About the artist
Artist, Photographer, Creative Director, Perfectionist. Those are just a few of the words used to describe Photonics’ president and founder, Alan Brown. A graduate of Syracuse University with a BS degree in Communications, majoring in Advertising Photography and minoring in Art History, Alan has amassed more than three decades of experience with all facets of visual media. Alan started PhotoDesign, an advertising photography studio in 1981. He then started Photonics, a graphic design and web/mobile app development firm in 1989 (in its 29th year) and also for six years was a partner in a socially responsible eco-friendly women’s apparel company, Tulong LLC . Spare time, when it exists, allows Alan to explore his love of photography and illustration and his disdain for being a purist.
My goal in creating my illustrations is to weave a complex story in a setting both real and imagined. I am a lover of the surreal and attribute some of my influences to Salvador Dali, René Magritte, Max Ernst and Giorgio de Chirico. I also want to give a nod to Hieronymus Bosch; his fantastical figures have always fascinated me. While I think the titles of the illustrations shed some light on my thinking, I leave the full interpretation up to the viewer.
How did you first get into digital art?
I started my career as an advertising photography who did special effects work. At the time, it was very labor-intensive and typically involved a lab and a retoucher to get close to the result I was trying to achieve. I bought my first Mac in 1985, love at first sight! When Apple came out with their color Mac in 1989, I decided to jump full in and started Photonics which originally did photography and digital art I have always called ‘Illusography.’
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
I liked the speed of feedback when I did things and the control I had and that I wasn’t reliant on anyone else other than the colour separators who would scan my film. I also discovered the world of 3D which had a very photographic metaphor in terms of composing scenes, finding the right perspective, lighting the scene and then rendering it (much like pushing the shutter release button but this part took longer). It suited me greatly as I was no longer tied to physical reality or expensive constructed mini-sets.
What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?
I am fairly much a surrealist although I am also partial to hyper-realism.
What inspires you?
Everything! I feel that I am a pretty keen observer and see little things that get my attention and give me fodder for some of my work.
What is your artistic motivation?
I thoroughly enjoy the act of creating my art. It has a timeless quality that I my son calls “getting into the zone” which I find very satisfying.
Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?
I’ve produced quite a lot of images in my life and I don’t think that any particular one is my favorite. I like something about each of the images but I think what makes it for me is that every time that you look at one of my illustrations, it takes the mind on a journey; relating to some element conjures up dreams and experiences that you identify with.
Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?
Creating ‘illusography’ experiences
What memorable responses to your artwork have you had?
“Oh, that reminds me of Magritte”, “Looks like Dali”, “really takes me someplace from a dream or something” are a few of what I take as a compliment.
Name three artists who inspire you.
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
The hardware has gotten so much more responsive and the software has gotten so much more sophisticated with what it lets me do that it opens up my worlds of experimenting and creating.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?
Learn to draw.
What devices/equipment do you use to create your art?
Currently a Macbook Pro along with an extra monitor and external trackpad and keyboard. For my photos I have my iPhone, my mirrorless Fuji and a Canon PAS (point and shoot).
Which apps/programs do you use to create your art and which are your favourites?
Do you use images from stock sites as well as your own photos and if so, which are your favourites and why?
No, I don’t use stock images.
And finally, do you find that digital art is often dismissed as a valid art form?
I’ve had art gallery owners turn their noses up to my kind of art as not being legitimate art. They believe that I just push a button or drag a mouse and that the computer creates the art. My tools are tools like paint brushes and chisels. In the rest of the world, I don’t experience that kind of reaction; people respond positively and aren’t concerned about what my tools are.
Where to find Alan’s work online
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insights with us, Alan!