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Thread: The the notion of digital art being 'cheating'...

  1. #1
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    The the notion of digital art being 'cheating'...

    Hi everyone,

    This seems to be an interesting time in the history of art, similar to when photography was first invented. People then never realized that famous artists used the camera obscura as a working tool in their studios and when photography became available to everyman, people thought it would eclipse painting as they knew it.

    I have met several people who believe digital painting is a kind of 'cheating'. This is as bizarre to me as if someone believed walking was a more 'honest' means of transport than traveling by car for example.

    Do you think using photographic references in digital painting is cheating?
    I read a rant on the web where someone railed against those who 'paint over a photo' as a basis of their work. They claimed this was an easy cop-out, and a way of 'pretending you could paint'.

    I was keen to find out just how easy it was to 'pretend I could paint' and I tried and retried to make a good painting by painting over a photo I had taken. I found the task impossibly difficult, a task which demonstrates that there is so much more to painting than filling in the outlines.

    Personally I don't quite see why photography shouldn't be used as just another tool for the artist, yet many believe that verisimilitude is the most difficult part of art making and therefore by implication that camera's are far more adept at 'making art' than people.

    I have no qualms whatsoever about what sort of tools artists use in the process, just what they are able to do with those tools.

    People who think digital art is easy are mistaken. I was able to draw and paint fairly well in real media, but have not been able to produce one decent thing in digital media (still learning how to use the tools) which I think goes to prove that it simply isn't possible to 'cheat' your way a to good digital painting - even if you faithfully follow photo references.

    I am most interested to hear other views on this debate... what exactly do you think real art is?

  2. #2
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    Hi Rowena,

    Interesting post... What follows is very much a ramble of scattered thoughts, I'm too mentally tired to properly organise it in a more succinct way, so I hope you'll forgive the splurge...

    -----

    Also being keen on photography I've come across the attitude that there is absolutely no artistic skill in taking a photo at all. Pure nonsense of course. In taking photos and the making of art, being able to observe things well is an essential part of the process and to achieve balance in form. Of course all rules can be broken and I'm especially fond of free form abstracts.

    In this modern world, trad art, digi art, photography and cinematography can blend in highly creative ways. I think it's still an emergent process very much in it's infancy principally because CPU power and disc space technology have gone thru a noticeable threshold in the last 2-3 years. We are just stepping into an age where we can combine media in ways today that were previously impossible. A lone star individual can embark on expansive creative projects at a reasonable cost that even 10 years ago would have been extremely difficult and very expensive.

    I think digi and trad art complement each other even tho these approaches use totally different tools. Certain skills learnt in one can influence the other.

    You make an interesting point that many consider painting over a photo - using the digital equivalent of tracing paper - to be a thoroughly unskillful process. Personally, I find this very difficult - I'm not at all sure why. Maybe I find it *too* defined. On a related note, I think the AR reference is brilliantly implemented, but how is this any different to an artist pinning clippings and photos by their easel as they work on a canvas?

    Digi art isn't easy at all, the tools are highly sophisticated, yet the hand, arm and musculature receives absolutely no clues about their differences, it's all down to the eye/brain. So it is a much more cerebral and less physical process. When you hold a palette knife or putty eraser, your brain isn't likely to forget it... But a pen/tablet is always a pen/tablet unless you've spent a lot of money on high-end tools like the 6D and digi-airbrush tools.

    For me, digi art enables me to experiment with technique a lot more, make mistakes, backtrack. Eraser, undo and layers empower the artist to expand their ideas much more rapidly without any waste of expensive materials (disc space and electricity aside). Additionally, I use Versomatic (Mac or Win) and to see how the file versions progress on each disc save is a powerful experience that only the digital medium can provide. You can learn a great deal from seeing how your ideas have developed over time. Something you'd miss on one canvas or sheet of paper.

    Who can deny the thrill of seeing a time compressed video of an artist sketching a landscape or painting a face via real-time screen capture of digital art?

    The digital artist has a lot more tool choices than just knife or brush: one can get totally overwhelmed by the depth and power of modern software. It is easy to forget that many software titles today may be the result of tens of thousands sometimes even hundreds of thousands of man hours by dedicated teams of software specialists. Highly sophisticated products that can warrant a lifetime of exploration. So a digital artist needs additional skills in learning how to focus amongst a mass of complex tools and to make decisions about techniques that did not exist when artists used to mill their own pigments and make their own paints.

    With the current cost of trad art materials, budding artists are naturally disinclined to experiment so much, as this can lead to a costly mistake. Digitally, if you've got enough disc space, you can experiment to your heart's content with little extra cost and learn something in the process. Taking those new found ideas and techniques back into trad materials.

    Additionally, it is possible in digi art to combine media in a way that you cannot achieve traditionally. And digi art brings in considerable reprographic advantages if you plan the painting dimensions properly from the start at the right resolution. You may not want to ship a canvas to your print shop for scanning, but a DVD is a much more attractive proposition.

    I love trad materials tho, the physical space, long oil brushes, standing up. Painting outside. The smell of oils, pastel dust all over my trousers and invariably on the end of my nose! Learning to make paper, stretch canvas, make frames. It's a wonderful pursuit.

    But in the end, a tool is just that: it may be a stick of charcoal or a layer blend mode. But being able to observe and translate ideas accurately into form in a way that pleases both the artist and the admirer is a definite skill and I would say that is art.

    For me, digital and traditional art complement each other. Some people say using a pantograph is cheating, whatever next... :shock:
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  3. #3
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    I guess Iíll weigh in on this subject.. I have had people insinuate that digital art was not real art, and that the computer was really doing the work.. We who do digital art know that that is not so.. I for one donít like to and donít ďpaint over photosĒ.. Just not rewarding to me personally.. However, I am not all that imaginative, and most (not always) times I do use a reference photo.. Most times it is laying next to my tablet for a reference.. Sometimes I have it on the screen as a reference.. I donít particularly like tracing, and donít use the feature.. Again, thatís just my way of trying to keep my work original as I can.. I have no qualms with any way a person enjoys their creativity, whether its digging a triangle shaped hole, or digital art.. Itís all in what rewards the person doing the deed.. I mostly just let derogatory comments go over my head and enjoy what I consider to be my hobby and my artistic way of expressing myself.. So now I too have rambled on.. Enjoy yourself, thatís the ticket..
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  4. #4
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    Interesting topic.

    I can actually recall being told that digital art was "cheating" by a professor of mine, but I think that's a story for another day...

    It's my opinion that some people are having trouble understanding that digital art is no longer limited to simply grabbing a photograph and taking it into an editor program where it would be altered using filters and color balancing methods. They're stuck in this mindset that the programs can only manipulate what is already there and cannot be used to actually create anything from scratch. I believe that if some of these people were to sit down and actually watch the process unfold, they would probably reevaluate the topic.

    I can see how some could argue the cheating debate thoughÖ Itís really in how you look at it. For example, a few days ago I sat down to try and paint a picture in ArtRage and found, yet again, that my colors were bland (at best) and were lacking something that would give the painting more depth. After looking over some of the others members work and having looked at some photograph references, it occurred to me that I might better learn from messing around with some actual photographs first hand. So I imported a photo into a layer of ArtRage and took the pallet knife and started to smear the actual photo around and used the glitter tool to add particle depth to try and mimic tree lines, etc. I've posted the original photo I used and the study I did below:





    Now, Iíd never call this ďmy paintingĒ because it wasnít my photograph and I didnít really paint it. Itís a study that I did to try and better understand the color values involved in a scene like the one above. Iíve been studying the edited result in hopes of teaching myself what it is that makes the smears, shapes of color and shade differences I made of the actual photo still appear like a mountain. My next step would be to use the pallet knife and blend the colors even further to see just how abstract I could make it before it began to loose itís identity as a mountain.

    Getting back to the point, someone could easily go out and take a picture and do something similar, print it and call it a digital painting. Would that be ďcheatingĒ? Iím not really sure to be honestÖ
    Nothing is easy to the unwilling.

  5. #5
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    We've had this general topic come up here before so it's something I've had time to consider in light of the misgivings that others, and even we in the digital art medium, have felt and experienced. So let us cut to the chase. If you transfer an image to a medium and you do it on the level of trying to represent to others your idea, your perception, of reality or the universe, and if it comes from the level of the mind or heart or soul (whatever you perceive that to be) then does it reallly matter if you are smearing red ochre and charcoal on the walls of a cave or smearing pixels on a monitor screen? I think it's easy to "kill the messenger" and to forget that the final product is what matters and not the tools used to create it.

  6. #6
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    Although they're not perfectly appropos to the subject, I found these lyrics to be somewhat analagous.

    http://www.lyricsdomain.com/2/billy_...s_of_grey.html

  7. #7
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    I just started painting about 3 months ago, so I'm just throwing out the opinion of an amateur, but for what it's worth - to me - art is art.
    It's all about the creativity, whether you use paints and a canvas, or, a hatchet and a block of wood.

    I've never understood the concept that using a photograph for reference somehow detracted from an artists efforts, or finished product. What is the difference between using a photograph for reference, and an artist using a live model, or standing in front of a pond, and using it for reference for his/her painting?
    In the first place, I'm not good enough to duplicate someone else's work anyway. However, sometimes I see a photograph, painting, etc., and it inspires an idea, a twist, that I can use to make my own painting.
    It reminds me of what I've heard songwriters say. "There are no new song ideas - we just keep putting a new twist on the ones we have".
    I suspect much the same could be said about painting.

  8. #8
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    Reminds me of something I heard or read once: The Greeks told all the stories. All we've done since then is reinterpret them.

  9. #9
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    Amen to that Robert..
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by barnburner
    What is the difference between using a photograph for reference, and an artist using a live model, or standing in front of a pond, and using it for reference for his/her painting?
    Interestingly enough, the Impressionists were berated and mocked in their time by more traditional artists for their practice of painting outdoors.

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