Digital Art As Fine Art

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Digital Art As Fine Art

From Gerald King

Published before 2005


Brian Yoder wrote:
My take on it is that using computers as a tool for making art is a fine thing to do, though there are a few pitfalls in using them.

We could say the same thing about photography. As a tool for making art it is fine, but most of use know that over reliance or exclusive use of this "tool" by artists without mastery of drawing or a fully developed cognitive understanding of form can be wasting time and merely using what little creative potential a person is born with on non-regenerative activity-effort that does not affect artistic growth. This is not to say that what Patrick called "digital art" wastes creative juices; but, those artists wishing to go beyond simplistic visual illustration should understand that artistic growth is not automatic or the result of the producing images. Picasso produced more images than most of his peers, yet his art career shows a degeneration of visual understanding, and his final works celebrate "graffiti" as fine art. I defy anyone to show me that his copying of Lautrec and C├ęzanne help him to grow and produce great art.

On the question, is digital art, fine art? I would first try to define "digital art." Brian correctly references the computer which is the "tool" used to produce "digital images" As a "tool" the computer is more flexible than photography which is often the basis for a primal image. Certainly computer image production and management is in its infancy and future technicians will have ever more capacity to play and manipulate digitally produced or scanned images. As with photography, many people will develop a false sense of their creative potential. Though it is great that so many people are engaged in image making, it is sad that their understanding and appreciation of Art is so limited and confused. From infancy children are assured that they are "artists" and anything they produce is great. The theory is, that if you can convince children or adults that they are artists and anything they do is art, they will continue to produce images which are unique and creative. According to this theory, accurate drawing or mimeses will inhibited or stifle artistic growth and must be discourage or avoided. This kind of topsy turvy art educational theory has been frustrating genuine artists who have a propensity to improve their drawing ability and become "fine artists". By "fine artists" I mean those who achieve mastery of drawing, cognitive understanding of visual phenomenon and an empathetic attachment to reality. I could go on with this description of a "fine artist" but just let me say that mastery of the computer image producing capacity is not mastery of drawing. Producing an image of a figure does not necessarily mean the person has the cognitive capability to affect more than a facade. The feelings of emotions we sense in a painting or drawing are not a contrivance of an artist. They are the natural product of empathy with the subject. The modern artist "uses" a subject to create a private totem for his own glorification. A real artist "uses" his knowledge and skills to "give" a subject special visual appeal. His feelings about the subject will be sensed from observing the work. They need no text or explanation. It is my belief that it is the process of drawing from life, or translating real form into an image that the artists develops a special empathy for the subject. It is not unlike the feelings we have towards another human being through familiarity and shared experience. Some artists are born with this special capacity to empathize with reality while others gain through drawing experience.

Drawing from photographs, digital images or prints is a vicarious experience that is not as effective in developing feelings towards a subject. I believe that artist who limit themselves to drawing from images rather than reality shortchange themselves. Such activity can be detrimental to the art student who wants to improve. Once again, what is perfectly okay for the master should be avoided by the student. Since it is not likely that today's students will avoid the computer, they must be alerted to the false sense of their accomplishments and encouraged to "do it the hard way." Learn to draw.

What is "digital art?" More correctly, what is a work of digital art? The product of the computer generated image is a light image or a print. Advances in printing technologies continue to offer greater possibilities for producing permanent images. Artist are now going into these prints with paint and creating "artist enhanced prints" which provide a one-of-a-kind "multimedia" picture that can be marketed are lower prices. It is another advance in mass distribution of fine art.

For me, the computer is a tool with many possibilities for my painting. I still prefer relying on my natural abilities to draw, design, and paint pictures. My worry is that future artists will become so dependent upon this tool, that they may eventually lose the ability to create the magic called fine art.

Gerald King