Revisiting the World of Jacquelyn Martino

Interview with Jacquelyn Martino

It was such an honor to once more be chosen to interview artist extraordinaire, Jacquelyn Martino. I first introduced Jacquelyn to the Renderosity community two years ago, when she presided as Conference Chair at the 2008 SIGGRAPH Conference. At that time, her beautiful digital art series, Form and Element, caught my interest, as well as the interest of our readers. I was very excited to discover that Jacquelyn will be giving a "talk" at the 2010 SIGGRAPH Conference Art Papers Sessions, and, more importantly, that she could spare a few moments to sit down and discuss her continued role as art-maker.

Dee Marie: For our readers who have never experienced a SIGGRAPH Conference, can you please give a brief outline of what the SIGGRAPH Conference Art Papers Sessions entails?

Jacquelyn Martino: Art Papers, while being specific to art and design, fit within the overall conference framework of excellence in new scholarly work. The papers are peer-reviewed by SIGGRAPH and published in a special issue of Leonardo, The Journal of the International Society of the Arts, Sciences and Technology.

Accepted authors present their papers at the conference during Art Papers Sessions: http://www.siggraph.org/s2010/for_attendees/artpapers/55

Dee Marie: How did you become involved in this year's Art Papers Sessions?

Jacquelyn Martino: I started this work as part of my Ph.D. at MIT. A member of my dissertation committee, Joe Marks, really encouraged me to write a paper based on one of the chapters.

Dee Marie: It must have been very exciting to be chosen to present that specific paper.

Jacquelyn Martino: Having a peer-reviewed paper on the work is certainly exciting, but I'm also looking forward to the talk because artists don't always get the opportunity to engage with a group as diverse as SIGGRAPH.

I'm preparing the talk now and I keep trying to anticipate the questions that the audience might have. Thankfully, SIGGRAPH audiences aren't shy, so I'm expecting to see my own work in new ways based on the all the questions that I haven't anticipated!

Dee Marie: Your paper, The Immediacy of the Artist's Mark in Shape Computation, will be presented on Tuesday, July 27, between 9 and 10:30am. What can attendees to your session expect to learn from your paper?

Jacquelyn Martino: The Immediacy of the Artist's Mark in Shape Computation fits within the contexts of algorithm art and design computation. In my talk, I will describe my work in the use of computation to produce artistic form.

The research for this paper included analyzing many years' worth of my hand-drawn sketchbook entries and then working out rules, or algorithms, to create forms similar in style to my hand-drawn work. I think that sometimes people consider algorithmic art as distant from the hand, but I believe many artists and designers are working within some kind of rule-based framework.

Whether or not they choose to articulate the rules explicitly is a separate issue. For myself, the explicit articulation in rules has been instrumental in stylistic development and I can imagine continuing to refine and expand an algorithmic understanding of my drawing and painting for a long time to come.

Dee Marie: How excited were you to learn, when your paper was accepted to the 2010 SIGGRAPH Conference Art Papers Sessions, that Leonardo, The Journal of the International Society of the Arts, Sciences and Technology would choose one of your images [Sun], from your Form and Elements series, to grace its back cover?


~ Moon * ~ * ~ *Thunder* ~ * ~ *Air * ~ * ~ * Fire * ~ * ~ * Earth * ~ * ~ * Sun ~
Form and Elements series © Jacquelyn Martino

Jacquelyn Martino: I have a very high regard for Leonardo, so Sun on the back cover is an exciting personal accomplishment and a very meaningful way to be recognized. Also, I think the selection underscores a larger recognition that algorithmic art-making is an equal partner with aesthetic criteria.


Form and Element: Sun © Jacquelyn Martino

Dee Marie: What other artistic projects have you immersed yourself in since 2008?

Jacquelyn Martino: I've been drawing, drawing, drawing! One important personal lesson from my research in defining algorithms for my hand-drawn work is that having a large body of work to analyze is critical to my ability to "see" the rules.

Even in these times of great technology tools for artists, working by hand with traditional tools provides the most immediacy for me. Once I have an intuitive feeling for the rules, I still need to generate many images before I can actually write rules that reasonably approximate the hand-drawn style.

So, my current artistic projects are all geared to extending my understanding of line and form to include hue and value. My plan is to then use the new understanding to enrich my rule space and evolve my current style. So, stay tuned for more artistic computations.

Dee Marie: Tell us something personal about yourself that the SIGGRAPH community would be surprised to know.

Jacquelyn Martino: Despite my drive to write rules for my art-marking, I cook without recipes.

Dee Marie: Wow … that is a shocker. What "culinary invention" has recently piqued your imagination?

Jacquelyn Martino: Right now I'm trying to recreate a Granita (Sicilian ice) that I tasted during my travels to Sicily. It seems like it should be really simple, but getting the right consistency is turning out to be much harder than I expected!

Dee Marie: I look forward to revisiting you when you've made your Granita breakthrough. So, besides artwork (and your venture into unconventional cooking), what do you do for fun?

Jacquelyn Martino: I feel that I'm fundamentally a "maker" who is as much a research scientist as an artist. Maybe the appropriate term is artist-researcher?

Regardless, I have a lot of fun trying to keep those aspects of myself working in harmony to feed the desire to create. I view most of what I do as a series of experiments with the occasional inventive result along the way.

So, folded in with my studio practice, I'm reading a lot on everything from color theory and paint formulation, to technical literature on computational sketching, and trying to find time to study more deeply the grand masters of drawing and painting and human anatomy.

But I don't just read for work. Each summer after SIGGRAPH, I take a long unplugged vacation in the Adirondacks and I just read tons of library books. It has become a really nice tradition, because I gather a long reading list from all my friends based on the new titles I missed during the previous year.

I tell them that the only rule to get something on the list is that it can't be technical, so I read a lot of fiction.

Dee Marie: That's a rather a nice way to cleanse your technical art-making palette. I suppose we should get back to business … as a long time SIGGRAPH Conference attendee and committee member, what excites you the most about this year's conference?

Jacquelyn Martino: SIGGRAPH is a wonderful encounter with the artists and scientists who achieve amazing aesthetics by redefining technological boundaries. Whole careers and the innovations that they've produced can be traced from the nearly four decades of conference documentation and experience.

Each year new people join the community to learn and begin their journeys. The tradition of learning, teaching and growing that "SIGGRAPHing" embodies is what excites me each year.

Dee Marie: I hate to end our time together, but I know what a busy schedule you are keeping, especially this week. Thank you so much for taking the time to let us play catch-up. One last request … would you be so kind as to give our readers some parting words of wisdom, in regards to pursuing their artistic dreams?

Jacquelyn Martino: I think that particularly in these days of higher tech tooling it's very easy to skip the "low tech" aspect of honing your visual thinking skills.

Only recently have I read Ferguson's seminal 1977 Science paper, The Mind's Eye: Nonverbal Thought in Technology. He brings so many important messages together, but the lead quote is packed with wisdom: "Thinking with pictures is an essential strand in the intellectual history of technological development."

I also believe that having a dream is more than half the battle. Once you have even just an inkling, or small feeling about what you want to achieve artistically, you just have to keep feeding your creative passions.

Thankfully, the food for passion is never that hard to find! You can try a few things that I do to work on my ability to think in pictures and stay motivated: practice and experiment; seek the feedback and criticisms of others; study the work of those before you; keep a sketchbook … and, come to SIGGRAPH!

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Get to know industry leaders and professionals
as they sit down and talk candidly with
Contributing Columnist, Dee-Marie,
Author of "Sons of Avalon: Merlin's Prophecy"

July 19, 2010

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