An Exploration of the Visual Mind of the Software Artist
Ewan Steel

This essay was written for Read_Me Software Art and Cultures conference and is published in read_me Software Art & Cultures Edition 2004 .

Author: Digital technologies have changed profoundly the ways in which the artist can develop a visual language. They have expanded the vocabulary of gesture and composition, the means by which, traditionally, visual artists have chosen to communicate complex ideas and emotions. The technology provides an opportunity to continually experiment with the merging of forms and exploration of content. And in this mutability and variety of form lies the digital arts greatest weakness. The artist is like a small child contemplating the convoluted workings of a mechanical toy, eager to play with it but frustrated by its complexity. The artist is beholden to the computer industry, his development linked to the vagaries of competition in the computer market.
The traditional artist/designer had the opportunity to develop a personal style over time without the onerous task of relearning the basic mechanicsof their chosen medium or the need to adapt their work to suit new forms of distribution. You developed mark-making techniques that were your own. You had intimate knowledge of your medium. Variety of form was created out of simplicity. Your skills could evolve over time and the history of this personal evolution became a visual resource. Can the computer offer a comparable artistic experience?
This paper attempts to answer this question.
It seeks to find a commonality between the thinking processes of the programmer and visual artist and identify methodologies for the development of software art that are a more intimate collaboration between the two disciplines. It examines the potential of software art to create an alternative visual reality to that of industry led software.
Through an examination of the programming and aesthetics of software developed as part of my academic research, I discuss the significance of an understanding of code structure to the visual artist.

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