Arts Academy

in the Woods

Home // Art Integrated Education // The Crucial Role of Math in Digital Arts

The Crucial Role of Math in Digital Arts

Given the title of this post, you may be wondering if there even is a role of math in digital arts. How could that be? There’s math and then there’s art. They’re totally separate. Right?

Not really. And the internet has been pivotal in expanding the relationship between math and art. The genesis and early days of the internet relied solely on technicians and engineers to start companies and develop software. But most of them didn’t understand how to create art.

Now, the demand for creative talent is bigger than ever. But folks looking for careers in the digital arts need to have a grasp on analytical skills and logic too if they’re going to succeed. And this means they need to know math. 

The Evolution of Art

Once upon a time, we thought of art as something static. It was a painting, a sculpture, a photograph, etc. created for the sheer purpose of being viewed. Today, however, technology enables digital art to be more dynamic. It can evolve right before the viewers’ eyes.

As such, the focus is not on the end product. In fact, with digital art, the artist may have no clue what will emerge. There is interactivity with technology – most often with a computer of some sort. It could be something as simple as a phone camera, or as advanced as a laptop with all of the latest software. 

Therefore, the focus is more on the behavior that’s generated by the art over time, as well as how the viewer aids in modifying the work. So in essence, the viewer becomes something of an artist as well. 

Digital Arts As an Educational Path

Digital arts comprises a wide field of opportunities and careers. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Graphic Designer
  • Digital Photographer
  • Digital Painter/Illustrator
  • Film/Animation
  • 3D Designer and Motion/Web Graphics

Because there are so many promising and lucrative careers in the digital arts, arts academy middle schools and high schools are putting an emphasis on digital arts programs. They pair creativity with the extensive reach of modern capability. 

The standard curriculum involves engaging students through the analytical and constructive processes of art and art history while offering hands-on interactivity with modern tools. Students are presented with creative challenges which present various opportunities for them to engage through both discussion and independent learning to develop thinking strategies. They also gain imperative technological skills which will contribute to their success as a future digital artist.

Students gain essential exposure to modern computer/technology tools. They learn the foundations of file management, computer systems, and software. At the same time, they develop thinking strategies to create original works grounded in multiple digital mediums and formats.

The Important Role of Math in Digital Arts

So where’s the math in all of this? Everywhere, actually.

Although it may not seem like it, mathematics has always had a part in the creation of art. After all, it’s the language of form and pattern. But the line between art and math is more blurred than ever with the advent of computer-generated art.

As we mentioned early, in the nascent days of digital arts, it was rare to find artists producing computer graphics. The technology was too expensive and out of reach for most artists to have access to a computer. But that’s all changed. These days, the vast majority of us carry around an advanced computer in our pockets or bags. 

Programming languages are also far more in reach for artists. Some of the newer languages are actually allowing for artists to become programmers and vice versa. And the act of programming is deeply mathematical. It requires the programmer to develop a way to store data and then create algorithms to generate the desired output. 

That’s just one aspect though. In the field of music, there is also a range of mathematical challenges in getting a computer to find and understand features and patterns that can distinguish music from noise.

Then there’s the math of physics required to re-create physical processes in a believable way. This is key in the field of computer-generated images (CGI) for film, television, and game.

CGI Was Born of Mathematical Understanding

If you watch a movie from the 1960s 0r 70s, the CGI back then seems archaic. But at the time, it was pretty amazing. CGI is ever-evolving. And the amount of math a computer utilizes – from Cartesian coordinates to vector geometry -to create a realistic and animated depiction from a model is enormous. In this creation, there must also be an understanding of how light interacts with materials and surface textures such a fur or rippling water.

For example, in the original Shrek movie, the animators tried doggedly to achieve a realistic glass of milk for the gingerbread man scene. But by the time Shrek II was in production, the graphic artists had cracked the code on how to make milk look realistic. As such, the second film demonstrated great volumes of milk! 

The Value of Arts Integration Education

A general art education provides a good foundation for young people looking to get into the digital arts. But knowing the important role of math in digital arts will give them an advantage. 

If your child is interested in a future career in digital arts, be sure they go into the field armed with a solid academic base as well. An arts academy high school or middle school can provide this.

Contact us today to take a tour of our school. And give your child the upper hand that will make him or her a valuable commodity for a secure future as an artist. 


* indicates required