Painting via 'power of thought' may hold some promise

Painting via 'power of thought' may hold some promise
Scientists are reporting a breakthrough in computer-based painting. Flickr/Emily Hoyer

An Austrian-based company called G-Tech Medical Engineering has developed software that allows people to “paint” on a computer through the “power of thought,” reports Telegraph science correspondent Richard Gray.

As Gray notes, the tool — which researchers are hoping to develop to the point that it can be a chip implanted in the brain — can help patients with progressive brain diseases. But there’s an aspect to art-making that may be lost in translation.

Trying to explain how the technology works, Gray notes:

When The Telegraph tested the device in an attempt to replicate Vincent Van Gogh’s famous still life of a vase of sunflowers, it took several hours to produce a simple drawing of a bunch of flowers in a pot.

To be sure, there are different implications to “thinking” a painting and physically dragging a brush across the canvas. One involves a much cleaner setup, while the other can stain fingertips with green paint, reek of the smell of turpentine, and get muddied quickly if one overworks the piece. But both boil down to the same thing — the act of seeing.

Perhaps Giotto’s trademark signature was the ability to draw a “perfect circle,” but for the most part, famous artists don’t have steadier hands or better abilities to draw a “straight line.” Instead, great artists have trained themselves to see things better than the rest of us. The brush paints, in a way, what the eye sees.

The ability to “draw” with one’s mind is something to be celebrated — provided that one is comfortable with the idea of being plugged into a machine. But if anyone (Telegraph reporters or otherwise) thinks that a new tool will make it easy to copy a Van Gogh painting, she or he is focusing on the wrong aspects of the painting process and romanticizing the kinetic act.

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