You Say Painting, I Say Paint Shop Pro
by Megan Larson
For thousands of years the debate over what forms of art are worthwhile have been raged in circles of artists and critics alike. Now that we are in the Electronic Age, one of the debates is between traditional art – defined as art that can readily hang in a museum – and digital art created on a computer.
Anyone who has been a member of any sort of online gallery, be it Elfwood, Epilogue, or even the much-maligned deviantArt, can attest to the remarkable digital images within. But do those images have a lasting place in the art world? For some, it’s hard to understand why they wouldn’t.
As a photographer this debate comes up practically every day. Digital or film? While there are many pros and cons for either, in my mind it comes down to a simple question: Do you prefer to do your editing in the darkroom or in Photoshop? Both take time and skill.
This same thought can be applied to paintings. While some traditional painters may think art not created by pulling a wet brush across canvas is worthwhile, or that digital art is an easy way out, learning all the digital techniques is not done overnight. Each different program has its own set of quirks and instructions to learn before even getting down to creating an image.
“I can use layers to keep different sections of colour apart, if I screw up I can undo it, I can save different versions of it. It's still hard of course though, you won't instantly be a good artist because you're using Photoshop,” Elfwood member and moderator Alanna Elias said when asked of her preference.
Sure, digital files can easily be deleted by mistake, but traditional art can be painted over, ripped, burned, or countless other disasters. One of the best things about a digital medium is ease of copying. While it is a boon to online art thieves, an artist can quickly make multiple perfect copies of the original for backup. This is impossible with traditional paintings. Case in point: In Amelie the glass man has painted over twenty versions of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, but none are exactly the same as the original. While he wasn’t the original painter, it seems to be logical that Renoir himself would not be able to produce an exact copy of his own paintings. Just try it with one of your own creations.
It is true that being in a museum stirs any artistic soul, but digital art and online galleries are literally art at your fingertips. Many people don’t even have the option of going to a museum to see paintings in person, but the amount of people with computers and Internet access keeps growing. We shouldn’t deny those people the ability to see amazing works of art just because they are digital. Neither should we pretend those digital images are lesser than ones drawn on paper or painted on canvas. Medium does not dictate skill.
Some say digital art is only a flash in the pan. At this point, how can we say either way? It is possible that even the cave painters of Lascaux were mocked for having the audacity to paint on cold rock. And those images have lasted 30 thousand years.
Traditional and digital artists need to see each other for what they are – artists – and both let up on some of their medium snobbery.
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