Tradigital

nathaniel stern

Tradigital art most commonly refers to art (including animation) that combines both traditional and computer-based techniques to implicate an image.

Artist and teacher Judith Moncrieff first coined the term in the early 1990s, while an instructor at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. The school held a competition of Moncrieff’s students, who used the medium to electronically combine everything from photographs of costumes to stills from videotapes of performing dancers.

Moncrieff was one of five founding members of the digital art collective called ‘Unique Editions.’ These five artists—Helen Golden, Bonny Lhotka, Dorothy Krause, Judith Moncrieff, and Karin Schminke—combined their expertise in traditional studio media and techniques with digital imaging to produce original fine art. The artists met in 1994 at ‘Beyond the Digital Print,’ a workshop organized by Krause at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. The artists’ varied backgrounds are evident in their mixed media approach to using the computer as an art-making tool. Although every image is conceived and executed at least in part on the computer, the range of work includes one of a kind paintings, collages, Polaroid and image transfers, monotypes and prints on such varied substrates as canvas, handmade paper, and embossed metal. Moncrieff used the term ‘Tradigital media’ to describe this merging of traditional and digital tools and ‘tradigitalism’ as a name for this emerging movement.

Independently in the early 1990s, artist Lisa Wray was developing the fine art style she calls ‘Renaissance of Metaphysical Imagery.’ Prototypes were made for each work from color copies, color photos or film negatives made in her graphic arts darkroom. In 1990, she visited the only two places in the country with proprietary computer systems capable of assembling her prototypes: Raphael Digital Transparencies in Houston Texas, and Dodge Color Laboratories in Washington D.C. The first two prototypes, ‘Brew of Life’ and ‘Fantasy,’ were assembled by Dodge Color Laboratories on a Superset machine that was first developed by the Department of Defense. The final art was archived on 1″ magnetic tape, and then output as an 11×14” color film transparency. Lisa discovered Judith Montcrieff and her pioneering efforts with Unique Editions and Tradigital Fine Art, as well as the term ‘Tradigital,’ and adopted it to describe her own work.

In 2002, ‘tradigital’ went mainstream when Jeffrey Katzenberg used the term tradigital animation to refer to the blending of computer animation with classical cell animation techniques, ‘a seamless blend of two-dimensional and three-dimensional animation techniques.’ He mentioned as examples ‘Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron.’ He believed that Walt Disney (a traditional art animator) would approve of the changes in the way cartoons are made today. Tradigital printing is an experimental approach to printmaking with contemporary technology. In one form of tradigital printing, printmakers use computers to generate positives for UV photo transfer to plates and screens. In another form, digital print output incorporating silkscreen, relief or intaglio techniques is the focus. For example, the Josephine Press uses a process that combines archival digital prints with traditional techniques such as intaglio, woodcuts, lithographs, and all of the other traditional printmaking methods.

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