DigitalFruit- Alina Boon

DigitalFruit is an interview series from Adafruit showcasing some of our favorite digital fine artists from around the world. As we begin this new decade with its rapidly changing landscape, we must envision our path through a different lens.  Over the next few weeks we’ll feature many innovative perspectives and techniques that will inspire our maker community to construct a bold creative frontier.  The only way is forward.

1. Where are you based?

I currently live in Toronto, Canada.

2. Tell us about your background?

I am an artist and interior designer situated somewhere at the crossroads of these two fields. Whatever shape my work has taken over the years, the main driver behind it has always been the desire to create ‘experiences’, whether these experiences would be generated through the complex processes of real space/place making (architecture), or at a more abstract level, through the use of expressive visuals constrained within a 2D plane.

Growing up in Romania, I always admired my mother (who is an artist) and learned a lot from her. Thanks to her, by the age of 7, I had tried my hand at most traditional mediums, including oil on canvas. I remember spending hours learning how to draw and paint from art books I found in my mother`s library. Goya and his ‘Los Caprichos’ series, Julius Podlipny with his charcoal drawings and most of the impressionists and expressionists were some of my first ‘mentors’. Eventually, it only felt natural that I followed all necessary steps to become an artist myself: Art High School, Fine Arts University and Masters.

Being curious by nature, by the time I earned my degree in Fine Arts, my interest was already drifting away from painting towards more interactive and immersive art forms like video, installation, performance but also set design and interior design. Gradually, I transitioned from visual arts to space making and interiors became my focus for years to come so much so that I decided to move overseas to follow my passion.

After earning a second degree in Interior Architecture from Ryerson University of Toronto, I had the privilege of working with many talented designers and architects in various large scale architectural projects, ranging from private residential to condominiums, hotels, restaurants and retails. All these experiences shaped the way I see things and implicitly the way I think about art. Today, I don`t only have a set of brushes and a canvas to express myself, but a whole new array of tools that I couldn`t have dreamed of 20 years ago.

With the world slowing down in the past months, I was able to dedicate most of my time to some art projects that have been seeding in my mind for quite a while. A drawing tablet opened a world of possibilities for me and Instagram seemed to be a good platform to share some of my work. So a few months ago, I started an Instagram account @alina_boon_art, which soon became my little creative hub where I display my work on a regular basis and get valuable feedback from artists and likeminded people from all over the world.

3. What inspires your work?

It is hard to point out a specific source of inspiration because it is never just one thing, but rather ‘everything’. Everything that happens to me informs my work one way or another: places, books, movies, music, dreams, random images that cross my sight every day, colors, textures, sounds, the people I meet, the conversations I have… They all have an impression on me and so the imagery I create is a distillation of these experiences, good or bad, whatever they happen to be at certain points in time. Although my work is very personal, almost like a journal, I try to place my visuals in a space that is intuitive and relatable.

4. What are you currently working on?

Most of  my current work is quite experimental from various points of view. Firstly, being new in the digital world, these works are an exploration of technical possibilities. Secondly, I am investigating visual themes that interest me right now like hybrids, paradoxes, liminal spaces and ‘non-objects’. I am drawn towards creating entities and spaces that escape clear boundaries and serve as support for introspection. They are primarily a reflection of the way I personally see and understand the world but in the process of sharing these images I discovered that together, they create a world of their own, where other people find some sort of meaning, this ‘in-between’ space where conversations are born.

Aside from my design projects and collaborations with other architects and designers, I am developing a Limited Edition Print Series with some of the artwork I have been sharing on my Instagram gallery. I am running print tests on various types of surfaces and trying to find the most appropriate physical support for my digital work.

5. Describe your process and what tools you like to use.

My work is a mix of analogue and digital painting. Coming from a traditional art background, I am quite selective with the digital tools I choose for each project and try to stay within certain boundaries that I establish beforehand.

My first encounters with digital painting were attempts to imitate traditional techniques with which I was familiar. However, the more I discover new tools, the more the idea of imitating ‘real painting’ becomes less relevant. I still use the virtual canvas in a similar way I would use a physical canvas, with the bonus of being able to use unlimited layers and undo’s. It is important for me to maintain a balance between ‘happy accidents’ and controlled composition the same way I would do when using real colors and gestural painting.

The process itself is always different for each project. Whether I get my hands dirty with charcoal and paints or keep them clean while working with a stylus pen, what matters to me is the process itself, the journey from a few abstract gestures to the final image that is relevant to me and hopefully to others. Generally, I like to keep things simple and focus on the composition itself so, most of my works are drawn with a maximum of two or three tools.

Sometimes I start from my own drawings or paintings on paper or canvas. I then take them into the digital space and morph them into something else using layers and adding digital painting. But for me personally, using an ‘input’ image takes away the joy of creating something from scratch so the preferred method remains drawing everything directly on my tablet’s ‘white canvas’. I have been using Infinite Painter a lot lately since I find this app to be the closest experience to doing analogue drawing or painting that I found so far.

6. What does your workplace or studio look like? Do you work in silence or listen to music while you work?

I have a dedicated space at home, but depending on the technique I use, I may take over other areas of the house.  Some days I work at my desktop station and use a drawing tablet. Other times I use my tablet from the comfort of my lounge chair or living room sofa and when I miss ‘the real thing’, I spread my papers, color tubes, inks and pencils all over the place. That can be quite messy and not ideal for my ‘better half’ and my cat.

I always listen to music when I work, it helps me get into a certain mood and stay focused.

7. How has technology shaped your creative vision?

It is hard to think of something that I do today that doesn’t involve the use of technology:

for my interior design projects, presentations, reels and marketing material I use an array of dedicated software depending on the project requirements or the specific phase in the design process: AutoCAD, 3DStudio MAX, Revit, Sketchup, Rhino, Lumion, Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, Adobe Premiere. When it comes to painting, an Android tablet that runs Infinite Painter is my best friend. I also use my desktop computer and sometimes my TV screen to visualize my work on a large format.

Although it is hard to imagine how I could do without all these tools, I try not to let technology define my work and strive to preserve the imprint of ‘human touch’ in everything I do, but that is just a personal choice.

8. Any tips for someone interested in getting started in the digital art form?

I am not an expert in any of the tools I use and it feels presumptuous to offer advice to my peers who may be more tech-savvy than I am. For someone who is just starting, I would say try as many tools as you can, experiment with various visual languages and ultimately pick whatever works best for you. I am sure you will have fun in the process and that is what is most important!

9. Where do you see generative and digital art heading in the future?

Twenty years ago I couldn’t have imagined I would be able to create large scale paintings without making a total mess and without having a generous space to store my canvases and art supplies. For many years, not having a studio has been a deterrent for me to do what I loved most. Now I can create from the comfort of my home or from anywhere else for that matter.

As technology is advancing at an increasingly faster pace, it is hard to say what will happen in the future but I am sure digital tools will become more accessible and will further transform and diversify the art scene.

Alina Boon





DigitalFruit is curated by Adafruit lead photographer- Andrew Tingle



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