When reading the NBMAA blog post “Blending Cultures: Alexis Peskine,” the British artist Julian Opie comes to mind, who also implements computer technology to create his artworks. Fans of the BritPop movement might know Opie’s album cover that he created for Blur: the best of with a portrait of each of the band members. The cover itself was free of any text. Instead, the album title was printed on the spine of the jewel case. In a limited edition release, the band’s name was embossed onto the middle of the casing. Opie made these “digital drawings” by outlining his photographs of the musicians. The artworks were created in three different sizes. Blur owns the small-sized set and the National Portrait Gallery in London is the proud ownder the medium-sized set.
Opie’s sitters are all from different social groups, such as mechanics, teachers, musicians, astrophysicists, racing drivers, curators and others. Opie also portrays a wide variety of ages starting with young children and ending with seniors from various ethnical groups.
At first glance, Opie’s portraits seem to have a generic look because he draws his sitters with minimal detail. They are all portrayed with button eyes, two dots as a nose, a long upper line and shorter lower line as a mouth and two brushstrokes as eyebrows. The sitters show identical facial expressions of a closed mouth and raised eyebrows. Opie avoids drawing them with any specific facial gesture that would convey a certain type of emotion. This lack of individuality in his work reinforces the idea of types. Opie “think[s] the whole notion we carry of people as examples of types is very interesting … There are some key famous people who become these types and I want to extend that really so that everybody is a type if you draw them in the way that I do.”
When looking closer at the works, the viewer can discern differences such as the diverse colors used as backgrounds, the hairstyles of the sitters, the form and position of the head, skin color, light reflected in the eyes, ragged eyebrows, accessories like hats and glasses, and facial proportions. He often works in series, repeatedly drawing the same person over a period of time. An example of this would be the various versions of Gary, pop star. As a result, one can say that Opie’s work deals with codes and conventions of representation as well as the relationship of perception and recognition.
Since Opie’s artworks have been featured on album covers, double-decker buses, bags, and t-shirts, one can safely say that his work has entered the realm of popular culture. There are even websites tutorials dedicated to his technique where the average person,artistically inclined or not, can create her or his very own Opie-style artwork.
Another similarity between Peskine and Opie is that both receive inspiration from cartoons. Whereas Peskine is influenced by Astérix, Opie takes his inspiration from the Tintin cartoons by Hergé. Opie explains his interest in comic books due to them having concise narratives but still staying direct and detailed. Due to Opie’s comic book inspiration some critics say that Roy Lichtenstein influenced him but Opie strongly disagrees with this.
Can you think of any other artists that create computer-generated art? Do you think artists should be using this type of technology to create art? Can you think of any other implements that artists have used throughout the ages to help them produce their artworks? Is digital art truly “art”? Why or why not? How has this defition changed in the digital age?