Digital Art: Not “Real”?

Trolls are something you expect when it comes to the internet. Especially in PuGs. PuGs wouldn’t even BE PuGs if it weren’t for the infuriating, obnoxious, rude trolls that spam our party chats with curse words and poorly written English. I have been insulted I don’t know how many times for being the player I am. I’ve been called a bitch numerous times for wanting to pull mobs as a tank, told I have no balls because I refused to heal the DPS who was trying to pull for our tank, and many other choice words that I don’t remember. Don’t be thinking I was helpless, though; I may not have typed my curse words out, but my mind is full of all sorts of nasty phrases for the trolls that stink up PuGs.

But where I never thought I would get shit for how I play, is in art. When I signed up for my deviantArt account, I was expecting maybe a little bit of trolling. “lulz u play wow thts soooooo stupid u r so dumb lulz!” To my delight, there were no trolls! That’s because I had absolutely no viewers (but that’s a rant for another day). Digital art has, as far as I can tell, been completely accepted and welcomed into the contemporary art community as a viable way of expressing images, thoughts, emotions, passions, everything that art is meant to convey. DeviantArt is filled with digital art. And during my almost full year (!!) of being an artist, blogger, and fairly active ranter on Twitter, I have never received any crap from anyone for doing the sort of art I do. That is, until this morning, when someone told me that because I create art using my computer, it isn’t “real” art. “It isn’t truly yours, because the computer does all the work for you.”

I was hurt, like I haven’t been hurt in a long time. The Twitter community has just been fabulous for my ego (it could probably do with some deflation), constantly supportive of my art and me as I bumbled my way through. People like Lore, Rhoelyn, Apple, Will, Ice, Oestrus, Rezznul, Quaunaut, Aymee and Mitsune, Velidra, and DiscoPriest (and so many more; the list goes on forever) are so kind and caring and give me pep talks and get snarky at me if I even try to put myself down. So when a professional artist, a well known sculptor who is a huge promoter of abstracts and free-form art and “Bohemian” artists, was suddenly telling me that my art wasn’t really art was like a slap in the face.

It turns out they had no clue how you do digital art. They didn’t realize that you use a tablet to draw, that digital art has it’s own pros and cons. I spent a few minutes showing them just was digital art, to me, really meant. Got out my tablet, showed them how it works. And while they might not have completely understood it, as computers aren’t really their forte at 81 years of age, they still changed their opinion. But it made me wonder if there is a population of artists out there who have this opinion about digital art. Is there a community of people that don’t understand exactly how digital art is created? Is that why digital art (other than those weird, semi-horrible modern art pieces that sell for millions; you know the ones I am talking about) has never made it into museums? I’ve never seen an exhibit that boasts “Come see John Smith, master of the tablet and champion of Photoshop!” I’m sure the museums would come up with a more enticing name, but the point remains. It makes me wonder if digital art will ever become an accepted part of the broad artistic community. It’s there, it’s everywhere. All over deviantArt, all over the WoW and fanart communities, all over game concept art and so many other things. But will it ever reach the status of ‘museum-quality’ art, like Impressionism, or the thick and heavy oil paintings from the past? Would it take years, decades, generations? Or do you think digital art will remain quiet, omnipresent but always stuck in the shade of the Rembrandts and Monets of the world?


~ by riththewarluid on July 16, 2011.

23 Responses to “Digital Art: Not “Real”?”

  1. If the computer is doing all of the work, I could sit down and create something great without knowing what I’m doing. If it’s simply clicking the “create art” button, then I would say the argument of it not being art would be quite valid.

    However, art is the skill of being able transform your message into your chosen medium (all right, in my mind, that’s what art is).

    Some people use pencils, some use paint, some use televisions. Is photography not art, because, really, the camera is just capturing what it’s looking at? You’re not saying that the photographer uses their skill in being able to provide a certain feeling and capture a moment through their use of lighting, framing and so on? Of course not.

    I’ve watched Livestreams of two of my favorites, Rith and DiscoPriest. I’m really fascinated with the process, of seeing it grow into something special. I’ve remarked before that I’m amazed how it works. I can appreciate the end product, but I don’t think I could ever totally comprehend how they are able to get to the end result.

    So, the computer is yet another media type for someone to express themselves. If I can’t sketch worth a darn on a sketch pad, the computer isn’t going to make my sketches look better. If I don’t know how to layer colors and shadows, I can’t get my pictures depth.

    Art is being able to provide personal expression and feeling. If you get it from a digital image or a painted canvas, the feeling is the same.

    • I completely agree. πŸ™‚ And the professional artist apologized as soon as they saw me crying; and I explained to them just how I did the art. Showed them my tablet, things like that. I don’t think they fully understand how digital art works much better, but at least they understand it’s actually art!

      • That’s great.

        Actually, along that line of computers creating art, it reminds me of a podcast I listen to (of a public radio show) called Radio Lab.

        One show had a segment which discussed this composer who wrote this program, which deconstructed a piece of music, converted it to a series of codes, and then reconstructed that piece into something new.

        They then talked about the concept of if this was right to do, and if it was art at all. Great show.

        I’ll look through my podcasts, and and it. I think you’d find it fascinating. πŸ™‚

    • I would LOVE to listen to it. I’ve discovered that this sort of stuff is really interesting to me. Not even from a “rawr I draw on my computer therefore I must protect my position!” PoV (well… maybe kind of) but just figuring out the thought processes that go into it all. What makes art, art? Is a white canvas with a red dot really art, and why? It’s just… Gwah. And digitally created music is also so interesting. There’s no way I could ever do it, but I love the creations of the people who do (my current favorite is an artist called Fox Amoore). There’s all kinds of things where a beautiful art piece is created from the weirdest things (referring to digital weird things, not old tires and such).

    • “If the computer is doing all of the work, I could sit down and create something great without knowing what I’m doing. If it’s simply clicking the β€œcreate art” button, then I would say the argument of it not being art would be quite valid.”

      Exactly. If such a thing existed…well, my interface (along with everything else) would have more Kaldorei nudity than I could probably handle.

      To insinuate that a tool can come alive on its own and generate something without human input is just stupid, regardless of your age.

      Does a pen write on its own? No, the writer uses it to write.
      Does a paintbrush paint on its own? No, the painter uses it to paint.
      Does the car drive on its own? No, the — okay people have invented this so it’s a bad example, but -most- drivers use the car to drive.

      You get the idea.

      • Again, this wasn’t designed to be a “let’s insult everyone with this opinion.” I completely disagree; and I don’t think their reasoning is there’s a “create art” button and it’s all magical. I honestly don’t know the argument against digital art, whether it is based off of actual critic of the techniques or just not understanding what digital art entails.

  2. Oooh, very interesting post! πŸ˜€ Nice thoughts.

    Digital art is huge on the internets because it’s so nice looking and easy to make look great. It’s supposed to look great on a screen! Whereas if you look at a lot of traditional art (say, my gallery on DA), the scanner or camera just doesn’t capture it perfectly. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of great traditional art on DA too. (There are some Copic marker artists I’ve envied over the years.) But it’s just… easier with digital art. No mess, no having to buy materials. It’s cheaper and you can produce art easier. I mean, I wish I had undo options when I color or draw sometimes! xD

    It also means that more people want to get into it. Good digital art = quick popularity online if you’re lucky. (Especially on DA…) So lots of people try their hand at it. Thus, lots of digital art to look through. Much of it bad… but plenty of good stuff too. πŸ™‚

    Will it reach museums someday? I don’t know. Consider the fact that digital art is primarily, well, accessed digitally. While traditional media isn’t really meant to be viewed on a computer, but rather in person. That’s why they have museums for it. Yes, you can get prints of digital art, but I think right now it’s kinda… different. It’s easier to see it on your screen, even save it so you have a copy to look at whenever you want (as opposed to only looking at a great painting if you buy it–or a copy–or go to the museum). There’s something about works like Mona Lisa or something that you don’t just want to stare at on your computer screen. It’s not quite the same effect.

    Digital art is NOT really easy to make, though. It’s easier in the ways I’ve discussed, but you still have to have an eye for art and creativity. It’s not like I click a button and the computer whirs and pops out a piece of art for me. My latest submission to my DA gallery is pretty simple as far as digital art goes, but it still took a couple hours to do yesterday. I didn’t use a tablet (don’t have one yet), so it was all inked and colored with a mouse. My pinkie still hurts from holding the mouse for that long. >>; I can only imagine how long (and how meticulous) really good artists have to work on their crafts. They can make it look easy, but that’s because they’ve practiced and developed their skills over time–just like a real artist does.

    So don’t tell me that digital art is that easy to do! (Not you, of course–any critics. xD)

    Haters always gonna hate. ;P Just keep doing what you do. I don’t think I’m a great artist by any means, but I’m happy with what I CAN do. It’s like my writing. I don’t care what other people think anymore. I’ve learned that most people who say uninformed or rude things about others’ works just want you to do it “their” way. If it’s not what they imagine or want, then they hate it or bash it. I don’t think this is much different.

    As for DA popularity… a lot of it is commenting and watching lots of other people’s artwork and building a little “network” of like-minded friends. Kinda like Twitter. The more people you follow and the more you talk, the more people who seem to follow you! So the more you talk to other people on DA (commenting on their artwork, watching them), the more you will get watched and commented on in return. You also have to be very active to really get lots of people interested. If you only post once in a while like I do… you don’t get many new followers. xD

    Keep up all your wonderful artworks~

    • Hmm, I hadn’t thought about the ‘presentation’ barrier of displaying digital art in a museum. I guess you could get around that by having computer screens set up in the walls to display the art, but oof! The expense! And so true about the more traditional art pieces; it’s so difficult to capture the essence of the piece through just a scan.

      One of my favorite Copic marker artist people is Aimo. Oooooh gosh I envy her talent so much.

      I totally agree with you when you say it isn’t easy to make. I did a bunch of (crappy!) pieces with a mouse, none of them turned out NEARLY as clean and nice as yours did, but using a mouse is hell. Like you said, your hand hurts, I get all cramped and stiff and sore from sitting in a weird position (I don’t have a good art desk set up right now), and other things I could whine and complain about if I wanted to. πŸ™‚

      DA popularity… Oh such an interesting rant. Saving that one for a day when I finally don’t have anything to complain about, and you know I’m good at finding those. πŸ˜‰

      You keep up with your beautiful artwork too! I love seeing what you draw. We should do another art trade sometime soon. πŸ™‚

      • “I guess you could get around that by having computer screens set up in the walls to display the art, but oof! The expense!”

        I giggled a bit when I read this… just how much do you think art in a museum costs versus the cost of a … i dunno… 50″ digital display.

        I’ll trade all the monitors in my house, heck, on my block for a Picasso or a Warhol.


        This, sadly, reminds me of when “real” photographers would dump on me because I used a digital camera and photoshop to make my images, while they created Art with film and a darkroom.

      • Hahah! You’re right! I hadn’t thought about it like that at all. I guess I was thinking, you have to have the screens custom made, have them specially put into the walls (whereas the hooks and things used for paintings are easily reusable and that is wall space that can be recycled, you’d have to rebuild a part of the wall if you cut out a giant hole for a display like a screen), and then all the electricity they’d use on top of all the electricity they already use.

        I bet those guys are eating their words now, since almost all photographers are doing digital work! I’m sorry they ragged on you. ❀

  3. Yes, there is a rather large segment of the art community that sees it that way. I stopped describing myself as a “digital artist” because of that attitude. I now tell people I’m a “fine artist/ illustrator working with digital media”. No one tells me I’m not a “real” artist when I tell them I use a wacom tablet to draw within a computer program instead of on paper.

    The thing is, I know people who do fractal art and other types of “digital art”. What they are doing is, in my mind, still art. The program doesn’t really “do it for them”. They don’t push a button and just take what they get from it. They have to know their tools (the various settings and options), and they put in a lot of time and effort to get the exact result they want. Just because they create a piece of visual art by working with numbers instead of drawing shapes by hand doesn’t mean it’s not art. Maybe I just have a very broad definition of “art”, but it is a very broad term. A chef is not a painter/composer/sculptor, but I’d say they are an artist. Knowing how to choose just the right ingredients in the right quantities. Knowing how long to cook, at what temperature, when to stir/flip. Knowing how flavors will combine to create new flavors. Having a passion for doing it and holding yourself to a certain standard… that is, to me, art.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jason Seiler’s work or not. Here’s his site: He does his work with a tablet and he’s very succesful and in-demand as an artist. I won’t say no one could say his work isn’t “real art”, but they’d sound like a fool if they did.

    • I had never even realized that there was any sort of antagonism towards digitally created art and things. It’s never something that I had been exposed to, and it was a shock to hear it from a professional artist. Admittedly, they apologized (as soon as I started crying) and admitted to knowing very little about digital art; I got to teach them a little bit about it and how it works and we both ended up happy. It just opened up so many things to think about, that I hadn’t before, since I have run into little-to-no rudeness over being a digital artist.

      I think you are totally right about art being, and correctly being, a broad term. There are so many things that I have respect for in this world, like cooks, or professional bakers, for knitters and people who do embroidery, needlepoint, cross-stitch… All these different past times that they spend hours working over that I would have absolutely no idea where to start with! I think they all deserve to be considered an art.

      Also, fractal art is fascinating. I always thought it has been; I detest math, so I am so interested in how the math that I despise creates such beautiful images. I guess numbers and I have a love/hate relationship!

      No, I don’t know his art. Thanks so much for the link! I can’t wait to check it out. πŸ™‚

  4. I would have been interested to hear the response had you, in reply, asked this person to define what “art” is.

    Is a motion picture not “art” in comparison to a live stage performance because of the luxury of multiple takes to eliminate the risk of errors? Does a projection on a screen take away the emotional involvement and presence that gives life to a live performance?

    Is, as Rezznul asked, photography not “art” because it’s merely the capturing of an image not of the photographer’s making? Is a sculpture more a piece of “art” than a drawing because it possesses actual three-dimensional form, rather than merely the illusion of it or because the process is arguably more demanding?

    Is a piece of literature published in a digital form less a piece of “art” than a book because there are no pages to touch and flip and even smell? Indeed, is a piece of literature that is assembled by printing typed words less a piece of “art” than a manuscript written in longhand, with the author’s pen strokes visible on the page, possessing his own flow and style?

    Your critic failed to look beyond the medium. They ignored both the process and the final product. Evidently, their definition of “art” is narrow and constricted, and it shows more about them and their closed-mindedness (whether they realize it or not) than it does about you and what you produce for the world to see. By its very nature art is supple, flowing, and varied beyond imagination. In refusing to acknowledge this, your critic has only harmed herself.

    • This was meant to be less of a bashing of the person who criticized my art and more of a “oh, wow, I didn’t realize that there were people who thought that” and a “…I wonder how digital art will be treated in the future!” type of deals. What I didn’t really touch on was the technology barrier between the sculptor and I. She’s 81, and honestly had no idea that digital art even existed. Computrons aren’t her specialty.

      Thank you for your kind words, though. And, like Rezznul did with his mention of digitally created music, you’ve definitely opened up avenues for thought. I’ve never considered the artistic differences between movies and plays, for example. At least, not in depth. Some great food for thought, Will… Thank you!

  5. Hi Rith,

    I admit that I know very little about art of this type. I’m more of a writer and I tend to not associate myself with other writers, because of this very issue. I think people with this mindset do the exact opposite of what the creative arts are supposed to do. We should be doing what we do to include people, not shut them out. I think artists who are critics like this shouldn’t have a place in the community, because they keep art neophytes like me away from the scene and prevent art from being enjoyed by more people.

    Regarding your questions about whether digital art will become more accepted or more mainstream, I think that rests on the shoulders of people like you. I know I tend to push you to say more and be more brave, but that’s because the kind of acceptance you want digital art to have won’t happen unless artists like you push for it to happen. It’s really easy to walk away and accept defeat when someone who seems more successful or in the know tells you you’re doing something wrong. It’s another to stand up and say “I know this is art, I will show you this is art and you’re going to see things my way.”

    You have a chance to be one of those artists who can defend your craft and I think if enough people push for digital art to be an accepted art form, then it will be. You have to stay visible and keep going with it. That’s how people are going to accept it. They can’t wish it away or sweep it under the rug if you refuse to let them do that.


    • What you said about sort of fighting for digital art makes sense, and issues like that have always been difficult for me. I’m stubborn about my own opinions and feelings, but (like you have noticed) I am shy about entering into arguments or showing “backbone” to use your words. πŸ˜‰ It certainly did fire me up and make me mad, but I was really pleased when, after I showed the artist what digital art was (because they honestly didn’t know) they immediately changed their opinion. Gives me hope for the future. πŸ™‚

  6. What is beautiful and wonderful about art in the digital age is that it is going to be preserved. Always. There will continue to be a record of it for all time, cached or saved somewhere in the world.

    To a certain extent it has reached the fame status of traditional media. Contemporary art galleries in particular host shows containing any number of different digital techniques. While I don’t think it’s completely as “accepted” in all art circles as say, oil paints or watercolors, it isn’t seen as fake art, just as a completely different genre.

    • I didn’t know that some galleries hosted digital art exhibitions. I guess, for some abstract digital art and things, I have seen. I suppose I am more thinking of art pieces that are akin in style to watercolors or oils but done digitally. It’s an interesting subject; someone previously brought up the issue that displayed digital art (like the stuff I do) can be difficult in art galleries. Part of the reason they’re so shiny is because they’re on a computer screen! I’ve many times printed something out that I liked and had it lose it’s magic.

  7. I’m sure Andy Warhol was constantly told that his art wasn’t art back in his day.

    Novelty is scary, especially to those old men in old Universities who are afraid of losing their place in the world. But in reality, art reflects the society that produces it. And I find that digital art, everything about digital art, REALLY reflects life in the Western World at the beginning of the 21th Century. 75 or 100 years from now, art history classes will teach about the emergence of digital art and the people growing up in the technological revolution. Mark my words πŸ˜‰

    • It certainly would be neat if they did! I think one of the coolest things about digital art is that it’s accessible. Compared to buying canvases and paints and brushes and all that sort of stuff, buying a cheapo tablet (or just going with your mouse) and some basic art program is easy to get. So many people get to dabble and show off their art. I feel like that’s something that’s never really happened before in the art world (course, I’m no art history major. I just know that if you have no talent and you try to paint, you’re sort of screwed).

  8. The argument that the computer is doing all of the work is similar to the argument that Microsoft Word is doing all of your writing for you. It’s senseless and, well, dumb.

    Art is art. People will argue until they’re blue in the face that knitting isn’t art, but other’s will beg to differ. There are people who think that art is only art if it’s tangible, but I beg to differ.

    I do digital ART… really REALLY badly. But it’s still art. I say, shun the nay-sayers, embrace whatever you feel is art, and the rest can diaf.


  9. Art is in the eye of the beholder; be it clay, glass, paint or digital. There are plenty of people to appreciate digital art, it just needs to be accepted by the art “community” at large. I’m sorry to hear that you experienced someone who was ignorant of digital art, but I think you handled the situation beautifully in explaining how it works. It’s in their hands now to change their beliefs.

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