Could digital art replace more traditional techniques? Is one type better than the other?
Don’t laugh; the question might not be as silly as it sounds. Over the past two decades, we have seen the traditional newspaper market decimated by the rise of freely available online news sources.
Every train station and airport used to feature one or more large branches of WH Smith’s (or a similar chain), where you could be confident of finding scores of magazines, comic books, journals and periodicals that focused on every topic imaginable.
WH Smiths have downsized or even closed vast numbers of their stores as the market for information has shifted primarily onto the web. The closure of news outlets such as Smith’s may not seem hugely relevant to those in the “serious” art industry, but let’s stop and think for just a moment.
Today, few would argue as to the artistic merit of a classic comic book. When Superman appeared in the first issue of Action Comics in June 1938, few could have predicted that items historical significance; What was then regarded as nothing more than a “disposable” children’s comic by everyone from children to parents, retailers to fine artists, has eventually come to be viewed by numerous types of people as a priceless work of art.
Could the digital artworks being created today eventually become as important and valuable as the traditional pieces created in centuries gone by? If you are the type of person that views your art collection as a potential investment, then this could be the perfect time to begin assessing the value and potential future worth of digital art.
What IS Digital Art?
According to Wikipedia, Digital Art is an “artistic work or practice that uses digital technology as part of the creative or presentation process.” – That’s a broad definition and leaves a lot of room for debating what is and isn’t a piece of digital artwork.
For example, many modern sculptures begin as virtual models inside a computer. Using such techniques allows the artist to quickly experiment and visualize several possibilities for the sculptures’ final design without spending copious amounts of money experimenting using expensive materials.
Well-known artists will often receive requests to create a one-of-a-kind piece by a fan of their work. Computer-aided design software allows artists to create virtual mockups that can be shown to the client who commissioned the piece before work begins on the final, agreed design.
Early Resistance to Digital Art
People always struggle with change – it’s a well-recognized human trait. In past centuries, the term “art” was used much more rigidly than it is today. For example, we now recognize music and even video games as art, too. Everything that requires human creativity and is intended to provide enjoyment or entertainment can now be described as art.
There is no question that some tasks are much easier to perform on a computer – touching up a photograph in Photoshop is much easier than capturing the perfect frame using nothing more than skill and timing.
Likewise, computer-based recording studios have allowed less-than-perfect recordings of vocalists and other band members to be corrected in software, saving hours, days, or even weeks – of studio time, as bands no longer need to repeat their performance dozens of times hoping to achieve that “Perfect” take.
The “Purists” Admit Defeat
Realizing that the genie was out of the bottle and digital techniques are here to stay, the art world has instead adapted. Traditional artworks created entirely by hand can be promoted as genuine one-of-a-kind pieces, increasing their value with many types of collectors.
There are also circumstances where the level of time and commitment involved in learning to do something professionally using digital techniques can far exceed the learning curve of more traditional methods – the Adobe Creative Suite programs are incredibly powerful. When used correctly, these pieces of software allow those with the required knowledge to achieve anything they can imagine.
Packing all of that functionality and flexibility into these programs will often mean spending several weeks watching online courses or even attending classes to learn how to take full advantage of this power.
After a day or two of tearing your hair out trying to work out how to do something, you might decide that getting back outside with your DSLR is the more straightforward solution after all.
There will always be purists who will insist that using any form of technology is “cheating.” However, it is impossible to deny that digital tools and technology have allowed more people to create and enjoy art than ever before. This increase in diversity has been hugely beneficial to the world of art during the past century, a trend that is almost certain to continue.
As we enter a new era of purely digital art in the form of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT’s), the art market will likely divide into traditional, digitally enhanced, and strictly digital art that can only be viewed on a screen or using Virtual, Augmented, or Mixed reality technology.
With this in mind, I believe the battle has only just begun.