The Paintbrush versus the Toolbar

This will be a short little ramble on how I feel about the separation of Art and Technology within my own major and the world in general. From this short piece of prose I hope to get some inspiration on two things:  One, the topic for my History and Theory of Digital Media paper;  Two, the themes I want to include in my next big composition “ART =/= TECH“.

To begin with, the first thing that always comes to mind when I discuss art and technology is the difference between digital art and what is now referred to as “traditional” art. Traditional art meaning that the medium chosen by the artist is something tangible and not digital and digital art meaning any form of art where a computer aided in the process. I have gotten into a bad habit of saying specifically that I am a Digital Designer, when in fact I do my designs in all sorts of media from pen and ink to Photoshop and Illustrator. That’s not to say that a large amount of my production time is not spent on the digital “side” of things, but it does mean that I don’t do everything on that “side”. I usually do most if not all of my planning and sketching on regular paper with a regular pencil or pen. I also do quite a lot of my writing on paper, even though I can type much more quickly and efficiently than I can write. The reason for this most likely lies in my own personal comfort zones.

Even though I have been using Photoshop for almost a decade now, I still feel the most comfortable with a pencil in my hand and a paper on the table than I could ever feel with a tablet pen and a screen. I love the effects of digital production and the fact that the limitations are almost entirely based in your own artistic limitations and not the limitations of the media itself. Still, for me this seems like a second step not a first step, in the process. “Traditional” media flows much more freely and quickly than digital media, without a doubt; so when those first little bits of inspiration shoot through my head I am always in a rush to get them down as quickly and clearly as possible. It’s usually a messy tangle of scribbles and mistakes, but that’s all it takes for that initial idea to come to life. I’m sure many artists feel the same way- at least, I assume that they do. Because we all started out with crayons on construction paper- nothing fancy- where you go from there depends completely on your interests and passions. I grew to love digital art from the first time I used M.S.Paint. Some people could never imagine completing a whole illustration on a computer screen.

There is another comfort-zone factor that I think exists within this debate between digital and “traditional” art and that is the tangibility, or lack-thereof. I can think of at least three friends who would never trust three or four hours worth of work on a piece to their computer’s hard drive. Being in complete control of where your work is at all times is definitely a comfort issue. If you’re more of a techie like me, then you may have some trouble getting through your head that someone would not trust their own computer to save information for them; especially since that is technically what is was designed to do in the first place. But there are some people who would rather risk carrying around their work in a plastic sleeve than ever save it to a hard drive and leave it there. Maybe it’s the idea that what you are creating on a computer screen is not really there, but just a representation of what could be there. What you are really creating when you open a new document in Photoshop and start slapping down paint strokes is a series of zeroes and ones that just happened to be arranged and aligned in such a way that they display exactly what you want on the screen. From you- the Photoshopper’s- point of view, you’re just creating the way anyone would. Step by step, working with different materials and producing different effects, but what’s there isn’t really there. It’s never really there until you make a physical copy of it, at which point it becomes tangible and therefore we once again gain total control over it’s existence. (This is probably why some professors feel more comfortable asking for “hard copies” of work than requesting it only sent through the OnCourse sharing site.)

I feel like I should be saying something far more enlightening, but this is all I have to work with for now. I think, as far as rambles go, this one is a pretty good start. I’ll need to do more in-depth research to gain more knowledge and opinions on these things though. For now, the ramble is a ramble.

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One response

  1. But digital art is real. Or, to back up, nothing in digital is real until it has been backed up in three places, one of them off-site. And digital art has the texture of digital art, the texture of film, or television. The texture of light. Notice that it is very different printed than when on the screen? To me, there is no “digital” art and “traditional” art, there is only what the art needs to be. Anybody who draws on a computer just isn’t getting it. You draw with your hand; you enhance with the computer. I love your blog. I find it fascinating and intelligent.

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