Louis J. Boston II's "Self Portrait." (Louis J. Boston II)

For years, Louis J. Boston II had artistic concepts and designs floating around in his brain, but he had no real outlet because “I’ve never had good use of my hands” for painting or drawing.

Then about 10 years ago, the 58-year-old Wilmerding resident stumbled into computerized digital art, where the artist creates designs using computer programs. After years of development and refinement, he has created a process called “optical tuning” that allows him to produce colorful unique designs for printing on photo paper or vinyl.

Boston’s work, which can create illusions of motion, will be presented as the first art gallery show Saturday at the Westinghouse Castle by Turtle Creek Valley Arts. The arts group and the neighboring Westinghouse Arts Academy charter school have joined forces to renovate the former Wilmerding headquarters of inventor George Westinghouse into an arts center for the school during the day and the community on evenings and weekends.

Boston, who has lived a few blocks from the castle for a number of years, said he is “very proud” to be the first artist presenting there.

“We’re kind of guinea pigs for each other,” said Boston, an upstate New York native who is trying to turn his work into a commercial product through prints of his digital designs. “This is the castle that created electrical power … the castle that lit the world.”

Boston said he has always been around art — his brother is a professor who teaches animation — but didn’t have his own outlet until he stumbled into digital art through his work teaching AT&T employees how to use computers. At first, he was reluctant to try it and waited several days before he began toying with various programs and options.

In its simplest form, digital art involves artists using computer programs to create images and manipulate their colors and shapes. Initially, Boston created digital images based on mathematics, such as one that used dozens of prints of the symbol for pi interspersed every 10 images with part of the numerical extension of pi.

His work was recognized by the American Mathematical Society. Other designs formed images using prime numbers or the periodic table in chemistry.

“People liked this, but it was a really small niche,” he said.

Then about five years ago, Boston discovered two artists who would greatly influence his work: painter Bridget Riley and digital artist Akiyoshi Kitaoka, who both used art to create optical illusions. Kitaoka particularly concentrates on motion such as his signature piece “Rotating Snakes,” where a series of overlapping circles appear to be moving in opposite directions.

Inspired by their work, Boston began playing with computer technology until he developed optical tuning, which he believes is a unique process. Boston is reticent to give away too much of the technique, other than to say it involves manipulating the length of color waves, which are similar to sound waves, to enhance the look of his images.

His optical tuning pieces include “Paint Brushes,” where three pairs of wide brushes produce color strokes that appear to undulate on the surface and create circles separated by metal bars, and “Inner Circles,” a ball with squares on it that appears to rotate on a surface of smaller squares. He’s particularly fond of “Self Portrait,” a head filled with small squares with dots inside them, with one larger square standing on end in the middle with shades of black, white and blue giving the illusion of a pulsating center.

“That’s what I call my self-portrait,” he said. “That’s what’s really going on inside my head.”

Louis J. Boston II hangs his digital print “Surface of the Sun” Friday, Sept. 15 2023, for the first gallery exhibit at Westinghouse Castle in Wilmerding. (Ed Blazina/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Boston concedes that his work isn’t for everyone; some either do not experience the illusion or don’t like the experience if they do. He believes if they get it at all, he’s been successful at his artistic goal of engaging with viewers.

“If I’ve gotten a reaction, I’ve actually gotten to you and stimulated your senses,” he said.

Digital art has its critics, who claim manipulating images on the computer doesn’t take the same skill as painting or drawing by hand. Boston strongly disagrees, calling the computer the next evolution in an artist’s toolbox that began with rocks to create scratches.

“As much as the snobbishness is there, I think what you look at is the creativity,” he said. “I’ve been able to grow by leaps and bounds using the computer.

“Some of the results are by design, some by happenstance. Welcome to the modern world. It’s the evolution of technology.”

Recently, Boston has been concentrating on ways to transfer his computer images to other media such as photo paper and vinyl so they can be sold to consumers, something that he thinks was part of the genius of Andy Warhol. That sounds easy, but he said printing processes have a far more limited color palette than computer screens, so it takes a lot of work to find the right combination on the computer that translates the same way to print.

If he can perfect that, he may be able to drop his current work-from-home computer job to concentrate on art for a living.

“A lot of people can do this on the computer, but you have to figure out how to translate it to print,” he said. “If it comes close to 97-, 98%, that’s good.”

The exhibit is scheduled for one week, beginning with an opening reception from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, but it could be extended if it is popular. The gallery will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. on weekdays and noon to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Limited prints will be available for purchase.

Boston pauses Friday while hanging prints of his digital art for the first Westinghouse Castle gallery exhibit. (Ed Blazina/Pittsburgh Union Progress)

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at eblazina@unionprogress.com.

Ed Blazina

Ed covers transportation at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at eblazina@unionprogress.com.