artrage work


ARTRAGE: digital painting vs. analog painting

The first creative software program that Digital Media and Culture students learn is ArtRage (, a powerful and intuitive painting program with very analog-seeming tools. What I mean by this is that the ArtRage interface on the computer screen is very much like the tools that a painter uses. If you would like a quick video demonstration of the application (though not very artistic) there is a five minute demo here.

For this project, students first complete the software’s step-by-step demonstration that teaches them how to manipulate all of the tools within the program and results in a painting of a rose, based on an imported “tracing image” which everyone thinks is hilarious and cheesy.

The truth is that you really only need to see one rose that resulted from the tutorial:


ARTRAGE: photograph to painting

Then, students are asked to create a series of paintings based on scans of their own personal photographs. In the F08 term I had people paint strictly in the style of the Impressionists, and in the S09 I gave them a choice, some people have made self portraits, and I have had students create their own paintings in a style based on a contemporary artist.

What is interesting from a theoretical standpoint is that in the not too distant past it was considered cheating (big time) for an artist to work from a photograph instead of directly observing life in three dimensions. Of course now, painters who work in naturalistic forms always use photographic references, so this exercise pushes that argument one step further.

Many students in my DMC courses have not taken physical painting courses and some have. By the end though, all of them realize that they can fairly easily learn to use a new computer software program to create digital art, and further they can fairly quickly create a painting, albeit digital, that is the epitome of “fine art” in most people’s definition. This project also provides a great opportunity to discuss ideas about creative talent, the difference, if any, between physical painting on canvas vs. digital painting with pixels, and the potential implications for artists.

Because in ARTRAGE you can import a photograph and then paint directly into a it as though the photo is made of wet paint…. You can just smear a brush through it and make a painting in no time, or you can begin with a blank canvas and build up a painting from nothing. There is really no difference, aside from speed and the type of data that one is using, between the process of ARTRAGE and an analog painter who projects an image onto a canvas to create an image.

Here are a variety of examples of what students have done. Click on thumbnails to enlarge.

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