The June 2008 Portfolio in Computer Graphics Worldfeatured artist Andrew “Android” Jones, owner of Massive Black, a digital art, concept outsourcing, and IP development company. He is also cofounder of the online art community www.conceptart.org. He works from his home base in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lives.
However, we were only able to bring you a snippet about this artist and his unique work. So, we have taken this opportunity to present more about him in the following Q&A.
How long have you been creating digital art?
I have been seriously pursuing a path in digital art for the last 10 years, and I devote a great part of each waking day to digital art. I've dedicated myself as a digital artist for the past decade; however, it's the amount of hours and not the number of years per say that is important, and that can be a difficult number to gauge.
Did you start out as a traditional artist?
All art is part of a tradition, and yes, my roots are grounded in more traditional and organic mediums. I began working with tempera wax crayons and other earth pigments on paper at age five.
What is your training and background?
As a child, I read a lot of art books, and drawing was an everyday ritual. I have a very supportive family, and at the age of 10, I was mentored by a woman artist by the name of Rita Irengton. I spent an evening each week working with Rita and focusing on blind contour drawing. Looking back, I've come to find that women have played an instrumental influence in my personal artistic journey and reflect back my reverence of the divine feminine.
I began a regiment of life drawing at 15, and I continued on through college, where I attended Ringling School of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. I also attended the University of South Florida and studied anatomy and human dissection to further my understanding of the human form. I have a bachelor's degree in fine art and computer animation.
Would you consider yourself a professional and hobbyist?
Part of being a professional is getting paid for your work, and all you need to be a hobbyist is time to not get paid. I would prefer to consider myself as "called." I am called to be in the creation of art, and my art takes many forms. I create with whatever elements satisfy my desire to manifest.
How would you describe your digital art? What type of genre?
I strive to avoid genres; my art is part of a movement, and by defining my art as part of a genre would fix it in time. Digital art is currently an open frontier where new techniques and traditions are being established every day. However, for the sake of clarification, I would consider myself the genre within the service of live-performance innovation. I call it "Photonography." I attempt to capture the energetic discourse between such things as spirit and technology. An example of this would be the dynamic between electronic music and underground culture or an electronic musician an audience.
What makes your art so special, both from a creative aspect and technical aspect?
My art is not "special"; it is what it is. I do, however, try to make my art different. From a creative standpoint, a lot of the art I've created in the past year has been innovated on a stage while performing live. One aspect is the physical component of being on stage dancing with an oversized Wacom tablet harnessed to my shoulders. I channel the creation of art into a new form of progressive visual stimulation by projecting it on a wall or a screen.
In addition, I am recording the process of live painting, which adds another layer to the dimensionality of my work. The resulting video can later be edited to music, and released online as entertainment or as instructional content.
What's technically extraordinary is the mediums of light and electricity, representing an unbridled frontier of possibility. It's awe-inspiring. We don't even know exactly what electricity is! Technology is accelerating at an exponential speed as we approach the singularity.
What kind of range does your art fall into?
Most of my range is somewhere between "visionary and the video game." I will draw on streets, street corners, walls, and Wacoms. I renegade project light on buildings and skyscrapers. I use earth and trees, electricity and human bodies as canvas. I have made spiritual art, decorative art, commercial art, corporate art. Looking back, a lot of my art is focused around entertainment, films, video games, books. Now my art has concentrated on collaborating with the musical frequencies.
How has your art evolved over the years? To what do you contribute those changes?
My art has changed drastically due to: circumstance, environment, intention, reaction, and exposure.
In the recent past, I have made multiple changes in all of those categories and more transformation in one year than I can easily remember. When I was a child, art came naturally and effortlessly; I never questioned it. Over time, the question has become a riddle too difficult to fathom anymore, but I'm in too deep to look back now.
I take into consideration the evolution of the audience/exposure and the intention of the work. As a child, I made art for my mother, then friends in school, then girlfriends, then for ego and self-identity, and later for patronage (support and sustenance). I have the privilege of being an artist pre-Internet. I have been enveloped in its wake. Once I surrendered my art to the power of the Internet, everything changed--not only can the Internet be an endless source of inspiration, it has the potential to be an endless reflection. With minimal effort, I can take a digital piece of art and instantaneously share it will hundreds of thousands of people. This kind of opportunity has had untold effects on what I create, how I create, and how I share what I make.
I know it’s difficult to do, but can you detail your content creation process?
Think. Move hand. Look. Move hand more. Look. Think. I work one step ahead of myself. I draw most of my inspiration from my immediate surroundings, and I found that by training your observation, you could transform even the most mundane into something beautiful. There is a strong element of chaos in my work, especially at the offset of a piece. Sometimes I will just focus on the feelings I want to communicate, and I will be very abstract with my marks and shapes. This gives the work an opportunity to show me what it wants to be. Sometimes I feel like there is a dialog between three voices in my head when I work. One of the voices represents what I want it to be. Another represents a critic who is always pointing out what it isn't and second-guesses the first voice, and this voice can sometimes intervene, showing me what it will be. In an ideal situation, all the voices melt away and all of my actions come naturally, like a dance, and there are no words.
What software and hardware do you use?
The hardware is created on a 17-inch Apple MacBook Pro, with a 30-inch Apple monitor. I also use a 12x19 Intous3 from Wacom. All of this is instrumental in my creative process: Painter X, Zbrush, Photoshop, showu, Firefox, Mail, QuickTime, Skype, Itunes, stickies, grab.
Corel Painter X is my software program of choice, and it belongs in any digital artist’s arsenal. Corel’s painting engine has enabled new levels of creativity for me.
Why do you prefer to work in this digital medium?
I prefer to work in the electronic medium because I enjoy manipulating and working with light. I find the digital realm to be the most liberating form of expression that is available to me. I am also attracted to the rate at which the medium evolves over time--in a few years new hardware and software will be developed that will revolutionize the way I create. Creating in new ways changes the way I think. For me, digital art puts less focus on aspects like drawing and painting, and more focus on the raw act of manifesting and creating. It's the difference between a stonecutter and a magician.
Do you still work in other media?
Yes, and I want to point out that the contrast between digital and traditional art is not an either/or; it's a both, and no one is asking anyone to take sides. The debate between digital and traditional art is a battle between the elements. I work with chalk, wax, water, atomized air and pigment, ink, oil, acrylic, tempera. Organic mediums offer a tactile and romantic quality to them. One of my favorite things is working outside in the sun, airbrushing a design on a person’s body and bare skin.
However, beyond digital and traditional, the most important medium than you can make art with is your life. Live your life as art.
What is the most difficult thing about creating CG art?
The absence of tactility. At times, I can become overwhelmed by the limitless potential of options that the digital medium presents. Sometimes all of the possibilities can be intimidating when trying to make the perfect decision.
Another aspect that makes it difficult also makes it amazing: CG art is dependent on the effort, work, and time of hundreds and thousands of people. From the people who mine the crystal quartz, melt the plastics, solder the circuit boards, work at the power plants, run the Web servers, ship the product…if you think about it, the list goes on and on, and it has for years. And, the list keeps getting bigger. It’s an incredibly sensitive ecosystem that is completely interdependent on itself, and I am a part of it and dependent on it. Knowing that the lights can go out at any moment sometimes makes making CG art difficult to justify investing my time in it.
What distinguishes your work from other CG art?
Each human being carries a totally unique frequency and vibration, and it is our privilege to find that in our lives and share it in art. My art is an expression of gratitude for the human experience my spirit is having on this planet. What separates my CG art is that I don't think of it as computer-generated; to me, it is "spirit"-generated--it’s my energy and the collective energy of the planet that comes together to bring what I make into a realm where others can share in its creation. I don't focus on the computer; I focus on what it creates.
Are there any other things about your work you would like to share with the readers?
Yes, I do. Stop reading this article and go do something that means something to you. We are living in curious times. Do the most with the time that you have. Turn the monitor off and breathe Go outside and be grateful for something.
Do you have any upcoming gallery showings?
Yes, I do. I’m working on a massive show now!
And, I’m showing every day on the Internet.