Pixel Art Interview Final.pdf


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Lauretta Jones

March 18, 2018

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When did you discover digital
art?
In 1980, I was miserable in my job at
an ad agency in Manhattan. I was
having a moral and ethical meltdown
about working in advertising. But I
had no idea what I would do instead.
(The drawing entitled, “Curl up and blow
away, please” is of my ad agency
cubicle.)

On a visit to see my family in Ohio,
my brother showed me a drawing
program on his Apple II. The pixels
were as big as the fingernail on my pinky (Apple lo-res graphics) and it was completely keyboard-driven
(left-left-left-change color-plot pixel…). Nonetheless the proverbial lightbulb exploded over my head.
Before that moment, I had had little interest in computer games except for the table-based Centipede at
my favorite East Village muffin store. I knew of no one who created art on the computer. I had no idea
how to start, where to go to learn about it. It felt like I was throwing myself off a cliff. But I couldn’t
shake the excitement generated by the potential of an unexplored frontier.
I finally found a course in computer graphics at the New York Institute of Technology. I was completely
unqualified but the professor thought it was important that artists get involved in the field. I still have the
course textbook, Principles of Interactive Computer Graphics by Newman and Sproull. I was so naïve that I
tried to read bits of Pascal as though it were English. A classmate named Örlof took pity on me and
explained what a programming language was.
While attending my first Siggraph/ACM (Special
Group in Graphics of the Association for
Computing Machinery) conference, I interviewed
with a number of animation houses across the
country. One route for artists then was to work at
an animation or business graphics house during
the day and use the systems for personal work in
the wee hours of the morning. But I decided I
wanted to be in control of my art and so went off
to buy my own computer. I bought an Apple II the
same year the PC was introduced – 1981. I
considered both, but it was no contest once I saw
that Apple made a graphics tablet. It was a beautiful
tool which I still have in my closet. Todd Rundgren
had designed a paint program called “Utopia
Graphics System” that I used for a lot of my work.
I also used “Graphics Magician” by Penguin
Software and others. (Polaroid of my set-up at right.)