Digital artist Pete Harrison’s Desktopography project is now in its sixth year, and has recently released its latest collection of desktop wallpaper featuring digital artwork from around the world. As usual, the collection features specially created works with nature as the theme, but with a digital spin as artists show off their Photoshop skills. Here Pete takes us through the project's history and his plans for the future.
In 2005, I was really getting into digital art and my friend Kharil Osman created the first Desktopography piece. it was called TAG and I was inspired to create something similar. I then found out my friend James Wignall had also done a nature-themed desktop wallpaper. After that I had the idea to ask a few close designer friends to create something in the same format, then I set up a website to showcase them. I hosted it myself on my server and shared the link on a few blogs and between friends, turned out they were pretty popular. I called the project Desktopography, desktop as in desktop wallpaper and topography as in the study of the earths surface and features, encompassing nature.
Road to Refuge by Mike Harrison from Desktopography 2010
In 2006, I decided to continue the project, I was even more involved in the digital art scene at this point, so I invited a lot more artists to create something for me, the website got a refresh and up went the new wallpapers. Popularity grew and, by the 2007 exhibition, word had spread and it was being blogged all over the internet. I continued to keep the project invitation-only, asking designers I knew personally and from art collective's that I was in, such as Depthcore.
By the 2008 exhibition, we had a Flash website designed with help from my roommate at the time. It played music in the background to create more of an experience. There were also more wallpapers than ever and the quality was pushed up. Desktopography was booming –– this release spread like wildfire; it made the front page of Digg; was blogged all over the Internet, and had magazine features written about it. The traffic I was getting took down three servers, getting over 200,000 hits per day.
Magnus by Anthony Harmon from Desktopography 2010
In 2008, we released our first album too. I got so many emails with people enjoying the music we played, so I put together a collection of ambient, nature style music to go with the release. I charged $10 for it and the costs went towards hosting.
In 2009 we got sponsorship from customize.org, the desktop customisation website. They were able to handle the amount of traffic the project was getting on their servers. I kept the project free from advertising -- it has never been about making a profit, just sharing our creations with the world for free.
The exhibition is now in its sixth year and is bigger than ever. I keep it invite-only still, but I get emails every now and again with a designer that wants to participate -- which I add the artist invite list if I feel they can bring something nice to the new exhibition.
Aria by Nastplas from Desktopography 2010
Flowers and mountains by Nikolay Vanchev from Desktopography 2010
The overall theme has stayed the same throughout the years, which is basically nature. It started off by just using mainly stock photography and then adding to it to create something new -- but in recent exhibitions, people have gone more abstract. The variety of submissions is ripe: everything from very minimal designs to represent nature to photoshoots with landscape and nature images projected onto human subjects. Every year we see new works that are more original.
My favourite piece from the current exhibition is King by Andrew Burdin (above). It's a really nice execution of a winter scene featuring a polar bear and tones from some events his personal life.
I continue to expand the project; it develops every year. 2011 is going to be the biggest yet. We have a new album is planned, and I have even been in talks with publishers and distributors to produce a book. This will feature a CD with all the previous exhibitions on it, plus the music albums and other exclusive content.