Slow, STRANGE, and Computer-Driven

Artist Troy Eittreim eschews paint for digital media

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Troy Eittreim considers himself a painter and a collagist. He uses Photoshop to create his work, adding images and marks layer by layer, into one smooth surface within an unified image. His work is currently on display at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Downtown campus in a solo show, A Strange Journey.

The journey might’ve been strange, but it certainly wasn’t speedy.

In 1991, a friend presented Eittreim, a formally educated painter and illustrator, with a gift that, a decade later, would drastically alter his artistic process. That gift was a disc, and on that disc was a copy of Adobe Photoshop. The graphics editor software was new to the market, having been published in 1990. Computers themselves were also still relatively new to the market and not yet viewed as an item with a practical use in private homes.

Eittreim is an alumnus of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). He graduated from the college in 1989 with a BFA in Painting and Illustration and a minor in Art History. Even in the late ’80s, and despite SCAD being the progressive school it is, Eittreim had only one course in computer art.

His introduction to Photoshop wasn’t entirely memorable. After the software was loaded to his computer, his friend gave him a basic tutorial. And Eittreim was lost once he was left to his own devices. He dabbled with the program’s tools, drawing shapes, filling them in, and then erasing them.

Eittreim continued to focus on painting and didn’t open Photoshop again until 1994 when his curiosity led him back to the software. There was something about the process that he found intriguing. It posed a challenge, something new and more difficult for him than traditional painting and analog processes. He developed a better understanding of the program, and advanced his digital editing skills. But, still dissatisfied with the results, he returned to painting.

In a post-Y2K world, Eittreim again returned to Photoshop. The third time was the charm: Eittreim delved into the tools of the program. What resulted was a body of work exhibited in 2002 in a solo show in Atlanta’s Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery.

After that show, Eittreim, for the most part, departed the world of analog art in its entirely. Believing that planning sucks the life out of a piece, Eittreim would scan an image, load it into Photoshop, and quickly begin digitally manipulating the image; one modification in composition or color organically leading to the next.

Eittreim’s current series illustrates the disjointed nature of life, both past and present. His digital collages depict dreamlike scenes. Like a dream, at first glance the spectacles appear incoherent from the outside looking in. It is not until viewers immerse themselves into a piece that threads of consciousness begin to emerge. Blended together within his work are both real and imagined landscapes, folklore and regional culture, mysticism and religious imagery, and figures representative of voyages and conquests.

As an artist, he never fully knows where a piece will lead him or when it will be finished. This series consists of work long in progress, with some pieces started in 2004 that have been under revisions for more than a decade. The work depicts his journey through a culturally diverse world that’s still full of many unknowns. It is to the edges of these unknowns that Eittreim’s curiosity is attracted and he seeks to explore them through his art.

A Strange Journey, which opened on Oct. 30, runs through Dec. 8. The Downtown campus gallery is in Building A1205, 101 W. State St. Gallery hours vary with each exhibit and individuals should contact Brenda Mills at 904-633-8131 for more information.

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