Digital Dallas Artist Spotlight: Don Relyea

When he’s not busy leading design teams at BBVA Compass 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 > July 27, Relyea will showcase “Sharon Tate,” a series of generative portraits he built using a custom particle painting engine created with code. Get to know Relyea, and be sure to grab your tickets to < Art / Code > today!

Don Relyea

Outside of his day job as Head of Design for BBVA Compass, Don Relyea has always been artistic. Early in his career, Relyea 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,” says Relyea. “Once I started graphics programming later, it was natural for me to begin creating generative works and those saturated color palettes resurfaced.”

Pixel Perfect

As he improved his graphical programming chops over the years, these saturated color palettes (as you will find at < Art / Code >) 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 over 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.

Design at Work

Along the way, Relyea has used his artistic passion to fuel his career. According to Relyea, “a lot of the things I have learned development-wise in openframeworks 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.”

Speaking of making time to focus on art, < Art / Code > is coming up next Wednesday! Have you gotten your tickets yet? In the mean time, feel free to check out our spotlight posts on Eric Trich and Jeremy McKane – both of whom join Relyea in the realm of “digital artistic studs.”

Get your tickets today!


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


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