Digital artist George Trimitsis sits before a rectangular computer monitor manipulating a bright red poppy he photographed. With the click of a mouse, he changes the petals from red to yellow to blue. He enlarges the dark center of the flower, extends the leaves and blurs the edges. Within seconds, the screen shows a colorful image no longer recognizable as a flower. The Egyptian-born Trimitsis, who spent almost 30 years teaching chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown, Pa., views his art as a continuation of his scientific research.
"More often than not," he says, "in both cases things develop differently than one expected."
There is one importance difference, though.
"Whereas science is grounded in natural phenomenon," he said, "in art not even the sky is the limit."
The colorful computer-generated pictures covering the walls of the artist's Palm Harbor home bear witness to the variety of images that a computer makes possible. One picture was inspired by slicing off the end of a bell pepper and peeking inside; another by his wife's scarf, twisted and tossed on a table. Some packing material Trimitsis spotted in a trash bin on a rainy day resulted in a pair of rust-and-gray images.
Each finished product is rife with opportunities for the imagination to kick in.
The former chemistry professor, who moved to Florida in 2007, said his digital art has an addictive quality. "Because you can do and undo things so quickly," he said, "you have to force yourself to say this is it — it's good enough."
The site of his artistic production lacks the messiness of many artist studios — no palettes with smeared paint, no brushes, no scraps of any sort. Instead, a smooth modular unit encircles a back room of the house, holding a computer, a large, flat-screened monitor, a laptop, a storage hard drive, a printer and a scanner.
In the center of the room stands a $4,000 Epson printer that can hold up to 11 cartridges, costing $100 each. It can print canvases up to 24 inches wide, but any length. Trimitsis usually goes for a 36-inch-long print done on professional-quality canvas satin.
The creative process, even though realized technologically, is not unlike that undergone by hands-on artists. Trimitsis might create a digital image right out of his imagination, often fueled by his memories of Greek myths and his years of peering through microscopes. He often takes photos of eye-catching natural or man-made objects and works from those. Sometimes, he said, he scans an object, such as his wife's scarf, and the image goes directly to the computer.
All images, however obtained, are subject to the whims of the artist, who has free rein to make of them what he will.
An extensive computer program enables Trimitsis to use hundreds of colors, to layer color on color, or to turn images into black and white. Millions of pixels, tiny cells of color, are needed to create one 24-by-36-inch picture. With thousands of images stored on the computer, the challenge is choosing among them. Once a choice is made, he launches into the final product.
"It takes weeks to complete a single project," Trimitsis said, "but I might put it away for a while and come back to it later."
His wife, Amelia, gets the final say.
"She is my first critic," he said. "A lot of times we don't agree, but I'll listen to her in the end."