Small Systems Design Associates

    Images of non-digital visual art

Home page for work in the visual arts.

Portrait of Jamaica Woman       Modern day artists and artesians rely heavily on computers and digital systems to construct and distribute works of visual and audio art. This is new. It used to be that the presentation by artists of tactile, three-dimensional artworks to possible buyers prior to the digital age could take months, years, decades... even centuries and millenia.

Arguably, the digital age took root in 1822. In that year Charles Babbage started work on his steam-driven, mechanical "difference engine." The difference engine - never completed - was to be a calculation machine built on the logic of digital counting. However, the digital age did not become important to artists and artisians, until the world wide web took root in the mid 1990s. In the 15 years since, the cheap digital tools available to artists, and the pervasive digital pathways connecting the artist and his or her works to an eager audience of possible buyers, is, essentially, instantaneous. Ours is a Renaissance more profound, far-reaching, global, and immediate - for artists, and for the rest of us - than the events in Florence, Italy of 500 years ago, and possibly more profound than any event in history.

Mural on a house overlooking downtown Juneau

The digital devices that provide the tools to work with - and the vision to see the wonders of - this new digital world, also make digitized visual and audio design and development possible. Anyone with vision, energy, and enthusiasm now has tools to create works that are both inspirational and useful. These methods and tools of creation are in contrast, with the tools of drawing, painting, sculpting, quilting, weaving, and other things done with the eye, with the hand, and with the ear. These have driven the creation of ancient handicrafts and tools from the beginnings of humankind, and the roots are deep.

The digital medium is very plastic. With it, artists and other practitioners can build universes of wonderous and fantastic art, imagery, and sound that appear to be unbound by the three-dimensional realities of the physical world. "Avatar," and "Alice in Wonderland," are recent motion pictures which testify to these paradigm shifts and to the huge revenue generated by their global popularity. These paradigm shifts are changing the world of perception from the ancient more tactile arts of the past to the arts made possible with a modern keyboard, mouse, stylus, and electronic sketch pad.

But the ugly truth is that "3D" image making today produces "2D" images. With only two dimensions the creation medium is a very sterile place. Until we can build a computer that can pass the "Turing Test," and can generate life-like 3 dimensional images in 3-space, we must live with it. Those of us who think of ourselves as practitioners in the visual arts will beg to take a break from digital creation so we can sink our hands and our selves into the pure, tactile messiness of clay, paper, paint, canvas, cloth, wood, and stone.

Here are a couple of pieces of our recent work. Though the images are digital, there are no digital bits within the works themselves.