SFAU # 20, by Eric Wayne. Digital painting, 28×37″ @300 dpi, 5/2018. [click to see in a new tab sized for your monitor.]

If you are new to this series all the images are based on recent photos of me after basically being fed through a neural network (which can change age, gender, etc.), then edited and painted using various programs. None of the people actually exist, and thus they are like self portraits from  alternate universes.

This one is rich in contemporary art and 20th century painting references. The painted-over photo owes its origin, as far as I know, to Gerhard Richter, but that was only really possible because of the painterly swatches created in Abstract Expressionism. Viscous trails of paint streaking across a visage comes from Francis Bacon. The photographic element of one person becoming multiple people hearkens back to Cindy Sherman. To name some of the influences. There’s more when you look at the up-close painting style. The computer techniques are the introduction of another whole set of visual orientations.

When a lot of people first see this, they will just see a photo with a vigorous smear of luminous paint over it. They won’t know the smear was created digitally (it’s not collaged), that the person doesn’t exist, or that when you zoom in, it’s also a digital painting.

Detail of the upper left background.

The streak of paint is also a rather violent disruption of the “fabric of reality” of the alternate universe. It’s not just a glitch in the Matrix, it’s a tear.

About 3/4th of the way through I improved my painting technique. I use custom methods I developed myself. There is no tutorial on how to do this. It’s my own secret recipe. Same goes for the paint swatch, though it’s a completely different formula and uses a different combination of programs, etc.

One of the things I have to deal with a lot is the antipathy among the general public, and particularly among more traditional painters, towards anything created using the computer. Part of it comes down simply to people not being able to appreciate how something is done if they don’t know how it is done. When I innovate techniques virtually nobody knows how I did it. Rather than being credited with innovation, I am dismissed for not using established techniques.

The image may suggest so many things that it is not, or is not “true” in terms of biography. I never had a dog. The picture was taken in Thailand when I was almost 40, and the neural network makes me look much younger. The dog belonged to the family of a guide I used for a trek. At the age I appear I wore glasses and my hair was probably longer.

But I think the photo gives the impression of a young guy with his Rottweiler, probably in his own capacious backyard in someplace like Santa Barbara. It’s not my life at all. And yet, even for me, it seems convincing. The glob of paint on top suggests that IT is the part that is the addition, and whatever is under it is sound. There are two simultaneous things happening (this was Richter’s visual insight), there’s the record of the photograph, and then there’s the record of the artist’s gesture on top of it, done at a different time.

Everything about this image is not what it appears to be. It’s a fiction even to the point of being a fictive contemporary swath of paint over a more traditional fictive oil portrait.

Recently I’ve been rebelling against interpretation in visual art. I know it’s valuable to other people, and it has its place, but I think people need to tune in much more to the visual communication, which can’t be translated into words. If the story around an image helps people engage it, than that is good, but it can’t replace it. Whatever I know about Beethoven’s biography, or why he wrote this or that piece, is not going to compare to what I absorb via listening to it alone, knowing nothing other than what my ears gradually discern.

While the image is pure fiction in terms of facts in consensual, quotidian reality, it is “true” in terms of being more philosophically complex and self-reflexive than just a straight portrayal of something that is what it is. An abstract painting, for example, doesn’t allude to any external, representational truth. A Lichtenstein painting of a cartoon version of an Abstract Expressionist paint stroke works in a similar way — it is not a vigorously painted brush stroke, but it is a painting of a cartoon printed version of one. A joke is not a true story, but it is real humor and can signal a deeper observation than a direct statement.

More surprises ahead. Stay tuned.

All 20 so far (in chronological order). Click an image to enter the screenshow:

Stay tuned for more entities to emerge. There will be surprises.

~ Ends

And if you like the (experimental) sort of art that I do, and you don’t want me to have to quit or put it on a back-burner, please consider chipping in so I can keep working until I drop. Through Patreon, you can give $1 (or more) per month to help keep me going (y’know, so I don’t have to put art back on the back-burner while I slog away at a full-time job). Ah, if only I could amass a few hundred dollars per month this way, I could focus entirely on my art and writing. See how it works here.

Or go directly to my account.


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28 replies on “New Art: Selfies From Alternate Universes # 20: Boy With Dog

  1. That’s ironic that you feel dismissed because of your innovative techniques, because they want to see traditional. In my case I couldn’t get my paintings accepted in juried shows because the jurors don’t like traditional. One told me they like “contemporary”. How much more contemporary can you be than to be alive and working now? We are the products of the times and places we live in. It’s not the same as the jurors life experiences so they dismiss it with a lame excuse.The jurors want to make “cohesive” shows so that’s why they reject individualism and demand conformity. They think like interior decorators. I faced a lot of hostility and eventually gave up, no longer caring to enter shows.
    It might be possible that the reason I’m rejected is because of my lack of social skills. In an art world that is mostly white girls, if you don’t play well with the other girls, you never get into the clique or the art world.
    In your case it might be another reason.
    I made up a technique of using masking fluid on oil paint which they say doesn’t work. I joined an art group so that my painting could get hung with the group and when I picked it up after the show came down there was a note on the back on cardboard that said “living room pillow art” with no name. They never noticed the unusual technique. But I did get the catty anonymous critique.
    They might be jealous of a creative new technique and not wish you to be noticed because you criticized something they liked. You never know and they aren’t honest enough to tell you the truth. I criticize bad public art too sometimes. The art world is strange in their insular ivory towers. You have to be in with the elites or you will not be recognized. Don’t stop doing exactly what you want to do or they win.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s mostly because I use the computer. while it’s a very modern tool, there’s enormous prejudice against it. Well, against digital painting. You can use computers in other ways, especially for more obviously conceptual work (that isn’t particularly visual), but to be a fine art painter who uses the computer is a non-starter. It has a lot to do with marketing. I’m writing an article about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But there’s so much digital art coming out. The computer looks very popular with artists. Marketing? You got me on that one. I know nothing about marketing.


      2. I’m talking about the fine art world, not “concept art” (ex., art for video games). The fine art world is driven by gallery sales of one-of-a-kind art objects. Can you name one digital painter who is recognized in the fine art world? I can’t.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. How about that guy who does the giant portraits that look pixilated. Darn, I forget his name. He had a show at the VMFA a couple years ago. He’s face blind, he says. I think he starts with a pixilated photo then paints in a grid with bright colors and from far away it looks like a portrait. The name will come to me later.
        I read where the times they are a changing in the gallery world. There’s not many new ones opening and they have a hard time staying open because of lack of sales. The non profits are still doing ok but they make their money off fees artists pay more than commission. And they can get grants.


      4. Never heard of him. Can you name a digital painter that has any recognition whatsoever in the fine art world. I don’t mean a blogger. You can see my work on my blog and FB and Instragram, etc., but I have zero visibility in the fine art world.

        I know a few people that get some recognition because they do sci-fi/fantasy work, but that’s not in the fine art world.


      5. I don’t know this artist but evidently he’s somebody who got recognized. he was featured on another blog. I’ll see if I can find it again. He’s not sci-fi.


      6. The Kamsyn blog interviewed him. You might relate to what he has to say. He’s on instagram
        @ZariGaraka. Doesn’t say if he’s in any museums but free spirited collectors looking for something new are into him.


      7. it’s a private Instagram account. Can’t see anything. A Google search turns up nothing. So, I gather he’s no a world famous contemporary artist.

        You can just look at comments by jamescelano made on this very post to see a good example of the wide-spread hatred of art created using a computer.


  2. Eric,
    My immediate thought was Gerhard Richter. I love his paintings where he smears over a photo. When your doing digital painting can you revert back if you don’t like something? I would be interested to see if you went over part of the face of your alternative you. Anyway I do love this one too.


    1. Yes. When working digitally you can always go back, depending on how much memory your system has, how you allocate system resources, and if you make back-ups.

      Some people are bothered by that, but, you can aways scrape off paint, etc. It’s just more convenient with a computer. Other things are much less convenient (ex., approximating a streak of viscous paint).

      I experimented with a lot of covering paint until I found something I liked. I might obliterate faces in the future partially, but I’m slowly introducing new elements, and then I’m combining some of them.

      Now it’s to the point where people who have any idea what I’ve done can’t say, “Oh, it’s just an app.”

      And I’m so glad you recognized the influence of Richter. I think most people would just think of people on Instagram who sort of willy-nilly smear faces and whatnot, because it’s a popular thing to do right now. Rarely when they do it would you think of Richter. That’s a more specific aesthetic.


    2. BTW I was looking at your art on Instagram last night and getting into it. The more I see the more I like. I’ve been busy teaching and whatnot, but I’m meaning to write you an email to discuss your art more.


  3. Hey Eric, Look at some of David Hockney’s recent work. He uses an I-pad to create the images. He is a high profile artist who uses the computer to generate his art. And Close has always used a projector to create his art, though he is that rare artist who did it, not because he can’t draw without it, but he actually did something creative with it.
    The problem I have with computer generated art is it is more the machine that creates the image. It’s one of the reasons I never considered photography itself to be a fine art, but rather a skill, a craft. Love that quote by Picasso: Photographers are frustrated painters like dentists are frustrated doctors.”
    A comparison I have always used since my art school days to illustrate my opinion: When Ansel Adams took that famous photo of the moon rise over New Mexico, imagine another photographer standing right next to him with the exact same equipment and f-stop etc. and he pulls the trigger at the exact same time. Now imagine that Adams is really juiced to take this photo, the other guy blase about it. There is no difference in the images. And for arguments sake, they use the same dark room techniques.
    Now imagine Van Gogh painting his Sunflowers and another painter next to him with the same colors,brushes etc. One produces an original masterpiece the other a so-so painting. A machine will not respond to the emotional impulses of the artist. His hand will.


    1. “The problem I have with computer generated art is it is more the machine that creates the image.”

      This is like saying that if you write a novel on the computer, well, it’s just the machine writing it, whereas if you type it on a typewriter, than you are the real author.

      Unless you are using the computer to create the image for you, you have to do all the work.

      “Now imagine Van Gogh painting his Sunflowers and another painter next to him with the same colors,brushes etc. One produces an original masterpiece the other a so-so painting.”

      We can put you next to me with the same programs, stylus and tablet, and I’ll make a quality image and you’ll throw your hands in the air because you don’t have the first clue how to proceed. And if you did, you’d know that you actually have to know what you are doing and have a lot of skill to make a half-way decent digital painting.

      Besides which, I didn’t even learn the computer until AFTER I got my MFA. Why so competitive? And why do you need a trap door to eliminate competition?


  4. I see you didn’t post my comment. You had me fooled. I thought you were not just another blogger wanting to be stroked by sycophants and in turn stroking them. I guess I was wrong. So, I don’t like your art. Boohoo. If you’re that insecure, stay out of the game. If you haven’t deleted me from your followers already, do it now. I’m not interested in a mutual admiration society.


    1. Hey, I have to sleep sometimes and I’m in SE Asia. I have to wake up and see your personal attack before I can post it. We are on different time schedules.

      I’m going to use your arguments as examples in an article I’m working on in which I pick apart the standard (mindless and reactionary) arguments against artists who use the computer as a tool. There are at least two other people I’ll be quoting, so you will be in “good” company.

      You can check back if you’d like to see your arguments thoroughly debunked. It’s just more economical for me to address it in one place. I’m a bit busy now, but should knock it out in the next few weeks.

      And FYI, the reason blogger’s queue comments for approval before publishing them, when they have a chance to read them, is because there are assholes out there who launch highly insulting personal attacks, and we have to decide whether to just delete the shit, or post it as an example of the kind of crap we have to deal with.


  5. My bad. After posting the first comment, I cleaned some cookies and junk off my computer and it must have deleted the first post on my computer. No post awaiting moderation and such; and it deleted my little word press icon too. I thought-Christ, the guy wouldn’t post the comment and deleted me from his followers!
    I should have known. You didn’t seem like the kind of blogger who would throw a hissy fit if I didn’t go all gaga over everything you write or do. I had a couple of bloggers refuse to post a comment of mine early on when I started blogging a year ago. I guess I thought you had done the same thing. So, my apologies.
    The thing is-I agree with a lot of what you WRITE; I just don’t like digital, computer generated art. All of it I’ve seen comes across as kitschy and more for a teenage crowd.
    I think you’re analogy about the novelist using a word processor instead of a typewriter isn’t the same thing, not even close. I used a computer to write my two novels and also edit them. I stand by what I said. The camera or computer (machine) makes the image. It will never respond to the emotion you feel when producing that image. Well, not yet anyway. Who knows what lies ahead? Still, I’d rather see an exhibition of good photographs than bad paintings.


    1. ” The camera or computer (machine) makes the image. It will never respond to the emotion you feel when producing that image.”

      Well, no, that’s ridiculous. The “machine” can’t do what I do and YOU can’t do it with the “machine”, either. There’s no button to do it for you. I don’t usually include my process, but in a early work I showed 20 stages in a video, and you can see how it evolved starting from a black & white sketch:

      If you’re too lazy to go to the post, or whatever, here’s the video of 20 stages in 20 seconds.

      That’s about 5 years ago, and, yeah, shit, I talk then about the question of making a digital painting and why it really is a painting and so on. If you are open-minded about visual artists using the technology of their own time, you might find it of some interest.

      As I said before, the proof is in the pudding (not foregone conclusions that dismiss art automatically sight unseen). Here’s the resulting image, but you might need to see the process to overcome the idea that the machine somehow imagined it for me, drew and painted it for me, etc.

      The Human Fly

      Now, you like to take off the kid gloves. I’ll keep them on, but I’ll say this. I don’t give a F if you like the work or not (and sometimes an artist can be as flattered when considering the source of who doesn’t like their work as by who does), but the idea that the machine did it is so wrong it’s, well, dumbfuckery (with a liberal smattering of assholery). If the machine can do it, let’s see YOU do it with a machine.

      But I AM looking for more rabidly anti-digital art choice quotes if you feel like sputtering out some more of those.



  6. Go ahead and quote it. Just quote it honestly and not selectively to fit your argument. If you do that, I’ll definitely quit following your blog as I’ll lose all respect for you. Personally, I don’t think you or anyone else can debunk what I wrote.
    I don’t think my first post was a personal attack. Not liking someone’s art is not a personal attack. As for the second, well, I think I already explained.


    1. I’ll quote you very fairly. I think I’ll skip using actual names, even though it might make it more interesting. I’m not interested in shaming people as much as just validating that these prejudices are being expressed by real people with conviction. So, hmmm, maybe I’ll include your name but try not to make it combative, other than the combative nature of your comments themselves. I can field them without descending to your level.


  7. My quote about Adams and Van Gogh was used to illustrate why I don’t consider photography a fine art and not why I don’t like digital art. As I said, I don’t like digital art because it all strikes me as kitschy and aesthetically immature. I don’t need to look at your process-the work itself has no appeal to me and your process isn’t going to change that. Yeah, I get it-you do cgi so you’re going to fight me tooth and nail on it, but I think the blogger doth protest too much. If you’re so sure that posterity will come down on your side, why the need to so vehemently defend your work. One of the reasons I deleted my blog was I decided that It didn’t matter to me if someone living on the other side of the world liked or didn’t like a painting I posted. Also my time is better spent in the studio or editing my novels than blogging. I’ve now realized the same is true of posting comments on other people’s blogs.
    FYI I have no problem with artists using modern technology. I’ve used a computer myself (Photoshop) several times when composing the elements of large figure paintings. I’ll say it once again, loud and clear for the cheap seats in the back-I don’t like cgi art. So sue me.
    Go ahead and use my name. Maybe it’ll direct some traffic to my website and sell a few of my paintings. Thanks ahead of time.
    By the way I used a computer to make cgi designs for years to pay the bills so I know my way around computer software. And I never said that some cgi artists aren’t more skilled than others. They are just limited by what the software engineer can devise on the tool bar or the different apps. So yes, you manipulate the machine, but IT still creates the image.
    As I said before, you have made some good, valid points on contemporary culture in some of your posts (your strongest talent in my estimation) but you do sometimes allow them to degenerate into vitriolic rants. And again, as far as personal attacks, read some of your own posts, especially where Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst names appears. You not only attack their work but bring their character and motives for making that art into question.
    And feel free to use that quote by Picasso about photographers too. I’m not familiar with this Picasso guy, but he was probably a mindless reactionary too and full of dumbfuckery. Maybe I’ll google him.


    1. “. As I said, I don’t like digital art because it all strikes me as kitschy and aesthetically immature. I don’t need to look at your process-the work itself has no appeal to me and your process isn’t going to change that.”

      Juicy. I love it. I couldn’t make this shit up. Sure, I will include your name with your quotes.

      You are also the guy who hates Francis Bacon, so, I’m quite flattered to be in his company.

      That said, I can’t afford to sacrifice any more time or energy dealing with your level of negativity and abuse. I’m going to have to arrange for your shit to be flushed directly without my having to smell it.


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