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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Understanding the Future of Digital Art

We've discussed before the role that Digital Art plays in the modern art world. Its still considered a borderline art form to many. Some of the older professional artists look at it as cheating. The computer is doing all the work, so it can't really be considered art. 

I always cite a discussion I attended years ago with the great and dearly missed photographer  Alfred Eisenstaedt. This was in the 80's, long before digital art, photoshop or any other similar programs were in existence. "Eisie" as he was known to his friends, was discussing his techniques in the dark room. He said that he would spend days and weeks in the dark room with a single negative, playing with it, changing it in a hundred subtle ways. It was his belief that anyone could be lucky enough to snap a good image, but that it was in the skills within the dark room that the true photographer emerged. 

This has always stuck with me. As I moved from being an amateur photographer to a professional I always kept this story in mind. But the times had changed. What had to be done in a dark room once, could now be done right on my desktop. But in the end what Eisie said was still true. It was not just in the snap of the camera, but in the manipulation of the image that a lot of the work was done. 

Over time I moved from photography in to art, but with an element of photography in much of my work. The same rule applied. It was not in the conceiving of an artistic idea that the challenge lay, but in the pursuing the small tiny details to make it come into reality.  

Eisi was trying to say simply "It is all in the details". 

So now in the modern era we have this brand new artistic medium called digital art. And we come back to the conundrum of whether executing art seen on a computer monitor is really art. But the same rule still applies "its all in the details". 

As I said, I was a photographer before I was an artist and it constantly bothered me when someone would call me a good photoshopper. I almost got into a fist fight once over this. People see what they want to see. They see a superior piece of photography and they think, oh its all just a cool filter or a superior digital camera. It was rarely "this guy is a good photographer". 

But I learned early on that attention to the details was what it was all about. I always knew my photography was more than an app and I know that my digital art is the same. 

In fact my digital art is merely a term I use for the finished piece of art. But its rarely just that. Lets look at a very simple example.

Take the image above. Most would say "digital art", but the fact is that its still life, photography and digital art. The skeleton and his mount and the tarot cards around them were photographed first as a still life in my studio. Even this was not a simple task as I posed and reposed them dozens of times and in many different types of light, just to get to the final photo.  

The background was then merged with it later and even then the process involved about 3 dozen individual steps to get to the final image. This is what I would consider a very simple example. But the point is that good digital art takes time and attention. 

Over time I've developed techniques that are far removed from "digital art" but often come back to digital art as one of many steps.

Lets look at a much more complex example. 

The image above would not be considered digital art and in fact is not, but it eventually will be. Lets dissect the image first.. The background was created in studio as a 3 dimensional painted canvas that has 3 sides, a top and a bottom. The model is then placed in the midst of the 3D canvas and is body painted. 

So here before we even get near digital art, we have several different mediums of art all combined to create a suite of photographs taken at all angles and in all sorts of lighting to arrive at the final photograph chosen.

At the stage the photo is taken, there may already be 100+ man hours to get to that image.

Now everything moves to the digital studio. Photos are looked at carefully analyzed for details and are moved into the digital studio where that one image may undergo dozens of variations before the final piece of art is ready to be seen. 

Now you may see only the last image and you may think "its digital art". You may see just the photograph above and think "its just a photograph" If you are a body painter, you may see the final image and think "its a body painting". The reality is that its all of those things and more.

Now ask yourself is that just digital art and not really an art form? 

There is one final step that rarely gets discussed. The choice of the title of the piece. Remember that whether its a painting or digital art, that the choice of a title is as important as the art itself. The title guides the viewer. Remember that you as the artist have only two voices in how the art is perceived. One is the art itself, the other is the title. You can see the title of the first piece of art in the title of this article where it gives some clarification of my vision for the art. The angel is titles "Made in the Image of Man". Its up to the viewer to interpret my reason for the title, but it absolutely makes a difference to how it is perceived.

As digital art refines itself over the coming years, I suspect that the term will no longer be seen as just a single form of art. Its not like an acrylic painting, or a marble sculpture. Its so many more things combined to create something totally new an innovative. 

This is the secret to good digital art. "Attention to Detail". Don't let those details JUST be a cool filter. We are pioneering something very new and pioneers never take the easiest road. They experiment and the fail and they are challenged by what they find along the way. Challenge yourself. 


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