This is a subject that whenever I speak about with fellow artistic types, it never fails to spark a debate. People get defensive and even angry. And I can understand why.
First, let me say that this is just my opinion…and only my opinion. And should be treated as such.
Okay? Here we goooooo!
I think that the artistic “digital” age has been nothing short of miraculous.
Giving artists all kinds of tools to create, manipulate, and experiment with in ways we could have only dreamt about not so long ago.
Making it much, MUCH easier to make corrections, alter on a whim, and send off for print.
Becoming the standard for just about every publisher and studio in pretty much every industry.
On the other hand, I also think that in a weird way, that it’s also limited us. Some far worse than others.
First: The terminology.
One of the terms I hear from many of today’s art folks is: “I’m a digital artist”.
And whenever I hear that it sort of grates on me like a thousand tiny nails on a very dusty chalk board.
Not, “I’m an artist”…but “I’m a *digital* artist”.
I know, I know….It’s just a term. But, WHY the term.
Does someone who works in oils say they’re an oils artist?
Does someone that works in pencil say that their a pencil artist?
Well, maybe they do…I’ve just never heard them say it.
I guess one of the reasons it bothers me so much is that too often people when they hear ‘digital’ will think that the damn computer does everything for that person. That *it* itself is the *artist*. That it’s just a matter of poking at the right buttons and presto!!
You have ‘art’.
I remember when I was animating in 94’, that everyone and their mother thought that all animation was done by computers. Even way back then. I would politely (through gritted teeth) correct them by saying it was hand drawn..(And I had the nervous and emotional breakdowns to prove it!)
So yeah…the term ‘digital artist’ does and probably will forever bother me.
Second: The weaknesses and limits of the digital age.
Yes, no doubt there are some extraordinary art pieces out there. Valid and important works.
But…and this is a big ‘but’….It, in a sense….is worthless.
I know…that’s a huge gauntlet thrown. And I don’t mean any disrespect to the many artists out there that do digital work…(Heck…I’m ONE of them.) But,….it’s the truth.
When I say ‘worthless’ I mean it beyond the point for which it was intended.
Beyond the prints.
Beyond the printing for publication.
Beyond the work itself…
There IS no ‘there’ …there!
It doesn’t exist beyond it’s intended use.
To go to *print* in some fashion. And that’s it. And that’s kind of tragic in a way.
The argument from many of my pals is usually this:
“The computer is a tool. Every bit of thought process and technique that goes into something in a traditional medium also applies to the digital medium.”
Yes. Absolutely true.
And also largely irrelevant to what my point is.
Norman Rockwell and Frank Frazetta worked in oils. There’s been tons of prints made from their works. But there is also the original to marvel at.
Or even collect. Something that’s handed down through the ages.
The amazing animators from the 40’s…their animation keys EXIST.
They’re real. And when you sit there and see them….it’s dazzling. Even breathtaking.
Inspirational. And yeah….historic.
There is none of that in the digital age of art. It just doesn’t exist.
And it’s kinda sorta heartbreaking.
Sign of the times? Perhaps.
But as someone who worked in traditional mediums in both illustration as well as in animation and now works a great deal in digital mediums for work, I can tell you that just because this is the standard…it doesn’t have to be the end all ‘standard’ for you, the artist.
And it’s an obvious one. Although, one that can quickly become forgotten or put off.
Push yourself as an artist, to create as much as you can…traditionally.
Sketch, Draw, Paint, mold (clay) studies or finished pieces as much as you can on your own time.
Create something tangible. Something touchable. Something…real.
I myself have tried to work on sketches and drawings and even some light traditional animation, Just to keep some things rooted in reality. Keeping some of the ‘value’.
No, not because I believe any of these things to be worth a plumb nickel at any point…but mainly so that my kid will have some original work to look at and say ‘my Dad did that’. And if there be anything other than sentimental value….bonus!
Many artists that I know just don’t seem to think it’s a big deal. And they’re fine with that.
And that’s certainly their prerogative.
But I for one, when I look upon the original comic book art hanging in my studio from
John Byrne, Bernie Wrightson, Kerry Gammil, J. Scott Campbell, Bill Sienkiewicz, and drawings from Disney animator Glen Keane (amongst others)….I for one am thankful that these artists work and continue to work in traditional mediums. Because I would much rather have these originals…than only a digital print of them.
And I hope, that someday waaaay in the future…that someone looks on their walls at a “Hogarth Hughes” (“Iron Giant”) key original drawing that I did for the film…..leans back in their chair…..and smiles.