How technology has become a muse for artists

Forget Greek gods or gorgeous girls – modern artists are looking to technology for inspiration. Charlotte Philby asks five designers which gadgets help them to get creative
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The Independent Tech

Natasha Law, painter, and her projector



My Quantum 2511 is one of those clunky old machines your head teacher would use to project hymn lyrics at school assembly. From the first time I experimented with a projector, many years ago as an art student, I knew this was my most valuable tool. It works on an incredibly simple concept, but it's integral to my artwork, transforming simple line drawings of women into the colourful abstract, graphic canvases you see in my exhibitions.

I always work in the same way: once I've sketched a basic drawing of my model, I scan the image onto my computer and print it out onto acetate paper. Then I project the acetate against a big canvas on the wall. My projector stands on a wheeled trolley in my studio, which I move in and out from the wall, working out which part of the image I want to focus on – I always crop in one body part from the whole sketch. Projecting a print of the original sketch onto the acetate and working from that is infinitely better than any other way of getting the outline of the woman on canvas.

I couldn't draw the image onto the canvas by hand, as using a black marker would lose all the detail you get with a pencil. Besides, part of the process is about eliminating certain aspects of the overall image, about fragmenting a larger image. I can't imagine how I'd work without my projector – in fact I'm not sure that I could produce my artwork at all. It took several years of renting one before I bought one of my own. It might be the best investment I ever made.

For details of Law's work go to Elevenfineart.com

Barney Beech, graphic designer, and his screen-printing bed

Screen printing is an organic process that enables us to create tactile objects that people want to interact with, not just look at. It has inspired the way we work on endless jobs – recently we've created stage props for Secret Cinema events, designed CD artwork and posters for Nike.

The beauty of a screen-printed image is that because it relies on a manual process you rarely get a "perfect" image; so many things can go wrong, you're never entirely sure what you'll end up with – which keeps it exciting and means every result is unique.

We got our screen-printing bed soon after we set up our company, from the website Freecycle, where people give away things they no longer have use for. On a practical level, it enables us to produce high-quality products at low cost; and rather than having to send things off to the printer and wait for them to come back, we can print things out in our studio as and when we want to, and get the results straightaway.

But above all, the beauty of screen printing your work is that it allows you control over the design process from start to finish; it's about taking care over every tiny detail. There's more pride involved; when you completely follow something through, in the end you really own it.

Thisisstudio.co.uk

Gavin Watson, photographer, and his camera

When I was 12 years old, I got into astronomy and would spend my nights gazing at the stars, straining to see them properly. Then one day I was looking through the Woolies catalogue and saw this pair of binoculars and decided I had to have them.

It was 1978, and there was a sale on in Woolies in town. I went down there with my savings in my pocket, but just before I picked up the binoculars, I saw this camera – a Hanimex – on the shelf next to them, for £15. In those days if anyone on my on my estate had a camera it would be a rubbish Kodak Instamatic which would blur the faces in every shot, because there was no glass lens. But this one had a glass lens. My brother was really outgoing and popular, and used to take photographs of his mates and process them at school, whereas I'd always been a bit shy and a bit of a geek. It crossed my mind that if I bought a camera and started taking photos of people I knew with this camera, then I might be popular too. I got out my £15 and thought: I'll get the binoculars next time. The moment I got my film back from the developers, something happened. The pictures were mostly of my cat, and of my auntie going off to the airport, but because of the proper lens, every single one was perfectly clear and sharp. From then on, I spent all my time out on the estate taking pictures of my mates. I never thought about astronomy after that...

Raving '89 by Gavin and Neville Watson is published by DJHistory.com

Harriet Vine, jewellery designer, and her sewing machine

Ever since we were kids, sewing machines have been a big part of life for me and my business partner, Rosie (pictured, left). In her house it was called stress-making not dress-making, as Rosie made all the clothes for herself and her older sisters. My mum has a big old Pfaff sewing machine, and would always be making the outfits for the entire cast of the school panto, or some other crazy project.

Long before we decided to start up our jewellery company Tatty Devine, when we were still at college, Rosie and I gathered together loads of old planks and bricks from the street and tried to make-shift a studio in her tiny flat. It was only when we put a sewing machine in the middle of the space, that it became a studio. Finally it gave the impression of somewhere we could be creative and productive – that was the association for both of us.

In the past, we've used sewing machines to make our jewellery, but it's not the machinery per se so much as what it represents that inspires what we do. Now we've pretty much stopped using them, as we're working a lot with laser cutting, but we still have six sewing machines in our studio.

We couldn't get rid of them – each has its own personality and gives us the inspiration we need when we're struggling to come up with new ideas.

Tattydevine.com

Luke Stenzhorn, fashion designer, and his iPhone

Having an iPhone when you're setting up a new business feels a bit like cheating – the whole thing is made infinitely easier. Half the time my partner and I are in different parts of the country preparing for the launch of our clothing label: Chris (pictured, left) will be in a mill somewhere checking out material samples, while I'm in a meeting in London. Not only does having GPS and maps on our iPhones mean he can actually find the mill – they tend to be in the most remote locations and would take an age to find – but once he's there he can take and send me high-quality photos of the different materials, so we can decide together which batch to go for. At the same time – through text or email – he can both contribute to my meeting, even though we're miles apart.

Preparing to go live with our website is a busy time and means remembering loads of appointments; by synchronising our calendars, we can know where the other will be at any given time; we also have a pooled email account for official correspondence: all the boring but necessary side of running a creative business.

Keeping on top of the publicity for our brand and our launch event in the run-up to the big day is also key. With an iPhone, either of us can update our Twitter account at any time, and upload information and content to our website as and when the urge takes us.

Percivalclo.com

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