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Q & A: Architect discovers joy of digital art

Sunday, December 18, 2011
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Victor Cinquino of Saratoga Springs started experimenting with art-making software about 10 years ago, and now it’s his passion, a way to express himself beyond the boundaries of architectural projects.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Victor Cinquino of Saratoga Springs started experimenting with art-making software about 10 years ago, and now it’s his passion, a way to express himself beyond the boundaries of architectural projects.

Sitting at his computer in a historic building on Saratoga’s Phila Street, Victor Cinquino lives a double life. Sometimes he’s an architect, and other times he’s an abstract artist.

Last July, Cinquino (pronounced sin-QUEE-no) opened CinquiStudio, a boutique gallery in the old Palmetto Fruit Warehouse that has a second-floor view of the carousel in Congress Park.

The sleek, stylish art space was not only designed by Cinquino and serves as his personal office space, its walls are covered with dozens of examples of his digital art, from lush fields of brilliant, flowing color to intricate geometric patterns and highly imaginative florals. Many images have such texture and depth that they could be mistaken for paintings on paper. In July, one of his creations won an honorable mention award from the Museum of Computer Art (moca.virtual.museum).

CinquiStudio

WHERE: 36 Phila Street, Saratoga Springs

WHEN: 2 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, 12 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday

MORE INFO: 435-5170 or CinquiStudio.com

Trish Sivalls, who makes glittery, bead-and-wire jewelry, and Joseph M. Marcuccio, a digital photographer, are also showing their work, the first in a lineup of local talents that Cinquino plans to spotlight.

Pastels, etching, metallic paints, rollers, brushes and more. The Saratoga Springs resident started experimenting with art-making software about 10 years ago, and now it’s his passion, a way to express himself beyond the boundaries of architectural projects.

His digital artworks are produced in limited edition using a giclee printing process on fine art paper at Digital Imagining Technologies in Ballston Spa.

From an early age, Cinquino knew he wanted to be an artist, but in Bellevue, his blue-collar Schenectady neighborhood, such goals weren’t considered practical. He discovered architecture when he stumbled upon a book about Frank Lloyd Wright at the local library.

After graduating from Bishop Gibbons High School in 1962, Cinquino went on to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s school of architecture.

He has worked as an architect for 42 years, 30 years of that time with his own Saratoga Springs firm, doing residential work and small commercial projects.

Q: How do you make these artworks?

A: The process is essentially painting on the computer. Because of software availability today and digital tablets, you can sit there and use a brush in the computer as if you were painting on an actual canvas. We have palette knives, we have pastels, we have chalk, we have pencils.

Q: Do you use a Mac or a PC?

A: Most artists started with a Mac, because a Mac was the most oriented toward art. My background is as an architect. My understanding of computers came through computer-aided drafting, and the most dominant program was AutoCAD, and that was always a PC-based program. Now it’s available on a Mac, but for many, many years, it was strictly a PC-based program so that’s how I stayed with a PC.

Q: How does digital art-making compare to using a real brush?

A: There are some differences, obviously. It takes some time to understand how to translate images from the computer screen to the final printed image. Certainly, if you are working on a canvas, it is there in front of you, you can see it and feel it as you are working with it. If you are working on a computer screen, which is considerably smaller sometimes than the final product, you have to understand how it will work.

You have to learn some technology about color because different computers, different pieces of software, handle color better. And also it gets translated to the printer in a slightly different way. So what you see on your screen as an artist doesn’t always come out that way.

Q: Do you have art training?

A: Only to the extent of courses that I took at architecture school: courses in drawing, painting in oils, a little bit of sculpture.

Q: How did you get into digital art?

A: I was doing house designs that I thought I could market on the Internet. I was designing in 3D, and I was rendering the interiors as well. And I needed artwork for the walls. I did a bit more research, found more pieces of software I could use and I started creating artwork for the walls of my buildings.

And suddenly, it dawned on me that I could create the artwork and put them on the walls in reality.

Q: Some of the surfaces of the images appear to have a texture. Is there really a depth or change in surface?

A: No, there’s not. It’s a photograph. That’s essentially what it is. They become an art form unto themselves.

Q: What inspires your images?

A: The ideas come almost purely from my imagination. I do things in series or groups, and I find color groups that I really begin to like.

Q: Where is this art form really catching on?

A: Mostly in Europe, especially in Germany, and in Holland, where they’ve fallen in love with digital art. And a little bit of it from the West Coast. The guru of digital art is a guy named JD Jarvis. Digital artwork has been around since the Mac. It’s just now getting recognized by the art world.

Q: What is a “giclee” print?

A: It’s a very fancy word for inkjet. It means “spray.” It was designed to be very, very oriented towards creating art and art pieces as opposed to your everyday printer. And it uses pigment-based inks, which are much truer color-wise, and are archival quality. So anyone of these pieces you see here, as long as they are kept out of the sun, will last as long as a Renoir or even more, as they won’t discolor over time. A giclee print costs more to have printed than the equivalent piece done on a piece of canvas with a stretcher plus the cost of the paints.

Q: Why are you attracted to abstract art?

A: Traditionally, art was always a chronicle mechanism for culture and time. Artists always tried to capture prominent figures, prominent situations, prominent happenings. Once we developed photography, the representational aspects of art were really no longer “necessary.” That really freed us up to create different kinds of work.

For me, the fascination with abstract art is strictly the idea of the color and the emotion and how it all flows together. If you’ve got a flower and you look at the flower, the flower is going to be beautiful, most flowers are. But do I really need to paint that as a rose? Or can I make it something else? Can I capture the essence of what that piece is by making it something else. That’s the fascination to me.

Q: How do people react to your work?

A: The response has been very positive. A little of that is because it’s very abstract and nontraditional. Some people don’t know quite what to make of it. People in the business, especially gallery owners, have no idea what to do with it, which is another reason why I opened this gallery. The price structure is different from original pieces. It’s a stepchild kind of art form.

As far as the general public, everyone is really fascinated by it. But Saratoga right now is still a very traditional town. People still come in looking for horses and ballerinas.

 
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