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James Paterson

Multimedia Designer (1980-)
Digital Design Museum

Both in his collaborative work with Amit Pitaru and solo projects for, JAMES PATERSON (1980-) applies the visual fluency of off-line illustration to the web.

It was only when Flash 2 was introduced in 1997, that James Paterson realised his computer could be more than a toy to play games on. He then taught himself how to create images from code and has since continued his programming experiments and to use the computer "like a sketchbook".

Born in London in 1980, Paterson moved to Canada at the age of eight and studied print-making at art school there until he dropped out to live in New York where he launched his site. A year ago, he met Amit Pitaru, a jazz pianist-turned-programmer, at a Flash conference in London only to discover that they lived on the same street in Brooklyn.

They started working together on, their joint web site, and on occasional commercial commissions such as the Pagan Poetry project for Bjork. Their collaboration continues despite James Paterson's recent move to Montreal.

See James Paterson's work at:

Q. How would you describe what you do?

A. I use a computer the same way I use a sketchbook. I work all the time, developing small ideas. When I stumble over one or a combination of ideas that I find interesting I will take them further and develop them.

Q. When did you first become interested in technology?

A. I got my first computer when I was eight, but pretty much just used them to play games until late 1997. A friend of mine sent me a copy of Flash 2 and I started mucking about with it. After about a year of playing with the programme I started to see major potential in it, and it became more or less my primary medium. Before that it was all about drawing and print-making for me.

Q. How did that translate into an interest in digital art and design?

A. My web site was my only venue when I started. So I became familiar with digital art and design because both my medium and my venue were digital.

Q. How did you and Amit first meet? And how did you begin your collaboration?

A. I was in London to attend a Flash conference, and saw Amit on stage giving a presentation about jazz music and programming. A lot of the things he said were subjects that I thought about all day every day with my own work. So that night I met him at a party. Lo and behold it turned out that we lived on the same street in Brooklyn. We have been working together ever since.

Q. Describe your working methods with Amit. How do you begin work on a new project, for example? Do you sketch, make notes, write code or go straight to the computer? And how does the process develop from then onwards?

A. We talk a lot. So most of our ideas pop into existence after a chat and some beer. Usually there is some concept work that needs to be done after that on the computer. A little programmatic mock-up of how the project is going to work. Then some visual material is created to test in that environment. Then the visual material and the programmatic material grow up together into a complete project.

Q. What inspires you and your work?

A. Music first and foremost.

Q. What are the main challenges facing digital artists and designers?

A. It appears that at the moment there is a lag in the acceptance of computers as a valid fine art medium. When I was at art school, there was no course in programming for artists. It was nice to figure it out for myself and with the help of the online community, but it would have been amazing to have had that resource available on the same terms as taking a sculpture, performance or installation class. I think that programming is a powerful way of structuring logic that lends itself exceptionally well to the creative process.

Q. What projects are you planning for the future?

A. I would very much like to learn the programming language C, so that I can develop custom tools and applications from the ground up. That may take a while, so in the meantime I will be thinking, drawing and continuing on as I have been so far.

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