Art, technology intertwine in digital painting world

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KINGSTON, R.I. – July 29, 2010 – Associate Professor of Art Ron Hutt sees a world where art and technology are becoming more and more intertwined.

Pointing to the field of concept art, Hutt sees a growing opportunity for students at the University of Rhode Island to employ the practical application of digital painting and drawing as a way to ready themselves for the workplace.

Concept art is an industry that has gained increased attention of late, thanks to the wildly successful world of online gaming and the ever-growing use of computer-animated special effects in Hollywood. In the last year, the 3D animated flick Avatar became the highest-grossing worldwide film ever, pulling in $2.7 billion in theaters.

On the gaming side, total sales for games in the United States alone are expected to fall between $18 billion and $21 billion thanks to the highly-anticipated upcoming releases of titles like “Halo Reach” and “Call of Duty: BlackOps,” according to Information Week.

With this trend in mind, Hutt has developed the first digital painting and drawing class at URI, a course that is unique among the state’s colleges and universities.

Making the course even more unique is that many of his students were not art students. While Hutt certainly had a number of art students in his spring course, it was also populated with students from computer science, film studies, landscape architecture and other disciplines.

Using pieces created in his class, Hutt is running an art exhibit featuring his own work, as well 14 students from his digital painting and drawing course that ran during spring semester. Housed in the Corridor Gallery of the Fine Arts Center, the exhibit features more than 30 inkjet print pieces on the subjects of environments, figure studies and portraiture.

“This is the first course at the University I have taught that focuses exclusively on the enormous potential of digital painting and drawing as a means of visualization for all types of art and design,” said Hutt, who holds a master of fine arts from The School of Art Institute of Chicago. “Every traditional art form has a digital component. Many can be utilized as visualization tools in a number of academic and professional fields.

“This exhibition represents how URI is moving forward, developing new courses that are essential for the success of our students as they make their way into the growing creative arts, new media and entertainment industries,” Hutt said.

Hutt developed the course for students who wished to gain proficiency in digital processes in painting and drawing for both fine arts and applied media design. The class instruction was organized around the use of Photoshop and Painter software, Mac computers and Wacom digital drawing tablet.

To aid both the students’ ability to learn and his own ability to teach, Hutt produces his own art at the same time as students work on their projects.

“The students see me going through the same steps they are taking as they go along,” Hutt said. “It helps them see that they don’t have to be perfect with every single step. At the same time, it helps me better understand the ins and outs of the process they are going through.

“When questions or problems come up, because we are working at the same time, I can better understand where they are having issues. This helps give ideas of how to illustrate different methods and artistic techniques for the students.”

The Corridor Gallery exhibit is free and open to the public. It will remain open throughout the summer and is open during regular hours of the Fine Arts Center (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.) and when the building is open for performances.

For more information, call the URI Art Department at 401.874.5821.

Photos courtesy of Ron Hutt.