Digital artist Corinne Whitaker
interview by Douglas Eby
"The computer is my obsession, my passion, and my intense joy."
Artist Corinne Whitaker continues, "There are those who feel that digital art is created by a machine. I suspect that the same discomfort was expressed about photography some 150 years ago. The computer is essentially a big dumb box with almost infinite potential. It takes the sensitivity of the artist to work magic with any tool, be it paintbrush, crayon or computer."
She agrees there are a number of other visual artists "who love the computer and happen to be female" and doesn't think making digital art is a gender issue.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wellesley College, she has had numerous exhibits nationally and world-wide, and her commissions include pieces for NASA's permanent collection. Whitaker has been exploring this path of creative expression a long time: "I became hooked on computer technology (when I wasn't gnashing my teeth) from the start," she says.
"In 1981 there were no menus and there was no mouse. We were able to communicate with each other through a primitive program called The Source, which had a 'Chat' feature.
"Unfortunately it worked by batch transmission over satellites, meaning that batches of your sentences were interspersed at random with those of your correspondent. The results were wonderfully unpredictable. I felt like an astronaut of some kind of inner space. I loved the fact that no one could tell me what to do, since no one knew, and that there were virtually no rules to follow. The freedom was both exhilarating and terrifying. And I stayed up until all hours of the night because there was no sure way to get back to where you had been."
She considers her digital paintings to be "complete unto themselves" and thinks they "live most comfortably on phosphorescent screens." Through her website and various galleries, she publishes prints of her work, "in order to pay the rent" and also creates sculptures, such as the one pictured above, titled "New Beginnings" - an example of solid sculpture digitally created in white composite.
"Transforming the [digital] 3D models into solid objects provides an additional level of joy, and of learning, because the realization in virtual 3D space on the monitor is quite different from the realization in tangible form," Whitaker says. "Creating in 3D on the computer has been a holy grail for years, just as creating organic and sensuous forms has been. The computer is essentially held in thrall by the rectangle and its geometric cousins. Breaking out of those constraints is a challenge."
Asked how viewers or buyers might affect her work, she says, "Responses from others do not impact what I create, although it certainly impacts my ego! Artists work essentially in the black holes of creativity. They visit the land of insanity clutching their visitor's pass. I call it barking in the dark. When someone barks back, i.e. 'gets' what you are doing, it brightens the day but does not change the journey you have embarked upon. It is a personal quest that you undertake, not a popularity contest."
Whitaker finds the medium of digital imaging to be "extraordinarily expressive. There is literally no end to the explorations available. I often describe it as like being a child in a huge toy store: you want everything! But in fact you have to settle down and pursue a direction in depth or you will be skimming the surface meaninglessly.
"Finding that direction, finding your own voice within that world, and then developing the craft necessary to express yourself convincingly, is essential. I am self-taught, in photography and then in digital imaging. I read, and look, exhaustively."
She says developing her online art journal and gallery site, The Digital Giraffe, "has been a constant learning experience for the five and a half years that I have been doing it. Like much else in the digital world, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started online. In 1995 when I established the 'giraffe' domain, the local ISP had no idea what a domain was (and I wasn't too far ahead of him).
"Developing the site has involved learning a tremendous number of new skills, and each month brings a new challenge."
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site: The Digital Giraffe
more art by Whitaker & others at: The World's Women On-Line!
more on creating digital art:
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related Talent Development Resources pages:
more interviews | resumé of Douglas Eby
Creativity and Women..columns / interviews
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