My relationship with technology as an artist
I've been an artist and technologist for most of my life. My progression in both fields have run parallel and have influenced each other. Throughout my life, technology has made exponential leaps and I think it's interesting to look back to see how far it's gone.
My uncle used to work for IBM and he gave my family an IBM Personal Computer in the early 90's. I learned how to navigate the menu using commands on the green screen and chunky keyboard ... just so I could play rudimentary games like Asteroids.
We also had a Nintendo Entertainment System, which I loved to play with my older brothers. Videogames were pretty much the best thing ever as a kid, and I spent countless hours on it with neighborhood kids and school friends. I kept up with all of the latest consoles well into my 20's. A lot of my early sketchbooks and drawings were heavily influenced by videogames, including action packed scenarios involving battles between monsters, aliens and soldiers.
In school I was fortunate to develop digital literacy skills from an early age. We used typing programs in elementary school and digital art programs like KidPix. I still remember the digital artworks I made as a kid and wish I saved the files!
In highschool, I took as many digital art classes as I could. I learned how to use tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, Cinema4D and Dreamweaver. I made digital posters, drawings, collages, animated gifs, and 3D renders. I learned how to publish websites, which quickly turned into a new hobby.
As angsty teenagers, a lot of my friends had Livejournals. This was before Facebook existed. I also had a blog but thought it would be more fun to blog on my own custom website. I used my personal website to showcase my writings and my latest artworks. I changed my website design constantly, tweaking the HTML and CSS and often breaking things in the process.
Throughout college, I continued with more advanced digital art courses and maintained my personal websites.
After college, I got into glitch art, adding a layer of unpredictability into my art making process. As I was growing my online audience through Facebook at the time, I had a lot of fun with a series I called "DeFacebook", where my FB friends would volunteer to have their photos manipulated ... or defaced.
As a digital artist, I was interested in getting close to the printing process. I began my career in B2B sales in the signage and large format printing industry. It was a great opportunity to learn about printing technologies and build connections with digital agencies producing files for advertisements and signage.
Around this time, I discovered the Net Art movement, and started following artists like Brad Troemel, Rafaël Rozendaal, Artie Vierkant and Petra Cortright. Researching this network opened up an international world of artists, and expanded my understanding of what was being done by contemporary artists.
Leveraging my employment at the print company, I convinced the the company owner to let me print an entire art exhibition for no cost. I pushed this to the limit, printing a massive banner of the WindowsXP background (once thought of as the most viewed image of all time), along with other artworks borrowed or stolen. The exhibition, called REPEAT, explored ideas in copyright and ownership as it pertains to digital art. I was interested in the idea of how an easily found digital image could be considered more valuable when converted to a physical object.
As I continued my B2B sales career, I wanted to get out of the printing industry into something with higher growth potential. I knew that demand for technology solutions was growing, but I didn't have any prior experience with tech companies.
By chance, one of the artworks in REPEAT was covered by Technically Philly, a news organization that covers local tech communities. I noticed this organization was looking to hire its first salesperson, so I applied and got the job!
That move brought me into the enterprise technology space, where I sold sponsorships and advertising for technology recruiting to major tech employers in the Philly region.
As a Little Berlin member, I continued to curate technology based exhibitions, including a show that only displayed artworks on 15 iPhone screens throughout the gallery.
As I learned more about the industry, I was finally ready to work for a tech company. I jumped into sales roles around IT and Software professional services, as well as SaaS product licenses. This gave me more learning opportunities to better understand how big companies use technology, and considerations into software usability and IT security.
Around my start in working for tech companies, I began getting seriously interested in Bitcoin and blockchain technology. As an artist, I value freedom and independence. I realized that cryptocurrencies hold the key to a future less reliant on governments and financial institutions to control data and finances.
Working full time in a demanding industry slowed down my art making for a while. Moving around and renting made it difficult to maintain a dedicated studio space. So I invested in an iPad as an art making tool, using Procreate to maintain my practice around in 2018 - 2020.
Digital art and technology will always be important to me. Now that I'm locked at home due to Covid-19, my life as an artist has transformed, and I'm getting more into physical artworks, making acrylic paintings that draw on longstanding themes in my work.
I love the digital world, but my next phase of artwork will have more of a focus on the tactile. It feels a bit ironic, as my audience likely won't view these works in person until this pandemic is over.