Today's artists continue to push the limits of their creativity, often by producing work using irregular mediums and materials. For Los Angeles artist Petra Cortright, digital technology offers many possibilities when creating abstract landscapes.
Cortright works on a Wacom tablet in Photoshop. Every element in her paintings are created by her own hand, and each brushstroke is a separate layer, but the process continues when it's time to print on aluminum, linen and paper at a commercial printing facility at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York. This is when things get complicated, and she must work with a master printer to control the transparency and opacity.
"It takes a lot of time, it's expensive and it's a lot of research," Cortright said. "Aluminum is nice because the colors of the piece will change in natural light. The idea to print on raw Belgian linen, that's a traditional painting surface, and I wanted to stay in the conversation of traditional painting. Linen is warm, whereas aluminum is cold, and I want to experiment with different substrates and moods those produce."
Many such pieces in dimensional and ink printing will be on display Sept. 29 to March 26 at the Palm Springs Art Museum for her upcoming solo exhibition "Petra Cortright: sapphire cinnamon viper fairy."
Cortright said it's important for the digital aesthetic of her artwork to be represented in the paintings, and she celebrates the process. Her landscape painting "sapphire cinnamon viper fairy" is based on a landscape by Swiss and French painter Félix Vallotton.
"Anything that's on the internet in JPEG form, I consider it source material," Cortright said. "There's a lot of collage involved, but I love to use other people's work or tools other people have made, such as plugins for Photoshop brushes. I also make all my own brushes in Photoshop as well."
'Swiss Army knife of software'
The software company Adobe Inc. launched Photoshop in 1990, providing photographers and graphic designers with an array of digital tools for photo editing and creating digital images. Its novelty also raised many ethical and political issues related to manipulating photos or altering content.
But it's also played a pivotal role in the art world by giving artists and photographers new ways to create work. Cortright describes it as the "Swiss Army knife of software."
"You can use it for anything. I would say there's more than one way to doing something in Photoshop and get the same results, but I don't think there's many people that work in the way that I do."
Cortright started learning the software in 2002 while attending Santa Barbara High School, and much of her knowledge came from her older brother who works in graphic design, as well as some formal courses and communicating in Adobe forums where users can share tips and tricks. She's dropped out of two art schools and is "bored" by traditional painting.
"Both of my parents are artists and were traditionally trained, and my husband is an oil painter," Cortright said. "I don't have the patience for it. If I made a mistake, I need to undo it with a flick of the wrist. If I do something good, I need to replicate or save it. I have a painter's brain. I didn't have patience for the process, but I still wanted to make paintings and ended up here."
Like the textures and brushstrokes of a traditional painting, there are noticeable digital details in Cortright's work — an aesthetic she wants people to notice to avoid being confused with a reproduction of other artwork.
"I love to play around with textures," Cortright said. "I pay attention to different resolutions of images that I work with. In my opinion, to make a successful digital painting that's physically produced, you need some grit of a lower resolution, digital texture and physical texture. Not everything is super high-definition."
When asked how long it takes to complete a painting, Cortright said it could be a couple of hours to a couple of years. She pulls from a library of her own digital paintings and brushstrokes with many old files to revisit, modify and build on.
"People want to hear an artist toiled away and took a lot of time to make every little thing, it's not that I don't do that, but it's just different," Cortright said. "The more you toil, the more you run the danger of things becoming overworked or convoluted. But I would say I work quicker than a traditional painter."
Even though digital art is a new art genre, it's expected to grow as time goes on. During the ’80s, pop artist David Hockey created digital paintings with the Quantel Paintbox Graphics System. He also works with a Wacom tablet in Photoshop. Still, there are many debates, criticisms and questions of whether it's an authentic art form.
Cortright isn't affected by what others think of her digital paintings.
"You don't exactly know how (the art) going to affect you," Cortright said. "I'm always apprehensive to tell people what to do with the work, because I love for them to have no commitments or responsibilities. If they can find some enjoyment in it, that's great."
If you go
What: "Petra Cortright: sapphire cinnamon viper fairy"
When: Sept. 29 to March 26
Where: Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 N. Museum Drive, Palm Springs
More information: psmuseum.org
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Palm Springs Art Museum to feature digital artist Petra Cortright