Printing Out Fire ©1985 by Trici Venola. Originally appeared in Mac the Knife Vol.3: Mac the Ripper by Trici Venola with Miles Computing. The essay below came from this piece.
THE TIGER IN THE MAC
When I started on the Mac in 1985 I didn’t understand the lingo enough to benefit from any of the manuals, so my knowledge is entirely empirical. I learned how to use the computer in a rage of frustrated ability. This rage was my driving force and it pushed me so hard that I found to my surprise that my work had made a name for itself. So I want to encourage you to concentrate on your art ability. I admire the computer as a means, rather than an end. My aim is entirely to create art.
There’s a belief afoot that the computer produces the art as it produces a straight line, that if my work isn’t happening, there’s some missing ingredient, some quick-fix magic combination of commands that will somehow make it all right. “Where is the tiger coming from?” asked a kid standing in the Miles booth at MacWorld back in 1985, watching me draw a running tiger from scratch on a FatMac. He said after ten minutes, “What program is that?”
I said, “MacPaint.”
“But where’s thetiger coming from?” he asked in genuine bewilderment, “isn’t there a program for drawing the tiger? That you just tell and it draws one?” and he wandered away leaving me wondering forever, Where does the tiger come from? From memory? From ability? Is it mine? Is it Bill Atkinson’s? He programmed MacPaint. How about Steve Jobs, who designed the Mac? How about all the people that built it? How about Eadward Muybridge, whose 1899 motion study of a tiger taught me how a tiger moved. Is he responsible for the tiger? Is it from all of us? Is an artist a synthesis of everything (s)he’s ever felt or seen, like they said back in school? Is this Beginning Theology 101? Is this course required? Hello?
It’s 1990, and I still don’t know where the darn tiger comes from. But I do know that there’s no program that will draw one from scratch, any size or pose or color or style, like I want it, without an artist at the helm. And there’s no magic answer for us artists except that we are each unique. We are the only variable. You can have identical setups: hardware; software; memory; working conditions: and the artists, left to themselves, will create totally different work. So don’t be intimidated by brilliant programmers, software publishers, technological wizards, and hardware junkies, and if they sneer at your lack of technological expertise, ask ‘em why they never bothered to learn to draw. We are none of us much without the others.
-Trici Venola, from Drawing the Lizard King, The Verbum Book of Bitmapped Illustration, August 1990 by Harcourt, Brace in connection with Verbum Magazine.