Giving another look to Scalable Vector Graphics

Jerrold Maddox
210 Patterson Building
School of Visual Arts
University Park, PA, 16802, USA

So much of the work being done now in SVG draws on three different sources: cartography, technical drawing and cartooning. All three tend to assume that representing three-dimensions are more desirable than presenting two, that moving image is better and more useful than a still one and that dynamic site is more engaging than a still one. These assumptions have lead, I believe, to the passing over by the SVG community of some very rich possibilities for other looks for SVG images and ones which cans enrich its visual resources based on some common models and traditions of image making.

I come to Scalable Vector Graphics from at a slant. My background is in painting and drawing and teaching studio art, not computer programming or the sciences, so I look at images in terms of textures, repeats, edges and colors, and their interrelations in a shallow space.

SVG offers a rich and subtle set of tools to work with - especially with color, patterns, filters and opacity - and can be used to develop graphics to attract and engage the viewer visually and tactilely, even before the viewer is engaged intellectually.

The SVG images can be as seductive as a fine painting or textile is seductive. It is to those spaces - the painting and textile spaces - that I have looked to for models and inspiration. There are many different kinds of painterly spaces - Cubist, Impressionist, Timurid and Song among them - which can also offer interesting and challenging models. In textiles, there are the spaces of quilting and ikat, embroidery and tapestry to suggest a few.

The characteristics of these pictorial spaces are stillness, very low relief, blending of colors that are widely varied in value and intensity, as well as chroma, an underlying grid, a textured base and varied edges.

It is a space defined by stroke and fill, not light and shade. It is not a photographic space determined by continuous tone, but one created by overlapping and interwoven shapes and edges, drawn, stroked, pieced, woven and stitched together.

I have put together a collection of Scalable Vector files, Twenty Examples, which demonstrate some of the possibilities for another look for SVG images, useful and engaging in, perhaps, different ways, but ways that open up some new/old ways of creating and experiencing images. This series will be enlarged upon for the proposed presentation which would go into greater detail about ways of drawing on painterly traditions of constructing images.

They are all built without scripting, using the tools of the SVG and CSS and SMIL, to keep them simple and make the some of the powers in the presentation of visual images with Scalable Vector Graphics as clear as possible.

Twenty Examples (SVG files embedded in HTML pages)