Paintings That Walk The Line Between Analog and Digital

Paints? Pixels? To Lauren Pelc-McArthur, they’re both means to the same artistic end.

A few years ago, as a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Lauren Pelc-McArthur became fascinated with the aesthetics of computer glitches. Pelc-McArthur had always relied on computers to some extent in creating her art, but it wasn’t until she read the writings of glitch guru Rosa Menkman that she started to notice the beauty in the snags and lags of our otherwise glossy digital experience. But the artist didn’t spurn her paints and embrace the world of pixels. She just made room for both.


These days, like many artists, Pelc-McArthur paints regularly on both the computer and canvas. But what’s unusual is how remarkably similar her output is across the two. At first glance, you might not even be able to sort out which she made with a paintbrush and which she made with the paintbrush tool. And that’s entirely by design.

“I go for similar compositions and color palettes in both works to unify them as much as possible,” she explains. “I don’t see them as distinctly different as much as they are exploring similar themes through different mediums . . . [both] reference layers, gradients, and glitches.” But it would be reductive to say that Pelc-McArthur is just trying to make oil approximations of digital paintings, or digital facsimiles of oil ones. Rather, her paintings exist in some weird liminal space between the two worlds.

In large part, that has to do with the hybrid process through which they’re created. Nearly as soon as Pelc-McArthur starts an oil painting, echoes of the digital world start to creep in. She picks oils and acrylics that remind her of the illuminated colors of a computer screen; she favors brush strokes that are reminiscent of glitches. When a painting is complete, it gets photographed, chopped up, and repurposed as the raw material for a new digital work. That last part involves one last bit of medium-hopping, just for good measure: Pelc-McArthur moves works in progress between Cinema 4D and Photoshop, going from 3-D model to 2-D composition and back again to create the richly layered final pieces.

It may sound crazy, but to Pelc-McArthur it’s second nature. When you grow up on computers, you don’t see glitches and other digital hiccups as fragile, fleeting aberrations to be faithfully reproduced. You see them as part of the digital experience, and thus part of life, and thus simply as more grist for the artistic mill. “I spend nearly half of my day in front of a computer screen,” the artist says. “Interactions and experiences in that space feel natural and legitimate.” And just as real as putting paint on a canvas.

See more of Pelc-McArthur’s work here. Don’t freak out, your monitor’s not broken.

[Hat tip: Triangulation]