'Flow' by Australian Fractal Artist, Helene Kippert
This will probably sound very naive but when I first started investigating the greeting cards business last year, I was surprised to discover how many artists were using digital art for their designs. I had obviously been badly out of touch with what was going on in the art world while I was preoccupied with finding ways to teach reading and spelling in a way that would work for everyone.
My first impression was that I didn’t like it - I even had thoughts about it being somehow ‘cheating’! The furthest I would go was to use photo-editing software to bring my paintings back to resembling the originals after scanning and, of course, to use the computer to add the captions or greetings.
The difficulty was that I couldn’t pinpoint why I didn’t like digital art. So I asked around among fellow artists who use ‘traditional’ methods in their work. And the most consistent reason they gave was that it seemed somehow ‘too perfect’. One young artist mentioned the ‘pleasant imperfection’ in ‘handpainted’ or ‘hand-drawn’ art. And I do think it’s often those little imperfections that allow something of the personality of the artist to show through, that add spirit to the work. By comparison, much digital art can seem lifeless, formulaic.
I wonder whether this lack of ‘life’ in digital art could have something to do with the lack of physical movement involved in its making. Could what I know from my teaching about kinaesthetic memory be in some way relevant? Is it connected to how the physical act of writing a word repeatedly helps a student to remember a spelling? People have commented that my pastel paintings, whatever the subject, are full of ‘energy’. And that kind of painting is for me a very physically energetic experience. I always stand to paint and have been told that I pace about and almost ‘attack’ the paper – and I often feel quite physically exhausted afterwards! For me it seems unlikely that I could enter into that physically energetic state, seated at a computer.
But a few months ago, someone pointed out to me that the line between digital and ‘traditional’ art is quite blurred.
For instance, traditional drawing skills can be called upon when using a graphics tablet. And the ‘brushes’ in some ‘programs’ can give just the same sort of effect as a ‘real’ paintbrush. A huge advantage of ‘digital’ can be the cost, especially as some graphics/illustration programs cost very little or nothing at all whereas most traditional art supplies don’t come cheap! No more expensive paper and paints to buy and mistakes can be reversed without wasting materials!
I’m almost tempted to have a go – but not quite, not yet! I enjoy the physical act of putting pencil to paper too much. But then there was a time when I honestly believed that I couldn’t write freely unless I had a pen in my hand and that has turned completely around so that nowadays, if I want to write something, such as a letter or a blog post, I would find it difficult to do without my computer! So who knows, maybe it’s just a matter of time?
I recently came across some digital art that took my breath away! Yes, really! It’s the work (above) of. Helene Kippert, showcased here, on Elinor Mavor’s.blog, Mavor Arts, where she interviews the artist.
The thing about it is that it would be practically impossible to make art like this using traditional painting methods and it would be pointless to try! So maybe I’ve been misguided in comparing ‘traditional’ with ‘digital’ art and each has its own discrete place, like books in relation to plays and films. Maybe it’s when digital art tries to achieve the same end as traditional art that it falls short – in my opinion? Maybe digital art is at its best when it stays within its own boundaries as a separate but related ‘genre’?
What do you think?