Thursday, 11 November 2010

Seven Artists' Reasons not to go Digital

A couple of weeks ago, I tackled the subject of digital art when I discovered some fractals that I really like. It seemed to open up quite a debate and it certainly made me wonder why some of us artists are so resistant to going down the digital route. I found it impossible to define what it is about using 'traditional' methods that makes me so reluctant to abandon them in favour of making my art on the computer. So I asked seven artists, whose work I really like, to write a sentence or two about why they stick with the 'old fashioned way'. Clearly, two sentences wasn't enough to explain their reluctance; they gave a variety of reasons, with some common denominators - and most of them 'chimed' with me.

Michele Webber

When Judy asked me why I chose to produce art the old fashioned way instead of digitally, the first thing I thought was 'Well just because I can'. Because thinking about it, digital art is not a shortcut, the little I know about my graphics program makes me convinced that to produce a good image takes far longer than drawing it by hand (assuming you can draw). Which makes me ponder on digital art. For some it is a way to enhance their talent, a medium in its own right, but others use it to obtain a career in art without natural artistic ability. This really puzzles me. For example I love music, I love to sing, I would love to be a singer... alas I am confidently informed I sound like a cat being ironed. So I will stick to what I am good at. Ultimately I draw and paint because I enjoy it, and it has always just seemed the right path for me. There is a calmness to painting that is seldom found when I am swearing at 'Paintshop Pro' or kicking my printer.*/

Carole Barkett
I find digital art can be very appealing but at my age I don't want  to invest to learn it properly.  I tried when the first computer programs came out but when they kept changing and I had to keep relearning even simple things such as where to find things, I gave up.

Also, I enjoy working with my hands and find it relaxing, whereas working on the computer raises my blood pressure which is another good reason not to do my art digitally.

Carol Anfinsen

I think it's partly an age thing. Younger people have grown up using and knowing computers from kindergarten. Something we never did. A part of me feels that digital art is cheating. If you can't really draw or paint -- go digital art. I know that may be unfair; I've seen some wonderful digital pieces that are very creative and well done. They combine original artwork and enhance digitally. Bob Salo on FAA is a good example.

Diana Ting Delosh
I create in ink and watercolor. My wiggly ink line is a direct expressive link from my brain to my hand onto the paper. I like the spontaneous nature of watercolor, a medium known for having it's own mind. I can mix and blend the colors right on the paper and revel in the happy accidents. While it may be possible to mimic what I do with ink and watercolor, I wonder if the joy would still be there if I had to do it pixel by pixel.

Nicki Ault
I suppose the simple answer is that I have never learned, but in the end that is because I am not interested. Digital art has it's place, but for me, the art I want to create as well as the experience I want to have while doing so, is not possible through a computer. I love my tubes of colour and choosing which ones I will use for a project. I love the smell and sounds that go along with painting. I love the feel of mixing the paint on the palette. I love the work and physicality of traditional art. Besides these things, I love painting en plein air and I get a kick out of finding bugs in my medium and having pine needles drop on my canvas. The experience would not be the same sitting in the forest with my laptop! I think when painting the traditional way, the viewer can see the lumps, scrapes, movement and texture the artist left behind; almost like a fingerprint. Perhaps it is these imperfections that can bring the viewer closer to the artist and his process. With digital art the viewer (to my mind) is one step removed from the artist- the computer is the middle man. For me, at this point, I am having so much fun with traditional art and have so much to learn, that digital art just doesn't hold an interest right now.

Chris Fothergill
 As an artist, one trains early on to be able to produce a faithful image that imitates life, in perspective, colour and tone, and a ‘good’ artist is often a term applied to one who creates a lifelike picture. And yet, at my exhibitions the most popular side show is my open sketch books. These contain ‘rough’ drawings and quick colour sketches, yet people like the liveliness of these. It is the very inaccuracies, the ‘suggestion’ only of what is being portrayed, perhaps the economy of line that appeals. An example of this is this little sketch of older people sitting waiting for a bus in Cirencester. Done from a photo, I painted the colour on first mostly, without drawing, then with a pen did the outline after. This is traditionally the wrong way round, and so the whole thing is a bit wonky! But guess what – I really like the result! There is a natural humorous quality – can you get that in computer aided design?

Lucia Del
I am Watercolourist, and there is no greater reward than to receive recognition for something you have created on a piece of paper using pigment, water & one’s imagination. Just to watch the water and pigment moving across the white paper is so magical, each time different from the last. George Bernard Shaw once said “You use a mirror of glass to see yourself, you use Art to see your soul."

I'm really grateful to these seven busy artists who took the time to think about why they prefer not to  make their art digitally - and then to write it down!  

In the meantime, I persuaded myself to have a go at making a picture using the brushes in one of my photo-editing programs. It was quite fun and I found it easier as I got used to using my graphics tablet. But it was strange that even though I was fairly happy with the image I produced, I didn't feel that I wanted to save it. Maybe it was because I felt rather disorientated, knowing that the colours would look different when printed out on paper because on the screen they are backlit. Maybe it was the lack of physical contact with the 'painting' because it felt as if it was 'behind' the screen on my monitor? Somehow it didn't quite feel as if it was 'mine'.

Whatever it was, I'm certainly not against new technology or learning new things; but I don't think I'm likely to abandon my delicious soft pastels or my scrumptious watercolour papers any time soon! Playing with the materials, smudging the charcoal and pastels, spraying my watercolours with a plantspray and sprinkling with salt....all that's at least half the fun and I'm not about to give it up!


Ulla Hennig said...

It is interesting to read those seven statements. But I would be interested too in reading seven statements in favour of digital art. Digital art can be mimicking, but that can be the case with non-digital art as well (would we speak of "art" then?)
I think it is perfectly okay to say that digital art is "nothing for me". But I am somewhat against making a general judgement (which you did not want do do, I am sure).

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Ulla - thank you for your comments. Yes, I too would be interested to hear why some artists have chosen to 'go digital'. Elinor Mavor writes about her choice on her blog. But in general, as 'birds of a feather' tend to 'flock together', I don't really know any digital artists well enough to ask them to contribute. So maybe this could be the time and place for them to shed light on the reasons for their choice if they wish?

Sarah said...

I did a blog with basically the opposite view a few months ago. It seems that most of the artists here are thinking of digital art strictly in terms of fractals and the like, but digital art goes far beyond that.
My husband surprised me earlier this year with a Wacom graphics tablet with a graphics program (Corel Painter Essentials 4) thinking it would help with growing my Zazzle business. I started using it that day and I've rarely used anything else since. While I agree that there is a certain beautiful imperfection in creating art in the traditional ways, (I think) I've created some rather nice things digitally as well.
To my mind there are very distinct advantages to digital art: Virtually any medium I care to use is always available and at the ready. Sometimes I'm not even sure which medium I want to use for a particular piece and it gives me the ability to try different media until I find the one that suits the work best. I don't run out of paints (which is particularly advantageous for me because I often can't afford to buy them when I run out). Every color you can imagine is there with no blending required. There is no cleaning of brushes nor worrying about being exposed to toxic solvents. In our house there is no convenient place for a studio, so each time I set out to work with any of the traditional media I had to set it up somewhere where I could find decent lighting then put it away again when I was finished.
I also find myself far less inhibited when using my tablet. If something goes wrong with a line or a color, all I need do is remove it. I find this very freeing. It appeals to my obsessive compulsive nature.
At the end of the day I suppose it really is just a matter of preference, but I do believe more and more artists will start turning digital.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Sarah - thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to post your point of view. I've copied the link to the post from your blog that you mentions so that others can read it in more detail:

I can see that there are advantages to working digitally,like the cost of materials and the ease with which you can change your mind or make corrections.

But I rather hope that it's not a question of 'digital' replacing 'analogue'and I don't see why that should happen. There was probably a time when photography must have seemed likely to replace painting when it first began but it didn't. It's now a separate branch of the visual arts, though of course there's room for 'overlaps' and I hope that digital art will be seen in the same way: as an alternative available to artists who enjoy working that way and not as a replacement for traditional methods.

Di said...

I'd like to clear things up. No 1 - I don't think 1 is better than the other, But I do prefer traditional as a personal choice. I think of digital method as just another tool available for an artist to create with. I used the word mimic because I'm aware that there are digital "brushes" etc to create the same effects that I paint on paper. And yes there are very distinct advantages to digital when it comes to correcting art if a clients want to makes changes. So yes I do correct etc digitally. Interestingly 1 of the reasons I've stayed mainly traditionally is the cost. For me traditional is MUCH cheaper - not to mention I don't have to worry about a computer meltdown that destroys the only final copy of your digital art. Yes of course I know about backing up -but I've also known of too many digital artists loosing their final version and having to pay to recover their beloved files. And Back-up hard drives are not fool proof either. Basically to each their own and variety makes the world more interesting.

Judy Adamson said...

Hi Di - thanks for clarifying that!

I do think it's important to keep in mind that this is about personal choice, both in the kind of art we are, as individuals attracted to and also the way that we prefer to work.

It's interesting to hear the reasons for those choices but it is not a competition and I do believe there is, and will continue to be, plenty of room for both ways of working. I expect a lot comes down to the temperament of the artist.

Country Mouse Studio said...

Judy, thank you for the feature, I appreciate it. You've raised a very interesting subject.
You'll have to investigate the thoughts and differences of those who draw realistic art and those who don't, I'm always hearing opinions about that too.

Judy Adamson said...

Oh goodness, Carole - I'm still trying to work out just where I stand on the 'digital question'! It does often seem to be something to do with enjoying the tactile element of the process and the materials themselves but I still think there's more to it than that, something I can't quite define.

Sarah said...

I think my husband expressed it most succinctly. He said digital is basically just another medium from which an artist can chose. Well put, I think.

Judy Adamson said...

I think your husband is quite right, Sarah, except for one thing. I think it's the only medium that offers the opportunity to imitate other media.

Michele said...

Something this article doesn't discuss is how sale-able digital art is... Obviously for illustration or product design it performs as well if not better than hand-made, but I have overheard more than once in a gallery "I'm not paying for that, you can see it was done on a computer..." When it comes to the fine art purchaser, they remain unimpressed by digitally created works, considering it's 'not proper art'. (Just an observation, don't shoot me anyone!)

Judy Adamson said...

That's an interesting point, Michele, and one I'd be interested to know more about. I wonder if anyone reading this can comment on the saleability of digital 'fine art'?