and a medium with the aesthetics of the database, the algorithm and the code facilitating self-exploration and collaboration.

Bolter & Gromala (2005) support Miller’s view. The authors observed that we do not always want our computers to be invisible "information appliances." Their role is not only to help us in our daily lives, transmit and store information, help to keep in touch with each other, entertain people, and act as a working tool. They are much more.

Bolter & Gromala (2005) claim computers are now taking their places beside other media, like printing, film, radio, and television. The computer as medium creates new forms for artists and designers, offering digital art as a source of inspiration for Web designers, graphic artists, and interface designers.

The role of a Web designer is to create the “look and feel” of the product. He/ she must combine creativity with an awareness of the tools and technologies that will be used to build the product, and an understanding of what these can and can’t do.
The designer has to prepare a design plan, showing the site structure and how the different parts link together; decide which text, colours and backgrounds to use; do the layout of the pages, buttons, links and pictures; add multimedia features like sound, animation and video; test and improve the design.
The overall message of the website has to be communicated through interplay of words and images, so the goal of web design is to enhance our experience of it.

Bolter & Gromala (2005) suggest that digital art is relevant to technologists because digital art can be considered as the purest form of experimental design. The design shouldn’t just deliver information and then erase itself from our memory, but it should engage us in an interactive experience of form and content.

So not only the technology behind the design is what’s important, but also the design itself, whether it’s aesthetic, making a deep impression on the viewer.

In a paper called The Stone Age of the Digital Arts (Malina, 2002), I read that in the late 1960s it was far from obvious that computer art would become the powerful means for contemporary expression that it has become today.

Digital art has always been an innovative field with artists and scientists experimenting. It is considered either a completely novel break with the past’s limitations or a useful implement to extend already established forms. Of course, both statements are true but inadequate. Both continuity and freshness characterise it, exhilaration about the newest possibilities is entirely warranted. (Rand, 2008)

For example, in July 2002 a workshop was organised to bring together artists, engineers, designers, and computer scientists. The discussion did not address how one could produce work of art that was considered to be of artistic or aesthetic interest; but to bring new ideas from art theory and contemporary art practice into computer science, engineering, and design.
Those people knew that culture can only make use of art and technology if they incorporate contemporary science and technology with artistic exploration, while recognising the very different disciplines of each.

Malina (2002) suggests there is an increasing interest in the personalisation of computers to adapt them to individual use and preference.  He is on the same opinion as Bolter & Gromala. He believes the computer is now a mass market device whose future use and evolution depends in large part on social acceptance and cultural desires.

The author claims these are special times in cultural history when artists, scientists, and engineers have to work together to share experiences and vocabularies, views of what problems might be interesting to solve and of which solutions would be considered exciting.

Rand (2008) believes people shouldn’t be passive or indifferent about the era in which we find ourselves. We are witnessing an innovation worth getting excited about: the digital age when technology creates new artistry, new expressions, and even new forms of art.

He doesn’t understand people’s surprise regarding art’s currentness, its unbroken attention to and participation in science and numeracy. He thinks every artistic age avails itself of the qualitatively best and comparatively most advanced technology of its time.

The author refuses the idea that there was or continues to be a gap between artistic expression and science/ technology. This supposed opposition in worldview and thinking is only created by people.
In the end art is judged not by its conceptual reach or theoretical potential but by what it achieves. However, art validates technology as something more than it would be alone in itself. This is true the other way round as well, quality doesn’t just demonstrate the potential of art, but frees it.
Computers create, read, store, process and display the colours, sounds, shapes and motion which form a piece of art.

I agree with Rand, but it is sad to see how designers are less and less needed.  Because of the economic crisis companies are trying to save money by employing a developer who can create the designs as well.

According to the National Careers Service site a web designer needs a good working knowledge of the following programs: CSS, HTML, DHTML, XML, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Flash, Fireworks, JavaScript, .Net, Active Server Pages (ASP) and PHP (Personal Home Page).

It seems a designer has to have the same set of skills as a developer. In my opinion, this is unreasonable, because someone with an analytical way of thinking can’t have an artistic insight/ flair for art and the other way round (or it is very rare).
A designer can never learn all the languages a developer knows and be as good at it. On the other hand, the developer can never learn to be artistic because it’s not attainable.
The two people are less separately, but more if they work together.

From the website I also found out that the industry employs around 40,000 people of which 29,500 people are in web development.
The A LIST APART Survey (2008) confirms this. While 27.8% of the respondents are web developers, only 12.7% are web designers.

Job title

(From the A LIST APART Survey, 2008)

I hope the impact of this trend won’t be that web design is going to be reduced to templates.

Malina (2002) is on the opinion that many successful people in the digital media industry won’t be individuals, but rather teams of several or many individuals working together. The problems being tackled will often require interdisciplinary teams that will bring together disparate expertise from diverse disciplines.
The author suggests this special period of interaction between artists, scientists and engineers will change our vision of the world and our place in it.

Charles “Chuck” Csuri (Digital art pioneer showcases five decades of innovation, 2009) claims art history shows that true innovation in art takes place when it looks at the same fundamental issues as the scientist because the process of inquiry and understanding are very similar.
“Today, we’re not only in an economic crisis, but also a cultural crisis. We as artists should use technology to express human experience and meaning.”
Our duty is to understand the relationship between art and technology.

Malina (2002) thinks we are in the Stone Age of the digital arts, and it is likely that the future will have little to do with the digital and everything to do with the aesthetics that emerge from the new situations, just as the Renaissance was not about the technology of perspective but more about the new vision that emerged of the place of humans in nature and the future of human society.

Rand (2008) shares Malina’s view; he claims the novelty of digital art is upon us; now we await the quality.

From my research I found out that if there is great digital art it is still over the horizon and out of sight despite the brave efforts of those labouring for it. Only the artists/ designers can, with enthusiasm and flair, bring it into existence.


To explore the subject I used a variety of resources, like journals, papers, books, online websites, statistics and I conducted a questionnaire.
This work gave me the opportunity to find out as much as possible about digital art and it helped me to answer the question does digital art have a place in web design.

I believe art and technology complete each other, they become more than they would be alone in themselves. Technology doesn’t just enhance the potential of art, but it frees it; making digital art a source of inspiration for web- and graphic designers.

Now, I feel prepared to enter the industry. I might consider becoming a front-end developer because it seems reasonable.


·         Algorithmic art/ algorithm art = mostly visual art of which the design is generated by an algorithm.

·         CGI = Computer-generated imagery.

·         Dada, Dadaism = a nihilistic artistic movement of the early 20th century in W Europe and the US, founded on principles of irrationality, incongruity, and irreverence towards accepted aesthetic criteria.

·         Datamoshing = the display of digital or analogue errors, such as artefacts and other “bugs”.

·         Fractal art = a form of algorithmic art created by calculating fractal objects and representing the calculation results as still images, animations, and media.

·         Giclée = little squirt in French. It is the latest digital printing technique enabling "print on demand". Originally it was a term used by Iris printers but rapidly became the generic term for top quality digital prints using archival quality inks on heavy weight paper or canvas.

·         Hypertext = experiments with the possibilities of non-linear narrative.

·         IAMDA = Association of Mobile Digital Artists


·         Bolter, J. D. & Gromala, D. (2005), Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Trasparency, 1st edition, Cambridge, MIT Press.

·         Briggs, J. & Blythe, M. (2012), No Oil Painting: Digital Originals and Slow Prints [Online]. Available at: http://di.ncl.ac.uk/publicweb/publications/DIS_MB_JB_camera_ready.pdf (Accessed: 20 November 2012).

·         Digital art pioneer showcases five decades of innovation (2009) Available at: https://www.osc.edu/press/releases/2009/csuri_post (Accessed: 25 March 2013).

·         Paul, C. (2008), Digital Art (World of Art), 2nd revised edition, London, Thames and Hudson Ltd.

·         Malina, R. F. (2002), The Stone Age of the Digital Arts, Leonardo, Volume 35, pp 463-465.

·         Miller, I. (2008), Digital Art History. Available at: http://digitalarthistory.iwarp.com/ (Accessed: 21 November 2012).

  • Rand, H. (2008), The Other Side of Digital Art, Leonardo, Volume 41, pp 543-547.

·         Web designer (2012). Available at: https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/advice/planning/jobprofiles/Pages/webdesigner.aspx (Accessed: 27 March 2013).

·         Wilson, D. (2012), iArt. Critical Voice at The University of Winchester, 2012.

·         Wood Ruby, L., 2008, Layers of Seeing and Seeing through Layers: The Work of Art in the Age of Digital Imagery, Journal of Aesthetic Education, Vol. 42, No. 2, pp 51-56.


·         Bolter, J. D. & Gromala, D. (2005), Windows and Mirrors: Interaction Design, Digital Art, and the Myth of Trasparency, 1st edition, Cambridge, MIT Press.

·         Buchanan, R., Doordan, D. & Margolin, V. (2010), The designed World: images, Objects, Environments, English edition, Oxford, Berg.

·         Durham, M.G. & Kellner, D.M. (2001), Media and Cultural Studies, 1st edition, Oxford, Blackwell Publishing.

·         Lovejoy, M. (2004), Digital Currents: Art in the Electronic Age, 3rd edition, New York, Routledge.

·         Paul, C. (2008), Digital Art (World of Art), 2nd revised edition, London, Thames and Hudson Ltd.

·         Tribe, M. & Reese, J. (2006), New Media Art (Taschen Basic Art Series), illustrated edition, Germany, Taschen GmbH.



Figure 1: E-mail questionnaire Kyoko Street-Yasuda
Received 19th April 2013

Question: What do you think digital art is?

It's a bold question!
I don't know what you really what to know.
Though, my simple answer is this:
The Digital Art is any art forms are/were made by/with electric elements. For example, sculpture made by 3D printer/ video works of conventional sculpture / sculpture is connected with electric device (Kinetic type of work) etc.
I guess electric elements have to be used for the final production stage, not an early stage of the process, like drawing electrically the sculpture, but not actual sculpting process.  

Figure 2: E-mail questionnaire David S Carlin
Received 30th April 2013

Response from D S Carlin, on the Subject of Digital Art:
Human art has been in scientifically recognised existence since 50,000 BC in the Upper Palaeolithic period or ‘Stone Age’. The first event of digitising data is unclear to me as it seems that lots of people worked on separate projects that’s information all eventually coalesced together and helped create the understanding for the concept of ‘Digital’. At a guess I would say that 1936 is when it really happened when that Zuse person managed to build a primitive form of digital computer using electromagnetic relays instead of the standard (to that point) transistors, this was in the same year that regular public television broadcasts started in Great Britain. The next jump in the Digital worlds development would have to be around the mid 1970’s when the first liquid-crystal displays for pocket calculators and digital clocks marketed in Great Britain, furthermore Steven Sasson built a prototype digital camera at Kodak though its range and resolution would be considered pitiful in the current day and age, it captured a black-and-white image on a digital cassette tape at a resolution of .01 megapixels.

Jumping forward quite a bit to the 1990’s we come to 1995 when the BBC started Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), the following year began development of the D1 Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) camera. Then came the iPod in 2001, central to Apple’s strategy of making the Mac a “digital lifestyle” hub. Important for the growing market of personal digital devices, changing the way people view data and information. In 2005 Library of Congress announced its intention to launch the first world digital library and following this the next major event I think could be considered Great Britain changing from analogue to digital TV signal and incorporating the use of FREEVIEW to free broadcasting space for more services from 2007 to 2012.

I have now given you a summary of what I think constitutes the existence or art and the rise of Digital Media, the combination of the two should be simple then yes? Just put art digitally online or transmit it digitally across television broadcasts, thus Digital Art. However, Digital Art has its own unique culture and with the advent of the digital age has made a huge difference to the world. The internet gives us the gift of sharing our work and advancing the development of our ideas near instantaneously. Several websites like Deviant Art host anyone who is willing to submit their work as long as it does not fail the sites legal criteria. Alongside the popularity of the web, home computers, tablets, even phones (with cameras) now have the potential to turn a drawn image or event captured on photo digital and send it on to a social networking site in a digital format. Graphics Tablets would be the closest to entering digital art onto a storage device without using a mouse or keyboard to enter in values and create an image digitally, that doesn’t and shouldn’t disregard the mind-set of the digital world but should show that with the existence of these devices in a public setting everyone who can purchase, borrow or utilize a digitally accessible device now has the opportunity to produce professional quality artwork.

To simplify, what Digital Art is to me; Digital Art is any kind of artwork that is presented in a digital format.

Figure 3: E-mail questionnaire Chris de Roux
Received 1st May 2013

Question: What do you think digital art is?

For me, digital art is essentially any kind of art that is created in a digital format. This could be through compositions on the iPhone and iPad (David Hockney) and artwork created with Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop. Animations made suing Flash and HTML5 can also be considered as Digital Art. Even music and light shows fall into the category, and I would say that many websites are pieces of Digital Art, especially with the use of Parallax Scrolling, minimalism and many well thought out layout structures.

Figure 4: E-mail questionnaire Linda Carlin, Member of Winchester Photographic Society, Wonston Worthy’s Photographic Society

Received 4th May 2013
Question: What is Digital art?

To me digital art is art stored digitally and displayed as a visual object, whether in 2D or 3D, which effectively expresses something that I can respond to or appreciate, like or dislike. As with analogue art the best art will be that which you can visualise and remember long after you first saw it.

I am a keen photographer and have been interested in how use of tools, such as Adobe Photoshop, is changing the view of photography as art. In club competitions more images which are a composite are appearing. This varies from a straight image shot in camera merged with a textured layer perhaps also an image such as of water droplets or using a Photoshop filter such as a texturing effect from mosaic style to those which can warp part of an image. To me such images are a form of digital art. Some judges dislike photographic images with such elements, others see it as a way to enhance an image, as even a beautiful landscape can be a very different image enhanced by the use of curves in Photoshop.

Websites can include digital art as well since in my opinion there is a great deal of skill involved in designing clean, clear images even including brand logos.

On television many clips introducing channels or programmes include animated digital art. Again some of these include images from nature or the programme with overlaid effects. Since one definition of art is “The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture” it seems to me that expanding it to include the multitude of mixed media and composite images which involve a visual element is not unreasonable.   

My photographic club has just this year introduced a new competition, which I hope will be repeated annually, called the Creative Cup, to encourage digitally innovative images. I include a copy of the image, for which I won the copyright, which I intend to enter. It is created from a straight image of a metal dragonfly sculpture taken at a local garden which hosts as art in the garden event annually (Hilliers Arboretum), merged with another image of water with lots of bubbles. I then used tools in Photoshop to create a whirlpool effect and alter some of the colours. I consider this an example of digital art.

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