Em created his first digital work using Shoup's and Smith's Super Paint, the first computer painting program, on a machine equipped with the world's first frame buffer. Em soon joined Gary Demos and John Whitney Jr. at Information International Inc., where he used proprietary software running on a DEC 10 to create his first 3D "critter," an animated flying insect with articulated joints.
For the next 15 years, Em honed his skills using a variety of experimental programs. But in 1990, he began using Adobe Systems' Photoshop, "and I thought, 'This is great; there's a manual.' " Other programs, such as MetaCreations' (then Fractal Design's) Painter and Strata's 3D software, soon began proliferating, especially for the Macintosh. However, a high-end graphics setup was still cost-prohibitive for the average artist. (At the time, the equipment Em was using, including one of the first Quadras and a host of peripherals and test software, cost in excess of $35,000.) "Now I am platform agnostic-whatever works, I use," Em says. Currently, some of his favorite tools include Discreet's 3D Studio Max, Right Hem i sphere's Deep Paint 3D, and Adobe's Photoshop and After Effects.
While some artists see the computer as a modern equivalent to canvas, Em sees it as a medium like no other. "I never understood people who try to duplicate a painting using computer graphics. CG has its own aesthetics, and is exciting in that it is in a constant state of evolution," he says. "A few months go by, and we're looking at a completely new animal."
A sampling of Em's work, from the historic to the more recent, is featured here.
"Transjovian Pipeline" (1970s)
"Glacier Squared" (1990s)
"Utah Spirits" (1990s)
"Cyber Grid" (1990s)