Pointillism is the name given to a style of painting invented in the late nineteenth
century by the French artist Georges Seurat . Seurat’s work could be described as
inspired by the work of Impressionists like Claude Monet or Pierre Auguste Renoir ,
who discovered that they could make a convincing landscape without mixing their
colors in a traditional way.
Instead of fully mixing every color to match colors observed in a landscape, Monet, Renoir, and others used bright colors that were either unmixed or were not fully mixed, then placed them near other colors that would make them seem as if they were part of the same color. This technique is called optical mixing because the paint itself isn’t mixed, but the colors appear as if they had been mixed if a viewer was a sufficient distance from the painting .
Critics later showed this concept to be mistaken. As an example, putting yellow and
blue beside each other produces gray, not green, as the Impressionist theory suggested
(Lee 1981 ; Gage 1987 ). Despite this error, the work of Georges Seurat and
other artists who followed became the basis for pixel-based representations of visual
information (Hayes 1999 ).
Knowledge of a subject is one of the things that make the difference between a novice
and an expert (Alexander 2003 ). A novice mechanic may look under the hood of a car
and see a number of undifferentiated blackened metal objects. An expert mechanic
sees an engine, gaskets, spark plugs, hoses, and other things he can identify, knows
the purpose of, and can assemble himself if necessary.
For a computer graphics artist, the difference between a true expert and a novice is that the novice has not yet practiced their powers of observation, nor made significant efforts to apply their observations in finished work. Knowledge of specific applications is secondary to practice and understanding (King et al. 2008 ). This means that success as an artist, whether a traditional artist or a CG artist, begins with practicing one’s observation
skills . This can be done in many ways, without reference to CG tools.
Technical Contributions of Artists
Without the work of pointillist artists like George Seurat and Henri-Edmund Cross ,
or the scientist writers who inspired them, like Ogden Rood and M.E. Chevreul
(Birren 1976 ; Gage 1987 ) we might never have seen what we now recognize as 3D
computer graphics. What these artists and scientists discovered was that if they broke
a color into its primary components , a full spectrum of visible colors could be created.
Artists expanded on this observation by making hundreds of paintings, each of
which tested the limits of what came to be known as Pointillism , a style of painting
using nothing but brightly colored dots, or points.
These paintings became the basis for pixel-based graphics. Without a method to make a two- dimensional image on a screen, no amount of knowledge regarding perspective would be of any use. With Pointillism and the pixels it inspired, linear perspective could be used to calculate what an image should look like on a 2D plane, and Pointillism allows the computer to generate an image that could be viewed on a computer screen.
These observations and experiments by artists led to key discoveries that had
(and are still having) far-reaching results. By themselves, the observations would be
of little use if the artist were unable to communicate what they had seen or what
caused the effect. To be able to articulate what one has seen is exactly what a computer
graphics artist must do. This is the primary skill, and it falters if that artist’s
observation skills are weak.
READ ALSO:The API Revolution is Upon Us!
The Role of Software in Computer Graphics (GC)
Today, computer animation software has Pointillism , aerial occlusion , linear
perspective , lens curvature , and many other observations built into the program.
Now, the software will perform the mechanical calculations for you, just as a calculator
will add numbers.
The trick is that you need to be able to input the right numbers. In computer graphics, this means you have to be able to see, understand, and describe the subject to your software in a language it understands.
If you do your job properly, you will receive a beautifully rendered image in return.
Knowledge of a computer animation program will not by itself make anyone into
a competent professional animator. They may learn the buttons, they may learn the
language of the application, but without well-described observations, this knowledge
is insufficient to be a truly successful CG artist.
To be a successful CG artist, you also need to understand how to look at the world around you, or imagine the one within, with great clarity. You must be able to see detail that others miss, understand why it is there, what it is for, how to distinguish it from its neighbors, and describe
it to your application.
The skills just described are the basis for this article on What you Need to Know About Pointillism .They are application independent, and are true of every 3D application currently made. As Computer Graphics professionals are aware, 3D applications change on a nearly annual basis and every few years the most popular application will have changed to something new.
When this happens, artists who understand computer graphics for what it is will be in a much better position than those who look at it from the more limited perspective of the applications they are familiar with. Applications are relatively easy to learn in comparison
to the expertise that comes from practice and understanding (Sternberg 2003 ).
This article on Pointillism is about computer graphics; it is not about computer graphics
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