Digital Abstract Art

Just what does the term "digital abstract art" refer to? Obviously being digital, it involves computer technology in some way, but does that mean that any abstract image manipulated by computer qualifies as digital abstract art?

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Abstract Multi-Coloured Fractal Design, Albert Klein
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In my search for inspiring images that have their origins on the monitor rather than the canvas, I found the following classifications helpful...

Computer generated abstract art  (including fractals, wallpapers)

Ever since the invention of computer technology there have been attempts to create images. Taking advantage of a computer's ability to calculate and process information at speeds well beyond human capability has resulted in pictures that we couldn't even have imagined before the advent of the microprocessor.

A good example of this is the generation of fractal abstract art, like the one illustrated above. In a recent extension of this technique, using a 3d version of the fractal-generating equation known as the Mandelbrot set, artists are now generating incredibly complex images called a "Mandelbulb".

Reversed Order mandelbulb
Reversed Order mandelbulb by thekeithhall, on Flickr

There are lots of images inspired by fractals which could be described as digital abstract art. These images often make great choices for abstract art wallpaper for your computer.

Abstract Art Generators

Image created by Cris Cecka's Art Generator

There are plenty of other examples of abstract art where the computer's power to calculate is the main engine behind the resulting image. Like this example from Stanford university, the Art Generator by Cris Cecka.


Digitally Manipulated or Enhanced images (including Abstract Digital Photography)

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Light VII, Jean-Francois Dupuis
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Digital photography is often the starting point for these images which rely on the power of Photoshop and other digital image editors for their effects. The degree of abstraction is under the artists control, and many images start from representational photographs which are then transformed into beautiful abstract artworks. 

The artistry in creating these images involves great skill using the software and knowing how to achieve such stunning effects.

Digital Abstract Wall Art

One benefit of digital technology is that it has opened up new ways to produce beautiful contemporary home decor wall art. Instead of relying on traditional media and traditional methods of reproduction onto canvas or paper, digital abstract works can be printed directly from the computer using a variety of high quality digital processes without losing image quality. For example, digital works can be printed as giclee prints, art prints, printed directly onto canvas or even onto acrylic panels to give a more contemporary feel.

3d Digital Abstract Art

Fractal_flower by Daniel Chapelle, on Flickr

The interest in 3d digital art has been powered by the video game and entertainment industries with its use of highly developed graphic scenes with illusions of depth and space. 

3d abstract art uses sophisticated software to create three dimensional worlds which are then rendered into two dimensions often with a high degree of "realism" in terms of surfaces and space. Much fantasy and sci-fi art uses 3d technology to achieve other-worldly effects.

Digital Abstract Painting

Digital Abstract Painting combines elements of traditional art making with digital technology. For this reason, it is sometimes given the name "tradigital art".

What distinguishes this form of digital abstract art from the other types is that digital abstract paintings are usually made from scratch, created using computer software to mimic the actions of painting, through using electronic brushstrokes in the application of "paint" or "ink" to the "canvas".

digital abstract painting
Digital Abstract Painting

Digital painting relies on software which provides an intuitive interface to the artist who uses either a pen and tablet or touch screen technology.

This is my favourite type of digital abstract art. There are many programmes which mimic the act of painting either via a pen and tablet or directly via touchscreen. Corel painter and Paintworkshop are two well known programs , I personally like Art Rage and Brushes app for the iPod and iPad.

The Future for Digital Abstract Art

Digital art poses all sorts questions about our traditional understanding of what art is, from the materials it is made of, the imagery it uses and the means of display.

A few well known artists such as British artist, David Hockney, have embraced digital painting technology (Hockney uses the Brushes app for the iPad) as a means of producing art. But I think we are still at the start of the process of coming together of traditional and digital approaches to making great art.

As the software for producing digital images becomes increasingly sophisticated and more widely available, I think that it is inevitable that more and more artists will turn to digital methods of production. But for the moment I think there still exists a divide in the art worlds between traditional  and "new" media.  How much longer this divide will exist is the question. There's no doubt that the future is already here in the wonderful examples of digital abstract art that you can find today.