Wednesday, June 12, 2013


As an artist working in traditional (physical) media, and one old enough to remember a time when every household did NOT have a computer (and telephone cords long enough to knit a sweater out of), I've watched the emergence of digital art warily.

It's funny how the world changes, and we all need to adapt. I was thinking about several people I know of who are near their 100th birthday. These are people who existed in a time when everyone didn't have electricity or telephones. Technology brings with it amazing change to every aspect of our world, and this includes art.

Just think, those paints you use are pre-mixed. The paper, the canvas, other mediums - likely all machine produced with technological advances that didn't exist some time ago. It's very likely that artists of a couple hundred years ago would look at our pre-made tools and supplies and scoff "You're cheating!"

I mean, I haven't pounded any minerals to create a new paint color or chased down a squirrel for my paintbrush bristles lately, have you?

We're a digital world now. More and more, computers are integrating into our lives in ways we never even imagined. I've watched the art world morph from brushes to airbrushes (back in the late 80's and early 90's)... and boy was that a big to-do when that started happening. I remember people being upset with those who air brushed, questioning the use of frisket film and more. I remember an art teacher explaining how little skill it takes to point a spray nozzle verses holding a paint brush to create something. They were wrong, of course. It takes just as much skill to create with an air brush as it does with a paintbrush, just different flavors of skill.

It was art elitism. It was easy to see, and it was just about people fighting change. I remember shrugging and still asking for one for my birthday because I wanted to try it (I still have it too! My cheap air brush! It's a piece of junk, but I can't seem to bear to part with it!)

If I so easily saw the silly prejudice against airbrushing compared with traditional art, I now have to ask myself why I have been struggling with digital art so much. Because it's here, just like airbrushing was. We've gone from brush, to airbrush, to digital-brush  The game has changed, and there is something major going on. Major, and permanent.

I've been dancing around the idea of trying to learn how to digitally paint on a Cintiq (where you draw right onto the screen as you would paper, etc), but hesitant because there are so many things you don't have to do, processes and rules you don't have to observe with digital art. Heck, where's the risk? One slip with watercolor and your piece is ruined! But on digital? UNDO! It's freakin' brilliant! I want an undo button on my 140lbs hot-pressed block, please.

It looks like cheating, right?

But it's not.

I realized that I needed to break digital art out into different categories, and then take them or leave them. I realize that most of my frustration with digital art comes from those who take from others and simply embellish. For example, when you pull someone else's stock of a lovely woman, another stock of some butterflies and frogs, put pieces of them together and change a few colors or "treat" them with filters or what not... well, you may be creating the composition, but you're doing it heavily on the backs of other's work. It's far different from than having someone model for my work. I have to be honest, I don't respect that. There may be some cool images that result from it, but I would only respect it if you went out and created all those stock image pieces yourself (or a large portion of what the final result contains.) Anyone actually can put pieces of other people's work together and create something "new" and call it art. I think that's where I draw the line: can anyone do it? It's not art.

And maybe that is a shameful elitist attitude. Maybe this is the ugly side of art-me. But I realized that's what has bothered me about digital art for so long. It's not the artists who are drawing their own creations, it's the ones sticking pieces of other people's work together like a magazine collage we all created in elementary school that bothers me.

I realize that there are many areas to the art field now. You can work in photography, sculpture, painting, and more traditional types of work. You can also work in digital, and that has even more subcategories. You do not, and should not, work in them all. It's perfectly acceptable to work in one, and none are better than any of the others. A good thing to be consciously aware of.

The last thing I realized is that I don't have a hobby. I don't have any hobbies (except running/fitness. Can I call something a hobby if I half hate it, but do it anyway because I half like it too?) Art used to be a hobby when I was a child. It stayed that way until I slowly started showing, selling, and finally took the professional path. It's my career now.

But do you know what is the best thing about a hobby? There's no risk! You can play! You can make a mistake! You can even try something and find out you are absolutely awful at it!

I realize that just because I am professional artist, this does not mean that art cannot still be my hobby! I have an impossible time sitting down and just painting for fun. In the back of my mind is always "If this comes out right, I can add it to my shop's offerings." That's pressure. That's professional. As much as I love it, that's work.

But digital art... I'm interested. Now that they have devices that mimic traditional creation, right onto the screen, NOW I'm paying close attention. I want to try it. I've spent hours researching, asking questions, and looking at other's work. I want to... play.

I finally realized that I want a hobby, I think I may even need one, and this can be it! I can learn about digital art. Play. Create. And hey, I can even fail at it. If it's not my business, and it's just a hobby, what harm is there? I can't use business hours or business funds for it, it's got to run on my personal only. But why not? And if I am successful at it, there's nothing to say I cannot apply that to my business when I am ready!

So, I've decided to take up a new hobby. To learn when I can, to not stress over it, and to hopefully enrich myself as an artist. Of course, this is a long term kind of project. I have to figure out how to pay for it first (I even looked into part-time jobs that I could take on perhaps a temporary basis to pay for the Cintiq. Of which, there are none out here right now. Major drawback to living in the country, I suppose.) I haven't figured out how to get it all rolling just yet, but at least I have a start.

All in all, I'm pretty excited! All it took for me to chase after this was over a year of research, personal introspection and facing my own art attitudes, and a lot of waffling. Totally worth it. *wink*


  1. I did a Photoshop course 2 years ago and it was one of the best things I could do for my art. I used to use it to 'tidy up' paintings and drawings after scanning them and be able to put images (of my own) together to make new pictures.
    I no longer have the same version of the Photoshop that I first learned on and with this new version I can't layer any more because it's all different!! I'll have to wait for my son to come back from uni so he can help me. Having said all that, I do prefer real materials and lovely wet painting and always will. :)

  2. At times I feel the world is moving too fast and things are changing too quickly. I can remember a time when land phones were everywhere and a telephone booth could be found on every block downtown. Now they are dinosaurs, a relic of the past, and few people even own one. Mobile phones, cell phones are constantly morphing everyday, becoming something better, smarter and more complicated than last year's version. . .or last month's version.

    Technology seems to be suffering from ADHD, forever twitching, fidgeting, changing, unable to sit still for longer than a nanosecond. Perhaps that's just the way it was meant to be? The younger generations embrace all the many techno-electronic-gadgetry and those older that can't, or won't, adapt are left in a cloud of dust as modern society races away.

    Glad to see that you have the curiosity to want to experiment with digital art and what may start out as just a hobby might end up becoming a serious relationship. :)

    1. I think that traditional art will luckily always have a place though, sort of the "Old ways" being the classics.

  3. This is a very interesting post! I do use Corel Draw when I feel like it. Opens up a new world and it's fun to do.
    I sometimes also have the feeling the world moves to fast and is changing. Nowadays it's even normal for some people to write a message on social media rather then to call someone or go by (if they are nearby) I so hate that antisocial behavior. And makes me wonder why some have lots of succes at social media dispaying their work and others do not. And I totally get your elitist atitude. It takes skill to make art. xoxo

    1. Actually, the software I'm looking at is Corel painter, so that would be similar in some aspects I think.

      That antisocial behavior, yes I agree!

  4. I hope you have fun with your new hobby! I have to admit, I just don't know about digital art?? Just me ;o)


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