Stepping Into the Waters of Digital Art
So, what is Digital Art? An answer can be found by reading an excellent article that I found while researching digital art online. It was written by Lucija Bravic, titled “A Short History of Digital Art: Between New Technologies and Innovative Artistic Practices.” It is an informative and well written essay about the history and functions of this sometimes controversial medium. The author states, “Placed under the larger category of new media art, digital art is defined as any creative practice that uses digital technology as an essential part of the artistic process.” (magazine.artland.com) I would recommend reading this essay in its entirety to understand what digital art has been and what it can become. Having started with this definition, I will explain what “stepping into digital art” means in terms of my own experience.
I want to emphasize that this narrative is my opinion, and I won’t attempt any discussion about AI or artificial intelligence as a way to create art. The artwork I am talking about relies solely on my own mortal intelligence. And I don’t claim any substantial expertise in creating art using digital art applications. I do have experience with a variety of drawing and painting media, but digital art is a new venture. I am a retired art teacher who taught art in Wichita public schools for over twenty-five years, so I had the opportunity to learn about and to teach with a lot of different art materials. I definitely like using different media for the experience of creating art in unique and sometimes challenging ways.
My youngest son, who is also a practicing artist, introduced me to an art application called Pro Create, that I installed on my iPad Pro. I purchased the stylus to go with this program, and with very little instruction and a lot of guesswork, I began to try my hand at creating some artwork. I played around with the various “brushes” and other tools, but it was like dipping my toes into the shallow end of a pool. What I was able to do at first was fun and seemed more like playing with a new toy than making art.
As I continued to work with the stylus and digital brushes, I realized that what I was doing was very similar to the way I painted with acrylics or oils. Instead of a real paintbrush, I started manipulating the stylus as if it actually was a brush that could move paint. Instead of a canvas, I was “painting” on my iPad screen. I love creating landscapes more than any other subject matter, and I found that I could create imaginary landscapes that were similar to my painted landscapes. So, I waded in a little deeper each time and found that making digital landscapes was quite satisfying. I would start with a horizon line, add a sky area, blending in different cloud structures depending on which digital brush I chose to use. I would add middle ground areas consisting of hills, trees, lakes or ponds. Then I would move to the foreground area to put in grasses or other finishing touches. With the stylus in my hand, it really felt like painting, although I never had to wait for anything to dry or to clean my brushes. Pretty cool, I told myself.
Now, how much farther into the digital pool would I be willing to go? There’s a lot to learn about the creation of digital art, but at the moment I am satisfied with my current skill level. Perhaps I could swim in the deep end someday, if I work harder to learn what all of the application’s tools can do. Right now, I am happy with the pieces that I can create with my limited knowledge. So, here are some thoughts for your consideration. I have heard from some people, artists and others, that they do not believe that digital art is “real” art since it involves the use of a computer application, not actual physical art media. But photography is considered to be art and it involves the use of cameras, digital or otherwise, so couldn’t the same be said for digitally created art? So even if some controversy exists about the place of digital art, I believe that creating art through the use of a computer application is art. An art application, an iPad or computer and a stylus (if used), would be the tools of an artist, just as actual physical paints, brushes and canvases would be.
I hope this makes sense for those who will read this blog, and that I haven’t gotten into the pool over my head! Take a look at a few of the digital landscapes that I have created, do they sink or swim?