Thursday, August 25, 2011

Jobs was great because he understood that we all create

O.K., I think it's great that ArtInfo called Steve Jobs the DaVinci of design and then set about to list 7 Ways Steve Jobs Changed the Visual Arts Forever, but they blew it when they used the premise just to name-drop a list of trendy contemporary digital artists. Steve Jobs (and Steve Wozniak) actually gave us the greatest art tool since the brush.

I remember first learning about the new pixel painting and font programs of the Mac in 1984, when business magazines were full of articles pooh-poohing the usefulness of computers for the everyday consumer and the idea that desktop computers would ever catch on. "They're just glorified adding machines," was a common refrain, "few people will spend $2,500 to own one."

The two Steves, however, understood that human beings are innately creative. Give them a way to map a screen and save a file in pixels; give them the ability to see typefaces, images, white space and a whole page exactly the way it would come out of the printer, and they would create.

A screen shot from MacPaint

The original programming behind these innovations was developed at the PARC research division of Xerox, along with the mouse and other things. But the two Steves, took these principles and made the connection to you and I when they introduced the first computer for all of us ... the Mac. The first art programs that were ever made available to consumers came pre-installed.

I started producing digital art at this time, along with a lot of other professional and amateur artists. We came to realize, very quickly, that the computer was emerging as the most powerful and versatile art implement ever invented ... far from just a glorified adding machine.

Though I have since come to miss the tactile sense of a brush and am wary of mental shortcut habits that I have developed using computers as an artist, I still believe the digitizing of art is universe-altering ... a creative space that doesn't exist within the boundaries of reality, yet is capable of addressing the mind through all our senses. After all, digital technology is still in its infancy. We have no idea where it will lead. Well, perhaps one man does: Steve Jobs. I hope he remains with us for a while longer yet.

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