In 2017, I didn’t think I’d still be hearing this nonsensical debate, but I suppose it can’t be helped. I shall slam my hammer of judgement down on this subject once and for all – and I shall never speak of it again!
Back in high school, I had this really cool, chilled out art teacher. He was a bit of a hippie…actually he was very much like a hippie…
…he was a hippie.
He’d tell us to relax and ‘just paint the trees, guuuuys‘ and things of the sort. Very zen. Sometimes it sounded as though he wanted us to become one with our watercolor paints and transcend this plain of existence. I thought he was the best art teacher ever at that point. But one day he kind of went off the rails. Not exactly sure why.
Perhaps it was something he experienced in his private life, or while conversing with a student, to this day I don’t know. He went on a tangent about how traditional art was superior to digital art, and why digital art was bad. At the time, I wasn’t big on the whole digital art thing, so I figured ‘well heck maybe I’m on the right track … with my traditional art grind’ , but as time went by, the logic behind his argument of digital art being bad started to make less and less sense to me. He said that digital art was lazy, too easy, and that people who created art digitally were not true artists.
…so let’s begin.
In Defense Of Digital Art/Artists…
Well, what exactly is a digital artist? For most, it’s people who mainly create works via digital software, such as Photoshop, Manga Studio, Corel Painter…honestly, the list of programs available for digital artists is quite extensive. However, one truth remains absolute: no matter what software you choose to use for your digital art, if you suck, you suck. The program itself won’t make you any better. A lot of my friends years ago thought Corel Painter would make them elite digital artists because of the beautiful digital painting on the box (fantastic marketing, worked like a charm), and ultimately they became frustrated and dropped it when they realized their pictures were just as crummy as the ones they’d draw up in math class. Digital art programs may have short cuts for certain things: filling areas with color, being able to erase markings that may have been permanent through a traditional medium, adding text, distorting, and other nifty tricks. However, basic artistic knowledge and understanding of composition in a piece are still as important here. The nifty tricks don’t matter if the person creating the piece isn’t able to successfully cast their vision. Digital art programs do not compensate for lack of practice. Not to mention that a lot of these programs have different interfaces (some have pretty similar layouts though), and their own sets of hot keys depending on which operating system they’re running on. Softwares have a learning curve..as most traditional mediums do. That said, digital art, and the things you can do with it aren’t necessarily cheating, and they don’t necessarily make the process easier as a whole. You still need to develop a good artistic eye.
While I was still living with my family, I really wanted to make works with traditional mediums, especially watercolors. I had paintbrushes, my pens, paper.. everything. But because of the living conditions in my house, keeping track of my materials and pieces became very hectic. I had an extremely small workspace, clean up and moving my materials around was a pain… and on top of that, I have 4 younger siblings who have yet to understand grace, and feel it’s ok to touch and move things that aren’t theirs. For me, I use mostly digital now because of those experiences, and because I’ve been traveling a lot and I can’t bring all of my materials with me everywhere I go. I can keep track of my pieces and even back them up to cloud storage if my computer blew up or something…
Yes, yes. I’m sure there’s a traditional artist out there who would scoff at me because they managed to create many traditional pieces while having 10 younger siblings, having a wardrobe sized bedroom, and while being pregnant. I’m sure, people can get it done. But to each his own, and digital art for me was what helped me maintain my organization, and get my work done. You can download brushes, which in many cases do imitate real life brushes quite well in terms of affect, and you have all of the colors you could possibly need at your disposal. Digital is a fantastic medium for the artist on the go, or for the artist who wants to keep a clean, minimalistic workstation.
Now, do all of these things make digital art superior to traditional art?
As I said before … the method in which you go about producing the art has no baring on whether or not it will be good – your knowledge of art is what will count more than anything. I’ve seen pieces that I swore were made traditionally, but they were digital. I’ve seen traditional pieces that I thought were made digitally. I’ve seen horrid traditional art. I’ve seen horrid digital art.
In my opinion, artists who specialize in traditional mediums are kind of like .. the ‘scientists’.. they can mix different materials to achieve different visual effects.. some going as far as mixing fire with spray paint, salt with watercolors, etc. Whereas digital artists are the ‘techies’ who have more of a sure-fire method, and precision. Scientists and Techies actually go pretty well hand in hand. In fact there are plenty of artists who use a mix of both digital and traditionally regularly, as well as artists who can translate their skills to the other platform quite nicely with a bit of practice (check out traditional/digital art by Terada Katsuya and Moebius).
So cut the crap. Use what you want to use – you’re going to need to practice either way. No escaping that. Don’t feel inferior for being a traditional artist – don’t feel guilty for using digital software for art. Do your best, and have no regrets.
Featured Image created by: AlexArtwork