Featured Artist – Spotlight on: Erik Natzke

Posted on July 18, 2012

Hi there. We’re starting a new series to feature people who influenced Psykopaint and who are exploring new ways of visual expressions.

So it’s natural that we start this series with Erik Natzke.

Erik Natzke is an Artist, Designer and Programmer who enlists code to create tools that extend and form his creative process.
A self-confessed “consistent risk-taker”, Erik claims that his success stems from “having the willingness to fail and the stubbornness not to give up.”
Code is the basis for his art.

Instead of using paints or Photoshop, Natzke instead fires up Adobe Flash and starts programming.

Here he twists and tweaks lines of code and variables until everything is to his satisfaction, before letting it run.

This is where the magic happens! Who needs Harry Potter, huh?
His style lies somewhere between the abstract and quite expressive spectrum.

With a love of exploring texture and depth, dynamics and movement, the end result is really quite fascinating. Some examples of his work:

© All work copyright Erik Natzke
As Mathieu Gosselin, PsykoPaint’s creator remarked, five words that could sum up his work would be: Colours, Technology, Nature, Play, Sensitive.This is spot on.

Erik manipulates technology to create playful scenes, colourful landscapes and much of his work is inspired by nature itself. Owls, flowers, birds and vistas.
Many of you may have noticed the Natzke preset hidden within the fun of PsykoPaint. [see the examples here or here  .

“Oh so that’s where I’ve seen the name!?” you might be thinking. (Or you might be just as likely to be thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch, but that doesn’t sound nearly as interesting and we’re going off track).
So how is it all related to this…what were we talking about??

Oh yes, I’m glad you asked.

Well to make things easier, I asked Mathieu some questions, to help connect the dots.
Q. How did you initially ‘discover’ Natzke and what drew you to his work in the first place?
I was at a Creative Technology conference called "Flash on The Beach" (before the time when some random dudes decided that flash was evil); which gathered a lot of people – those who are too cool to go to plain tech conferences and too geeky for just design conferences. Flash happens to be the best platform for that crowd: halfway between design and technology, and that's exactly where i fit in.
So i sat there in the room and was blown away by not only his work, but his passion, sensibility and humility.
I felt like i was seeing a new kind of art form being born in my very own eyes and he was one those explorers who discovered new ways of expressing himself visually.
That's what i think art is about - no matter how sophisticated the tools are; it's about exploration and curiosity. So it may sound geeky and techy, but I feel like this is how you recognize artists. Those who are ‘ahead of their time' are actually creating the future. And that made me want to explore as well in my own direction.

Q. Can you explain how he partly inspired you in your quest to create PsykoPaint software?
This technique of colour sampling has been used before him. But, never with as much depth as Erik.
He makes pieces that are not just displays of new technology but technology in the service of the art.
What I’ve learnt from him is to continue to keep moving forward and explore deeper and deeper.
But I’m a bit of an anti-conformist so i wasn't going to go in the exact same direction.
I had to program new tools to create more interesting artworks.

(It seemed like such a) shame that this stuff is just reserved to the few who know how to code.
So that's where PsykoPaint was born. I wanted to democratize this new art form.
It happens that the majority of people use it more in a conventional way to emulate things of the past than exploring new visual possibilities. But the original intention was clearly to push the boundaries of what has been done before visually just like Natzke did. The only twist is that i want to bring it to the masses ;-)
(Thank you for that insight Mathieu)
You can try the Natzke preset by clicking on ribbon brush and selecting it in the list.

Now back to Erik.

I’m going to l leave you with some visual inspiration.

Someone once said, that “some things are said best, by not saying anything at all”.

Oh wait, it was me.

Still, this is especially true when the opening sentence starts with “Oh by the way, you owe us…” hehe – though also for art that is best described by your own experience of it.

In the video below you can watch part of Natzke’s artistic process – from the initial inspiration, to the code being executed and magically unravelling into a final piece.

This was commissioned by Adobe, so yes; he has worked for some big names.

PLEASE NOTE: you won’t have to grab your sunglasses for this. Whilst he’s known for his love of bold, bright colour, I chose something more neutral ;)