“You might not think that programmers are artists, but programming is an extremely creative profession. It’s logic-based creativity.” — John Romero
This article is for everyone but I hope it will especially help people who just started coding or would like to start. I am convinced that programming can fulfil your artist's aspiration!
But first of all, let us start with my personal story, maybe it will resonate with your current situation.
During high school, I was lost with my life, like many other young people, I had no clue about which path to follow. I loved drawing, electronics and playing video games. So I chose an electronic and computer science school, since pursuing my studies and becoming an engineer seemed like a good ‘default’ choice.
Nevertheless, from the beginning of my study until my second year as a professional developer I was convinced that coding was not for me. I kept saying to myself that code was too cold, too technical and it did not reflect who I was. I complained passively without trying to actively explore.
However, it wasn't just black and white, I liked some part of it, so I decided to keep it going. As I discovered front end development and how code was related to art, I changed my mind and I started to get more and more involved.
I learned 2 lessons along the way :
- Passion is created and developed with skill acquisition, it’s not innate
- Don’t say “it’s not for me” until you have a broad enough vision of a subject.
I also think that passion often intensifies when multiple interests intersect. If I had known earlier that my artistic aspirations could be satisfied with programming maybe I wouldn't have felt lost and uncertain for such a long time.
Here are the 3 reasons that support why code is a form of art. It’s based on my research and personal experience :
- Code art
- Website and app as a visual experience
- Creativity and imagination: universal tools to innovate
1. Code art
I know these two worlds seem to represent opposites. Code is associated with the cold industrial science, logic and technologic, closer to machines than humans. Art feels like pure creativity, we already visualise some Monet paintings or an abstract monochrome.
But actually, what do we mean by art? Here is one possible definition:
The expression or application of Human creative skill and imagination producing works to be appreciated primarly for their beauty or emotional power.
Some code can literally produce a masterpiece, art for art, “beauty and emotional power”. With an algorithm or with some simple graphic languages, one can create beautiful things.
Here are some examples:
Fractal art s a form of algorithmic art created by calculating fractal objects and representing the calculation results as still images, animations, and media. It can be created with HTML canvas for instance and the result is astonishing. Using code as a means to make art could open new paths! We are already making AI creating art by itself (see the end of this article)
Pure CSS and HTML art
Another example is art produced with pure CSS like this portrait below. I have quickly analysed it and it’s composed of almost 2000 lines of CSS code! This shows that with pure code you can obtain similar results to a traditional painter!
Code can not only be used not to produce art by his execution, but it can be art purely by itself. Indeed, its syntax can be the support to create poetry! Some poem-code can also render graphic animation in addition! This could allow interesting and original combination.
2. Website and app as a visual experience
As my interest in front end development grew, I started to dig deeper and deeper into web design, UX, animation etc What I have found was just amazing. Not only are these disciplines correlated, but sometimes the front end developer has to do them all! For instance, a startup, a personal project or a small business will not recruit a web designer or UX designer but all those different jobs would be done by the front end developer! Some websites are just pure masterwork, both beautiful and interactive. This powerful combination creates an experience and that makes a difference if you want to stand out of the crowd! Here are some examples that I just found amazing :
The Year of Greta
An illustrated timeline of how Greta Thunberg rose from a solo campaigner to the leader of a global movement in 2019.
Discover The Bartlett Summer Show 2020
Explore ambitious and creative work from students at The Bartlett School of Architecture
Those websites make the most of sound, scroll animation and canvas to create really immersive experience! I will write more about the technics behind some of theses masterpiece in further articles!
3. Creativity and imagination: universal tools to innovate
Finally, programming requires both creativity and imagination, just like art. Indeed, when you draw or paint, sometimes you need creativity to produce what you want with different constraints. And if you want to create original art you obviously need imagination.
As a developer, if you work for a start-up or you create your own app, you also have to use your imagination to design the app and create some cool functionalities.
In addition, the process of code requires different types of creative skills. Indeed, when you have to develop new functionality or fix a bug (the two main tasks we are tortured with) sometimes the solution just flows by itself, but the other times you have to « think outside the box » to find the solution.
Moreover, code can produce something visually beautiful but beauty is not always based on nice shapes and colours. A smart algorithm can produce its own kind of beauty. Admiration for cleverness is sometimes more satisfying than a nice landscape.
So if you feel that you are an artist deep inside yourself, consider that coding is definitely a form of art. So if you hesitate to learn code or you already want to quit, I suggest you give it a last chance, who knows where that could end up :)
I would even go further, in my opinion, code is more than art. It can create intelligence and maybe one day, an intelligence greater than ours, isn’t that the ultimate art creation?
Bonus: Here is an art piece made by AI, this is new and this could change many things about what art is or could be.