Artist and blogger twhid responds here to the previous posts (1 / 2) on whether it's necessary to know code to make digital art:
I find myself on both sides of this issue.
I had hoped to make it clear that the canvas analogy isn't good, since there are decades of theory showing the canvas is a far from neutral surface and the rectangle an inherited convention that can be subverted: much modern art is about dismantling the tools of painting, conceptually, not just physically. Arguably new media art built on this existing conceptual framework of modern and poMo theory--applying its precepts to the computer, video, etc.
On one hand, I donít think itís necessary to be able to program a computer to make digital art.* Especially as the tools to create digital art get better and better. And besides, what is the difference between Windows APIs and the the interface of Photoshop? They both present you with tools to make things happen on a computer.
On the other, I think having programming knowledge is very important (but not necessary) for one to be a digital artist. I would argue that instead of Tomís analogy of a painter grinding his own paint, a better analogy is that a painter must understand how color and 2d form work. For those are the building blocks of a painting really, not the paint. Itís a mistake to confuse a computer for a canvas, to think of it simply as a means to a visual end. A computer does much more than display images on its display. With much new media art the how of image creation is just as important as the images themselves.
*Of course you get into a whole other argument if you do agree: is writing in a scripting language programming? How low-level is the code you program? Is programming in C++ somehow Ďbetterí than programming in Java? etc, etc.
My "grinding paint" analogy was chosen precisely because it invokes the nerdy, irrelevant side of art. It's a Renaissance technology (and accompanying set of problems) that some painters unbelievably still find vital in the modern/poMo era. If knowing how to program results in some extreme refinement that Photoshop couldn't give you but is not visible to any reasonably sized art audience, then who cares about it? Those were the thoughts I had on seeing John Maeda's shows: so he can program? That means he can make more finely adjusted screen savers.