Thursday, 18 August 2011

Sci-fi art on the rise

Is it just me, or does sci-fi art feel like it's on the rise at the moment? A couple of weeks ago there was an article on the BBC News website publicising the lovely new Chris Foss book. When was the last time we saw an article on space art on the BBC?! Magazines such as ImagineFX stand out in the shelves on newsagents, and the internet is bursting with great artwork – in fact it feels a bit like too much at times, which is part of the reason I haven't yet become a regular poster on forums – it's easy to feel lost or swamped. But on the other hand, these are great places to get honest feedback and discuss arty things with other arty people.

In fact, it's not just sci-fi art that's growing, but digital art. And by that I mean painting. About ten years ago computer art – especially sci-fi art – basically meant rendered 3D stuff. It was everywhere, with artists like Steve Stone taking centre stage. Even books on fantasy or sci-fi art were full of epic CGI. But for me, I always felt that it lacked soul and emotion. Where was the touch of the artist's hand and where was their personality? All absent. The imagery may have been pixel perfect and lifelike, but to me it no longer felt like artwork. I find that when it comes to digital painting, the atmosphere and personality of a piece are key to its success. 

Either way it feels like the tables have turned a little, and while CGI has found its vocation in movies and is now capable of producing stunning, lifelike visuals such as those seen in Avatar or Tron Legacy, hand-painted artwork is clearly back to stay. Maybe people have realised what they had been missing in artwork and maybe Photoshop had been used to make montages for far too long – another article on the BBC recently hinted at the return to the sadly forgotten trend of hand-drawn film posters. No matter how good a 3D piece is, you still can't beat a good painting.

We are in an age where we're engulfed with technology, sometimes to the point of insanity, as there are very few things you can do that don't have to be done via some sort of screen, whether it's on your phone, at the bank and of course, on the computer. But with that in mind, it's a good time to be a digital artist. Looking back to my days pushing pixels around on an Amiga and my first Photoshop work on Apple Macs in the mid-90s, the software and hardware is finally at just the right place for digital painting, and it's encouraging to see so much talent out there on the world wide web.

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