It’s easy to get lost in the mathematics and jargon of computer programming, but second-year computer information systems student Taylor McGown views these processes differently. Beyond the vectors and vertices and models, McGown — who hopes to pursue a career in video game production — sees computer technology as an avenue for artistic expression.
For example, a few months ago, McGown figured out how to make low-poly photographs. To someone not well-versed in computer science terminology, even McGown’s deliberate and careful explanation of “low-poly” is not simple.
"It's kind of like an art style, but it’s kind of like an accidental art style,” he said.
Essentially, McGown figured out how to use a concept from his knowledge of video game design to turn normal photos into angular, “blocky,” hyperreal versions of what they once were.
“I want to make video games. So I feel like exploring other art forms is important because it allows you to make unique stuff,” McGown said.
McGown put out his first photo via Instagram — a starry, pensive representation of Albert Einstein — and received positive feedback from his friends. He followed up Einstein with notable musicians Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley.
“I just thought it looked really cool and I kind of wanted to share it,” McGown said.
Some of McGown’s followers began asking him for their own low-poly photo, sending in requests of people and designs. While McGown enjoyed the work, making the images took varying amounts of time, so he began charging people small sums of money to compensate for the time he put into each photo.
“The more complex the thing is, the longer it takes. So that’s why I charge people money to do it,” McGown said.
He completes the images within a day or so and returns them to customers in their low-poly form, often with some kind of small artistic freedom taken. For example, Barack Obama’s sunglasses feature an American flag design that was not in the original photo.
This side project is only a glimpse of what McGown would like to do artistically in the realm of video games. After exploring some programs online, he aims to make three-dimensional models out of two-dimensional photos.
"So a cool way ... to continue my art kind of thing, and to make video games, is I’m gonna start making these models,” McGown said.
McGown explained that he could forgo conventional software and in “a faster way, and kind of a cooler way” take photos of a person from multiple angles and then make a model of that person in three-dimensional space with higher resolution.
“So the thing is that I could … make it low-poly and like do it with people’s faces, you know? That’d be really cool,” McGown said.
All of these forms of visual expression are as though McGown is passing real things and people through a filter, and presenting us with a different version of reality. His work is a reflection of his beliefs regarding humanity and art, and computer systems happens to be the way he’s found to let those beliefs manifest themselves.
“Humans are a slave to this landscape that we call reality, and we try to escape that by creating art, because art is a reflection of the human soul,” McGown said.