Don Relyea’s Art Intersects Tech, Biology


Editor’s Note: The <Art / Code> event will bring together 15 digital artists to show off their cutting-edge work at the Aria Stone Gallery on July 27. The event is curated by David Rodriguez (aka Dr. Gorilla) and hosted by Digital Dallas. John Stalle recently caught up with artist Don Relyea, whose work will be on display at the event. 

When he’s not busy leading design technology and prototyping teams at Barclays or lecturing on digital hybrid media at Southern Methodist University, Don Relyea is an artist whose work explores the intersection of art, technology, and biology. At <Art / Code> Relyea will showcase “Sharon Tate,” a series of generative portraits he built using a custom particle painting engine created with code. 

Outside of his day job as a head of design at BBVA Compass, Relyea has always been artistic. Early in his career, he had the fortune to meet Chicago art pioneer Ed Pashcke, who personally walked Relyea through his work and design process.

“His color palette definitely affected my work,” Relyea said. “Once I started graphics programming later, it was natural for me to begin creating generative works and those saturated color palettes resurfaced.”


As he improved his graphical programming chops over the years, saturated color palettes have become one of Relyea’s signature trademarks.

A remarkable display of tangerine orange, scarlet red, electric indigo and lemon yellow pixels, his particle paintings “use hundreds of thousands of [digital paint] particles” to ultimately render paintings at up to four times 4k resolution.

The particle painting engine itself is the result of more than four years of refinement and one errant line of code.

Due to a programming error, as Relyea recounts, “the brushes no longer functioned properly and were rendered as flat squares. The resulting output images appeared glitched, which is an aesthetic near and dear to my heart from my experiments with data loss and corruption.” 

Since he loved the look so much, Relyea has since identified the coding issue and incorporated the feature into his particle paintings.


Along the way, Relyea has used artistic passion to fuel his career.

“A lot of the things I have learned development wise in open frameworks have kept me ahead of the tech curve of the average developers I work with. Researching new tech art coming out is very inspiring, so simply being involved gives me good ideas for solutions at [my] day job.”

When asked what advice he had for other digital professionals looking to pursue their passions outside of work, Relyea had this to say: “Enjoy yourself, do what you want to do, make time to focus on art and don’t worry if it takes a while to get going.”

Digital Dallas <Art / Code> Event 

On July 27, the worlds of art and code will collide from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Aria Stone Gallery, where Dallas’ top digital artists will show us how they’re taking digital design to new electronic heights. Drinks, food, and music from Digital Dallas’ roster of DJs will be provided. The gallery is at 1617 Hi Line Drive, Suite 310, in Dallas. Check it out here.


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