Wednesday, 25 November 2015

The Great Digital Art Debate

Nobody can deny that digital art has become an accepted art form, certainly over the last decade. It plays a vital part in the entertainment industry, from concept art for films and games, through to book cover design and illustration.

Any artist working digitally will have come from a traditional medium background of painting or illustration. For me, working digitally gave me the best of both worlds and has allowed me to explore a colour palette that I could never satisfactorily achieve with traditional paints, and it also came without the mess. I'll be the first to admit that paint was never my preferred medium – give me ink or pencil and I'm happy.

So as far as the design and creative industries go, digital art is a crucial commercial skill and one in high demand, with fierce competition. As a medium, it has certainly found its home on the commercial industry side of things.

But is it art?

Of course it is. Just a browse through some of the thousands of artists showcasing their stunning digital works on the Deviantart website demonstrates its versatility. For many artists it is their preferred medium of expression.

Then I hear you cry, "But there's no original!" 

And this sparks an interesting discussion. On numerous occasions when I have been exhibiting my digital art (signed, mounted one-off prints), people have said "I'd buy it if it were an original" and that sort of thing.

I thoroughly understand and accept the "no original" argument from a collector's point of view – there are the obvious facts like the value of a piece and it being the only one of its kind. I have no problem with that and the truth is, it doesn't really apply to digital art.

Of course there is an original - and it's a digital file on a hard disk. But there is no physical original as such. A print is perhaps as original as a piece of digital artwork can get. Some artists may produce one print and that's it. Others may go to the extent of supplying a buyer with their hard disk, or at least the original file on a CD or USB stick, having erased the original – but then you don't hang a USB stick on your wall.

Digital art is a medium in its own right by today's standards, and one in which it is accepted that there is no physical original. However, the amount of time, creativity and effort which go into a making a digital piece is often no different to that of a painted canvas. You can achieve the same nuances, minute details and unique touches of the artist's hand – and all that simply depends on the artist. The major difference is one is made of paint, one is made of pixels.

Funnily enough, at this year's Novacon art auction, I sold several prints of digital art. The one original in my display (a black & white ink drawing) didn't sell.

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