Art Technique: Digital Art

Many people think of digital art as a recent phenomenon, perhaps conceived around the time that Instagram arrived, allowing people to share images wildly. However, the term digital art encompasses so many things which have been created for over 50 years. Beginning crudely in its early years as a marriage of math and art, it has truly exploded recently, not only improving in quality but also expanding in scope and style. Let’s investigate the relatively short existence but rapidly expanding technique of digital art.


Digital art began in the computer lab. Scientists experimented with the computer as a tool for creating art, using room-sized computers to create shapes and lines with algorithms, allowing the computers to manipulate results based on the calculations provided. Creating both abstract displays and replicated works of traditional art, the results were truly unique. The computerized technique also perfected the technique of utilizing groups of small symbols to create larger images, exhibited in 1966 in Young Nude, the first pixelated example of a human figure.

In 1949, Georg Nees created the first displayed work digital art with Generative Computergrafik and the Howard Wise Gallery hosted the first exhibition of digital artwork in 1965 with “Computer Generated Pictures.” While the technological world was growing rapidly with the expanded use of computerization in business, 1967 saw the first organized group of digital artists called EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology). Formed by a group of artists and computer scientists, these individuals saw immense potential in this collaboration and wanted to encourage and promote its growth. Within a few years, other artists joined the style, expanding to include interactive and kinetic art techniques.


It may be difficult to call Digital Art a Technique for two reasons: first, it encompasses a variety of techniques, and second, the variation in techniques is continually being modified as new ways to use technology to create works of art are born. Digital art encompasses both artworks created using digital technology (on a form of canvas) and those works which can only be viewed on a screen (like an experience). The most widely-accepted techniques of digital art are:


By using photographs from a conventional or digital camera, photos are digitized then manipulated on a computer, making modifications which range from sharpening the image to drastically re-creating the image in assorted colors, arrangements, and even breaking the photograph down to multiple parts.

Photo painting:

In this technique, he artist takes a photograph and uses computer tools to virtually “paint” the picture, modifying it from its original form, but often maintaining the general layout of the subject matter.

Digital collage:

By taking multiple images, artists layer and edit pictures to create unique works of art.

2d digital painting:

With 2D painting, artwork is created with virtual painting tools in an editing program using two-dimensional models. video experiences

3d digital painting:

More like sculpture, this technique utilizes modeling software to essentially sculpt on the computer. Items traditionally created by hand or machine can be re-created on the computer.

Vector Drawing or Dynamic Painting:

Software created specifically for this use allows the artist to create details within shaped outlines, creating a graphic design. Andy Warhol led this type of work, agreeing to be a representative for the fledgling Commodore computer in 1985.


Also called fractals, this type of art is based on mathematical computations. This allows mathematicians to use software, calculations, and color graphics to create both patterned and realistic images.

Mixed media (integrated digital art):

Simply put, this is a combination of any other named digital techniques.

Video art & Interactive digital installations:

Using computerized video imaging, this more recent style of digital art is a more immersive experience, often combining audio, video, and even movement within one presentation.


Although the digital art world is now filled with technology-minded artists eager to share their works, there are notable trailblazers who made this all possible.

Frieder Nake is the first known artist to create a digital algorithmic work in his recreation of a Paul Klee work titled Hommage à Paul Klee 13/9/65 Nr.2.

Michael Noll, a computer scientist by training, created some of the earliest computer-generated art and animation works and whose work was he first to be professionally exhibited in the United States. A pioneer in virtual reality, he created the first 3D device, called a “feelie” device to increase the mastery of computer graphics.

Jeff Koons, inspired by Andy Warhol, mastered the use of digital technology and his pop paintings and sculptures are famous for their visual opposition to what is traditionally considered “fine art,” and appeal by the masses. An avid showman and self-promoter, his balloon dog scultpures are perhaps his most well-known works.

Miguel Chevalier. A pioneer in digital art, creating digital sculptures and using virtual reality in his works. His 2005 digital mixed media installation Flying Carpets in Marrakesh, Morocco, attracted thousands of visitors.


There are so many digital works available of all styles today, that it would be difficult to list them. However, some of the works which have inspired other artists are:

Nam June Paik’s Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii in 1995 garnered him the tile of “father of video art.” He used closed circuit cameras and TV monitors, providing viewers with a personalized presentation of the art, inviting them to one of the earliest participatory video works.

Manfred Mohr’s Cubic Limit I is one of the earliest examples of using symbols and computerized structure to create an artistic pattern.


Digital art is no longer the “new thing” as conceptual, virtual, and immersive works have appeared in museums and galleries worldwide. The new focus is more on the experience nature of digital works, as visitors are invited to enter a virtual scene, participate in the presentation, and create an individual encounter each time. As technology is introduced rapidly, so will new aspects of this general “technique.” Where digital (now popularly known as “new media art”) will venture, one can only imagine.