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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