Issue: Volume: 25 Issue: 1 (January 2002)

25 Year Retrospective

Part 1 Digital Art

January 1977 Charles Williams' "Metamorphosis of a Flower," the earliest example of computer art from our magazine (then known as Computer Graphics Newsletter), was created from a hand drawing that was digitized and then modulated by a beaded mosaic pattern. Writes Williams: "The value of the system to a graphic artist is that it allows him to use a computer to generate complex variations of drawings which would be exceedingly difficult to prepare by hand."

January 1982 Ken Knowlton produced these "symbolic presentations" by applying random displacements to geometric and organic shapes created on a computer.

He used the experimental technique to explore the notion of communicating with symbols that have "no clearly defined meaning or usage."

August 1983 "Shaded Marbles" was generated by a Pascal program written by Michael Rieger to run on a PDP-11/34 computer. Recognizing a rapidly growing interest in computer art-illustrated the previous year at Siggraph's first art exhibition-Computer Graphics World invited works from digital artists to appear in a Digital Portfolio. This image was one chosen from some 1200 submissions.

May 1982 Mike Newman created this novel image using "cursor-controlled manipulation of a set of four circles." Writes the artist: "As with the camera, those first feelings of mistrust and apprehension concerning the graphics computer will become dim memories, as vast new possibilities become a reality."

July 1984 Joni Carter made Olympic history in the summer of 1984 by selecting a "great athletic moment" from photographs of each day's competition and recreating it on a digital paint system. She then relayed the artwork via video link back to the Olympic village for display, creating a day-by-day art show.

September 1984 Craig Caldwell helped redefine abstract art with a series of fluid, amorphous shapes. To produce the images, his team used Jim Blinn's Command Language Interpreter to modify the so-called Blobby Molecule program, originally designed to illustrate the soft, indefinite mass of molecules.

April 1985 Artist Mike Schiulli and engineer Jim Arvo, building on the pioneering work in raytracing by Turner Whitted, developed a distributed approach to generating highly reflective surfaces. By streamlining the computationally demanding raytracing process, they helped give digital art a shiny new look.

October 1988 Andy Kopra's "Fire" won an Award of Distinction at the Prix Ars Electonica '88 art competition in Linz, Austria, thanks to the exquisite realism of the image's richly textured reflective surfaces.

November 1985 Keith Vreeland borrowed a displacement modeling technique used in finite-element analysis to produce this distinctive, technological style of art. Working on a DEC VAX 11/780 at Pratt Institute's Computer Graphics Laboratory he generated a series of spirals, clustered them, and exploited depth cues to create a 3D perspective.

August 1987 NASA researcher Robert Smith, using a Cray supercomputer and Silicon Graphics workstation, created this image to show the pressure coefficient on an aircraft's surface. The image was so aesthetically appealing that it was selected by the American Institute of Aeronauticas and Astronautics for an exhibit on art and science.

November 1989 IBM researcher Clifford Pickover explored the relationship between mathematics, nature, and art with worm-like forms and alien landscapes. The images were notable for their beauty as well as for the simplicity of the mathematical equations used to create them.

January 1990 The artist known as Raphaele set a new standard for manipulating photographs. For "Chess City," she used proprietary software written by partner Gordon Wood to go beyond texture mapping and wrap the horizontal and vertical lines of buildings around the chess pieces like a kind of elastic skin.

October 1990 Alan Sears created "And You Thought Penguins Can't Fly" for the freestyle portion of the Genigraphics art contest, which gave commercial illustrators a chance to spread their artistic wings.

July 1991 "Self Portrait" by Erol Otis appeared in the Siggraph '91 Art and Design show, a year when growing numbers of computer artists began experimenting with photo manipulation software.

May 1992 Nicholas Callaway, one of 75 artists invited by the the Kodak Center for Creative Imaging to experiment with Adobe Systems' Photoshop, used the software to enhance a photograph of his daughter Nikeyu.

June 1992 David M. Orloff took first prize in the Engineering and Construction category of the Intergraph Graphics Users Group art competition with "Brew Master," designed with Intergraph software.

March 1993 Nance Paternoster represented a new breed of artists who learned to draw on the computer rather than in traditional art classes. To produce "PNDSMR," she used Genigraphics and IBM hardware and Time Arts' Lumena and AT&T's Topas software.

January 1991 Florida artist Steve Harlan built this image of a boat at night using the paint module on a workstation from Management Graphics to take second place in the system vendor's art contest.

November 1992 Tokyo advertising photographer Yoshi-yuki Abe wrote his own raytracing software to create abstract imagery flooded with light. For this image, entitled "1991," and other works he would generate as many as 200 trial images, one after the other-a process that required 10 to 100 hours per project.

May 1993 Kyeng-Im Chung created "Bedroom A (Ray-Cast)" as part of an MFA thesis at Pratt Institute. She chose the raycasting technique for its soft shadows and "moody" quality to set the tone for this representation of a bedroom belonging to a middle-class couple during the recession of the early '90s.

March 1994 David Bolinsky created this muscle physiology animation for a videodisc on human physiology using Wavefront software running on a Silicon Graphics workstation. Computer graphics imagery such as this revolutionized medical illustration.

June 1994 Julie Hammerquist's metal furniture composition took second place in the architecture category of the Golden Mouse Awards, held by the International Intergraph Graphics Group to showcase imagery produced with Intergraph hardware or software.

October 1994 "Julia set representation" appeared in Clifford Pickover's book Chaos in Wonderland: Visual Adventures in a Fractal World, which explored relationships between art, science, and technology.

January 1995 Technical illustrator by day and computer artist by night, Richard Bucci created "Wild Card" as part of his experiments with shapes, color, light, and composition.

October 1994 Product designer Peter Kroko began using Autodesk's 3D Studio to illustrate the products he'd developed. Before long, he was as much in demand for his digital illustrations as for his product designs.

August 1996 The animation "Fibonacci and the Golden Mean" exemplified computer artists' quest to represent nature photorealistically. The film, by Beau Janzen of the Kleiser-Walzcak Construction Company, was part of the Siggraph '96 Electronic Theater.

December 1995 Ray Dream's Modern Masters of 3D design contest gave users of the company's modeling and rendering products a chance to show off their abilities. Taking first place in the non-commercial category was "Treasure Guardian," by Mark Siegel.

February 1997 Game imagery became more lush with efforts such as "Versailles 1685" from Cryo Interactive Entertainment. Players could move about a 3D model of the palace, which contained more than 200 paintings and other decorative details that could be studied "up close."

June 1997 To satisfy the need for realistic computer-generated environments in gaming, architecture, art, broadcast, and scientific studies, artists began using landscape-specific software to replicate natural environments. This scene, with its towering mountain and rippling water, was created with Animatek World Builder Toolkit.

September 1997 Ken Edward helped advance both medical research and illustration with his Cell Visualization Project, for which he recreated the internal structures of cells in 3D.

May 1998 Kenneth Huff pushed the capability of high-end digital tools, such as PowerAnimator and Maya running on an SGI workstation, to portray basic shapes that resemble the random yet structured beauty of nature.

April 1999 Stephane Desbenoit's animated film "Alexandrie la Magnifique" captured the attention of the Imagina jury at the Prix Pixel-INA competition, recognizing innovation in film production by independent artists, students, and small studios.

October 1998 Andy McIntire explored the concept of digital hypnosis by tuning in to a person's biofeedback in an attempt to enhance the experience of immersion in a virtual environment.

November 1998 Rob Cavaleri and John Kahrs were among the animators/software developers at Blue Sky|VIFX who helped raise graphics realism to a new level by refining the reflective and refractive capabilities in the company's CGI Studio rendering software. Cavaleri's "Glass Rendition" (top) and Kahrs' "Supercluster" (bottom) are early examples of the company's raytracing technology.

June 1999 Jeremy Engleman proved that digital art can be fun and games with this 1.5 million-polygon image, created in Softimage for the computer game Riven.

August 1999 Harvey Goldman's "Inside Light," selected for display at the Siggraph '99 Art Gallery, illustrates the artist's experimentation with digital illumination within a virtual environment.

July 1999 Bob Sabiston's "Snack and Drink" animated short film, created with proprietary Macintosh-based software, received the Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction in the computer animation category.

April 2000 William Munns redefined the genre of digital art created with Bryce 3, a popular landscape program, by replicating the original architecture of the Seven Wonders of the World.


March 2000 David Em has been exploring digital art since the mid-1970s. Not only are his works influenced by new, powerful tools, but also by his surroundings. "Utah Spirits" reflects the impact that living in the southwest had on his work.

July 2000 Mark Korn's "A Flinching Mind," exhibited at the Siggraph 2000 Art Gallery, incorporated photographic and digital imagery. "With each piece I create, I go through a healing process and grow further in health and happiness, [resulting in] a greater passion."

August 2001 Momoko Daigo and Takashi Yamaguchi's "Nostalgia," which appeared in the Siggraph 2001 animation festival, illustrates the quest for digital realism in human characters and environments.

November 2001 Michael Wright's "Shati Unfolds" demonstrated the pixelated look that can be an integral part of an artist's digital works. Although hardware and software have evolved to where digital artifacts in artwork can be eliminated, some artists, such as Wright, see the artifacts not as a problem, but rather as a defining element of the computer environment.

September 2000 Masanori Tanaka and Tuneko used haptics-based modeling software to create "In the Light," then output the digital file into a solid form through rapid prototyping. This technology-popular in the industrial design and manufacturing industries-is providing sculptors with new ways to produce their work.

October 2001 Eric J. Heller unlocked the door to the mysterious realm of quantum physics by using computer algorithms and image-manipulation software such as Photoshop to investigate wave behavior, chaos, quantum mechanics, and collision theory. For "Bessel 21," Heller incorporated plane waves that resulted in a repetitive circular pattern.