It’s Digital But Is It Art?

There’s no denying that “digital art” is flourishing. Digital Art can be original art produced entirely digitally i.e. on a computer without paints and canvas or any other traditional media, or a manually painted canvas that is scanned and then digitally enhanced in any of a variety of software packages (e.g. Painter, Photoshop). Even photographs digitally enhanced with artistic effects fall under this broad term, as does fractal art, which is automatically generated with very little human input.
The tools needed to produce digital art have been around for many years but have undergone a revolution in the past 10 years and are now rich in features that enable digital artists to create works that would have been previously impossible. And these tools are improving all the time. Although it is rather ironic that the improvements to the packages are often measured by how life-like the results produced can be. And by how similar the digital effect is to that created with a real paintbrush. The manufacturers and advocates of digital art tools could emphasise the different and unique effects that they can create, yet they actually promote the similarities to traditional media.
But digital artworks are without doubt creative, and they can be original, evocative, intriguing, beautiful. But there continues to be debate and controversy over whether “digital art” is “real” art. Is the skill and talent required to manipulate a piece of computer software comparable to true artistic talent?
And shouldn’t art communicate something to the viewer? Some forms of digital art (such as fractals) are randomly generated images. In this case, if nothing is being communicated then how can the work be classified as art?
It could, of course, be argued that there is no difference to the casual viewer between two equally beautiful images – one created traditionally and one created digitally. But art has always been about more than a casual glance – it is about getting to the soul of the artist and understanding the message behind the painting. Even with the most simplistic of traditional abstract art there are feelings and messages that the artist wishes to communicate with the viewer.
Another factor to consider is the very perfection of digitally produced work. Just as it has been shown that the most appealing human faces have slight imperfections – so, maybe, the slight human errors on a canvas create an unconscious appeal for the viewer that is missing in digital works.
It is also important to distinguish between “real” art and “good” art. Just because a painting is created with traditional media does not make it “good” art any more than Digital Art is “bad” art.
Maybe in time Digital Art will become one of the widely accepted genres of the early 21st century.
Take a look at these five reasons FOR and AGAINST classifying Digital Art as (the rather nebulous term) “Real” Art.
1. Whilst, in theory, computers now have an almost unlimited range of colours, if the artist actually wants to print the work in order to display it there are colour limitations in the printing process. And even using the best colour management techniques, there are also variations between the colours viewed on screen and those printed on canvas or paper.
2. Skill and flair are required in mixing paints and applying the paint with a brush.
3. Digital Art is constrained by the size of a computer screen and a workable file size that doesn’t grind your machine to a halt. It lacks the thrill of a huge physical canvas in front of you.
4. There is none of the immersive and captivating smell of paint (although that will be coming soon to a computer near you – check out “Digital Scent Technology”)
5. Digital artworks lack the visual interest and tactile experience of texture.
1. Making art digitally is a creative process, just like creating a piece of video art or installation art, which are accepted contemporary art forms.
2. There is a high degree of technical skill required to effectively manipulate the software/tablet etc.
3. Some amazing images have been created digitally and if it provokes an emotion in the viewer then it’s real art.
4. Art comes from the soul of the artist so the artist still needs imagination and talent to be able to transform that internal vision into something real.
5. Digital Art tools have a versatility and power to create effects and combine techniques that could not be done with traditional media.