The Museum is very fortunate to be able to interview Renata Spiazzi today.
DAM: What course of study and training did you undertake to develop as an artist?
Renata: Born in Italy, I studied drawing there and worked in advertising for nine years. Then in the United States I finished my art education and received the certificate of teaching credentials for all the arts and crafts from the San Diego Community Colleges. Simultaneously I worked on commissions in an art studio and taught drawing, painting, sculpture and art history for 12 years.
DAM: Which artists that you have personally known have influenced you the most?
Renata: My teachers.
DAM: Which artists or artistic movements from outside your personal experiences have influenced you the most?
Renata: The Italian Renaissance.
DAM: How has living in San Diego affected your art?
Renata: I came to the U.S. from Italy in 1952. Lived in Tucson, Arizona for five years and then moved to California. I feel that colorwise I am a Californian, but in many ways I am still quite Italian!
DAM: Before you found digital art, what type and/or forms of art did you create?
Renata: I did painting in oils and acrylics, but mostly sculpture in Marble, alabaster and bronze.
DAM: What initially compelled you to become involved in digital art?
Renata: The weight of sculpture!
DAM: When did you decide to become a digital artist?
Renata: Ten years ago a friend came to visit and told me I needed a computer! At first I was not too sure, but then I started reading about what a computer could do, and started with an Amiga. I loved it, but after 3 years the Amiga quit.
DAM: Is digital art now your sole means of expression, or do you paint, draw, or sculpt?
Renata: Occasionally I go back to sculpture, but it is getting heavier and heavier.
DAM: How has working with a computer helped you express yourself artistically?
Renata: It has broadened my way of expression.
DAM: To what extent is the computer a mere tool for the production of digital art analogous to a paintbrush, or does the computer and its software play a more interactive role in the creation of art than in the case of the tools for creating more traditional mediums of expression?
Renata: The computer in itself is not a mere tool for the production of digital art. And this is something that cannot be admitted by the people who refuse to learn what a computer is about. The many programs of software are actually making it a helper, a collaborator, and a tremendous stimulator. When using the programs, the mind starts thinking of new things to do, things one never would have thought just using a brush and some watercolor, or a pencil and a blank piece of paper. It is up to the artist to choose if he wants to use the computer as a mere tool or if he wants to accept the help.
DAM: Do you believe that digital art differs in any fundamental way from other artistic mediums like painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography?
Renata: No. Digital art is Art. It does not differ from any other artistic medium. It is a means to an end. It is a message, and as such it conveys its meaning to the viewer prepared to receive it (by prepared I mean educated).
DAM: Is there a unifying theme that you work to express in your art, or does each piece stand alone as a singular work without connection to the others?
Renata: I am interested in expressing "beauty." People looking at my work say they can see it was done by me. My philosophy comes through in each piece I do. As far as the subject is concerned I think the beginning has a lot to do with the finished product. If I start with a scanned photo of modern architecture, the finished image may have traces of it, and if I start with a scanned image of a landscape I may have, in the finished work, images of trees, or ocean, or whatever was in the original. If I start with a fractal, once I am through it may probably be recognized as such by a fractalist but it must have a composition, not just be plopped on a support as an attractive abstract object. Most of my images are highly abstracted, often they reach a degree of non-objectivity. The composition is more important to me than the object. As far as the message in my work is concerned I like to dwell on "what is," not "what is not." In my work you will see that I do not "complain," but pause on the beautiful things in life.
DAM: What inspires you to create your art?
Renata: There is an internal force that pushes me. I love to be surrounded by the things I make. They help me to get to know myself. They also help me to grow, I hope, into a better person.
DAM: Does your art begin and end with the computer screen or do you employ other artistic mediums as a source of inspiration?
Renata: Sometimes my art begins and ends on the computer screen. Most of the times though it ends on the computer screen but the beginning can vary. Besides using photographs, I sometimes use drawings I have done in the past, and sometimes doodles done with Paraffin. They can be quite expressive and highly abstract if not non-objective. This is the procedure: I take a piece of drawing paper, not bigger than the scanner's size, and make a doodle on it with a piece of Paraffin. The paraffin, being transparent won't let me see the extent of the doodle. Then I take some watercolor (usually Payne's Gray) and lots of water on my good size brush and I rub it on the paper where I did the doodle. An image appears. Sometimes it is good, sometimes not too good. I let it dry and scan it. Transfer it to Photoshop and work on it with filters until I have a pleasant composition. Sometimes I have to work at it. At this point the composition is monochromatic, but by adding a gradient it will be full of color!
DAM: Do your works have an underlying theme or idea, and if so, how does the average art lover discern that theme or idea?
Renata: In my works I aim at beauty. It does not have to be literal, but by using the meaning of lines, shapes and colors I try to compose a symphony that will psychologically transmit beauty to the viewer.
DAM: What places in the world have proven most inspirational for your art?
Renata: All places have something to tell. I have a facility for reconstructing in my mind a seen scene with the feeling it gave me. So, I can be at home and transport myself to places I have been, feel the beauty they carried and transmit it to my work.
DAM: How do you feel during and after the process of creating digital artwork?
Renata: Just like I feel after painting an oil or an acrylic painting, or a drawing. I feel wonderful, I feel I have learned something, and I want to keep on doing more and whatever I do next will have to be better!
DAM: Has your technique in creating digital art reached the level of development such that you can execute to your own satisfaction any idea that you conceive?
Renata: I do not think I will ever reach that point! There is so much to learn and not enough time to do it!
DAM: What is the unifying concept underlying the series of works you call Visual Poetry?
Renata: Poetry to me means "beauty." It conveys beauty by the way of sounds. Visual Poetry conveys beauty you can see visually by the means of lines shapes and colors.
DAM: In your series of works related to Architecture, do you seek your inspiration in the European past or do you focus upon the modern styles of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries?
Renata: I have always been partial to simplicity. This is why I like modern architecture, simple shapes, I also enjoy the strong simplicity of the Romanesque.
DAM: How do you feel digital art is viewed by the public, and also by the traditional arts community?
Renata: Instead of gathering information about the new technologies, the public is tempted to think the computer is doing the work. The traditional art community is refusing to accept that which,it says, has not been touched by the human hand. But it does not realize that even Michelangelo said, in one of his poems: The hand is guided by the intellect!
DAM: Have you had any success in accessing traditional galleries and museums?
Renata: I have tried, but it is very difficult.
DAM: Is the artistic community in San Diego supportive of digital art?
Renata: I wish the artistic community in San Diego were more supportive of digital art, but this does not discourage me. I am very happy to be a pioneer.
DAM: Is there a difference between the perception of digital art in the United States and in Europe?
Renata: Yes. In Europe you live with art, you see it every day, and sometimes you do not realize that it grows on you. That's the way you learn to appreciate beauty. And when a new way of doing art appears such as digital art, it is accepted as part of growth.
DAM: Does digital art have the potential to open up collecting art to a wider range of people, as contrasted to the more elitest leanings of many traditional galleries?
Renata: I think it does. It may take a while and a few people like Photography had in Stieglitz and Adams. You cannot stop progress, and eventually there will be people who will collect the kind of art developments in technology have brought about.
DAM: Have you participated in any recent gallery showings?
Renata: Yes. I had a "solo" show at the San Diego Art Institute for one month. I have also been showing in different galleries throughout the country and received several awards.
DAM: Do you see the future of digital art as being primarily a print-based medium or a web-based medium?
Renata: I think a Web-based medium. There is more demand for it!
DAM: Have you found the internet to be an effective way to market and sell your art?
Renata: I have had two Web Pages, many compliments but no bites yet. I think a Web Page is a help to show your work, but you must advertise in a good magazine to attract the buyers.
DAM: Do you design your own website?
Renata: I do outline it, and do the writing but I have a wonderful computerman who does the rest.
DAM: Describe your hardware set-up.
Renata: I have a PC Compaq Proliant 5500 with 1.25 gigs of RAM and 23 Gigs of hard disk; a 21 inch ViewSonic Professional Series monitor; an Epson Expression 1600 scanner; a Hewlett Packard CD-Writer. I also have an Epson 3000 Printer which can give me prints 17x22 inches with Lysonic Inks and Somerset Velvet Substrate and an Encad Novajet 700 printer, that prints on a 42 inch width QIS Semi Gloss Photo substrate. With it I use GX Inks a wedding developed by Encad for archivability.
DAM: Why do you prefer a Windows based PC over a MAC?
Renata: I never had a chance! I wanted a Mac when my husband bought me an Amiga. I wanted a Mac when the Amiga went "belly up." He said the same fate would happen to the Mac, and bought me a PC. I had to make the best of it!
DAM: What output methods do you prefer to use to print your art?
Renata: This is a tough question! I like the finish of the Somerset paper, it looks like velvet, and it resembles the prints we have grown accustomed to such as lithographs and serigraphs. But when the ink is absorbed by the substrate the colors become subdued. When I print with the Encad on a semi gloss photo substrate, the ink stays on the surface and it is very brilliant and vibrant. Perhaps because of my living in Southern California I have become accustomed to sunshiny colors. But actually there are prints that require the punch of the Encad on Photo paper, and prints that require the softness of the Epson with velvety paper. So, even in this case the artist must consider what he needs for the final expression and use it.
DAM: Do you prefer creating your own prints?
Renata: In the past I have used service bureaus to print my work, but I like to do it myself much better so I can control my images. With my Epson 3000 and my Encad Novajet 700 I get very good results.
DAM: What software, and what other equipment do you employ?
Renata: In my work I use photographs. I have a 35 mm camera and take all the pictures I am using. I do quite a bit of traveling, and when the pictures are developed I separate them by subject (architecture, trees, flowers, sunsets) and scan them. I like to have big images, I need the 300 resolution to print on my Encad and I like to usually have an image 15x20 maximum. This gives me an image of about 90-100MB. After the scanning, comes the CD. I like to have the material in the CD by category. So one with trees, one with architecture, one with sunsets.etc. You do realize that with 100 MB image, I can only have 6 images on one CD. This makes me eliminate the not so good ones, and keep the good ones. I have a good inventory of images. When I am ready to start, I pick a CD and load it into Photoshop. Here is where I fix the image. Sometimes, due to the weather, or to the photographer, the shot is not the best, but with Photoshop it is easy to fix anything! Once the idea is ready I get into filters, or change the software program to Painter, or Corel Photo-Paint, or Deep Paint, and start experimenting. This is when the help of the software comes in handy.
DAM: What, if anything, is missing from current software for creating digital art that you would like to see developed in the future?
Renata: I do not think I am qualified to answer this question. I am only familiar with a very small part of software. Although I would emphasize one thing. Anyone wanting to create digital art, should have a formal education in art first.
DAM: What achievement is your fondest dream in the world of art?
Renata: To have more people open their mind and accept and learn about the new developments, and extend the teaching of art in all the public schools.
DAM: Do you have anything you wish to add that we've overlooked?
Renata: I wish the public would be more responsive to the arts, but this is something you learn from the beginning, not after you finish school. Art should be taught in all public schools so the children could become aware of it, even if they do not intend to pursue an art career. How many kids pursue a sports career after they are through with school? Sports teach you to be competitive, at times even belligerent. The arts teach you to get to know yourself and others and to understand the extent of your abilities. Recently, in Italy, I saw the art homework of a fifth grader. He was being taught "the psychological attributes of color." How many kids in the U.S. know them? I bet not too many adults either!
DAM: Thank you.