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"Paper or Plastic"

Scott Powers

Broken lead, won't get you ahead!

Paper or Plastic
Directed by: Scott Powers
Running time: 2min 22sec

An Exploration into Digital Arts

Scott Powers

Research: Digital Art is an extension of the brush, the eye, or the creative mind in general digitally. It allows for a more expansive outlet for creativity because of the innovations in technology. In essence it's just “another way" to make art. From my experience it's almost easier to make art because of different tools available to me. Digital cameras making photography quicker and more efficient. Photoshop and other software like illustrator or Corel's painter makes drawing or painting virtually easier because you don't need to mix paint, it's all digital! Either way art is art no matter what the process, and this is to explore how the digital age has impacted art, and how it's helped and hurt art as a whole.

The website, withdigitaleyes.com, has a very nice description of what they believe to be digital art. "Digital art is like any other art. It just is created using different tools than the more traditional arts. Art is not about the tools used to create it. It is about the vision, message, or emotion of the artist." (What is Digital Art, 2001, para. 1). In a sense, it's another way to bring a central vision to life. The use of digital technologies is just a natural step forward in creation. This is great for artists willing to embrace it. It's another evolution of art. An additional option for the process.

Photo of CGI dinos from Jurassic Park.
"Kind of like robot digital dinosaurs at first."
Photo of Trex from Jurassic Park.
"It wasn't science that brought him back. It was CGI!"

Generally Digital Art is an emulation of traditional mediums and work. Especially in film, it's a way to bridge the gap from reality and fantasy. By using digital technology, people have created things that couldn't ever exist in reality in our day. A great example of this is the widely known film Jurassic Park. They used computer generated graphics to help bring the dinosaurs to life. Dennis Muren worked on this film as the visual effects supervisor (Clark, 2011, para. 1). They were starting to reach the limits of physical set pieces and they needed something that could propel the dinosaurs into action. Heavy machinery and robotic animatronics couldn't move as swiftly as dinosaurs could; therefore Dennis Muren started working digitally so that he could make these movements possible. His main goal was to bring the creatures to life under the vision of Steven Spielberg (Muren, 2011, para. 8) One of the things that was nice about this film was that; they still used the older means of movie magic. The use of puppets, animatronics, and the tricks for the trade they merely used computer generated graphics (CGI)to make those come to life (Muren, 2011, para. 5). There was a total of 14 minutes during the entire film where dinosaurs were displayed, and only 4 minutes were using CGI. It's a technique that blurs the line of what was real on set, and what was done sitting behind a monitor and messing with wireframes (Muren, Tippet & Rosengrant, 2011). The graphics implemented helped them do something that was otherwise impossible to trick the viewer into believing what they were seeing. The special effects team was hesitant about using CGI, but in the end this movie led the way for other movies.

Much like the people using CGI and creating a believability in film, people have used programs like Maya, 3Dmax and others to bring their art to life as well. Sort of like sculpting and making a model out of real materials, except it's all digital in the computer. In the Digital Art Masters Vol. 5, there's an artist named Viktor Fretyan who was recreating the Exchange Palace at Budapest using these programs. He was rebuilding this Palace for the client and referencing old photographs (Fretyan, 2010, p. 41). He lists the steps which are rather lengthy and in-depth but his results are highly photo realistic representations of the Palace rendered and “sculpted" in a 3D software and finalized in Photoshop. The process of sculpting and modeling on the computer is sort of similar to working in the physical form but much more forgiving. You can erase and maneuver somewhat more easily than working from stone or most other materials. He has direct control over everything in the piece to bring forth an absolutely complete and unified artwork to show to the corporation. From lighting to depth of field and models to textures the artist can create any vision in one place at one time. Digital was an easier and more efficient solution to recreating this on a small scale model that would even let you “walk" around in like you could in the real world.

Photo of Bob at the easel
"He makes it look so easy..."

Digital art is even more accessible than ever in todays world. Just browse the net and you'll find numerous amounts of resources at hand. There are free website forums where artists can go and chat about techniques, inspirations, and various other relations in art. So not only does the digital age bring us the different tools for art, but in communication it's much easier than mailing a magazine to find out how “Bob the Painter" painted that wonderful landscape of trees and clouds. A digital artist of the name, Rian Saptura, spoke in an interview of how he came to be as an artist. He dropped out of college at the age of 21 and worked on his own doing freelance work. He spoke of forums and communities like Shadowness, DeviantArt, and DesignerCouch where artists can talk with each other. That sort of artist to artist communication has been limited in the past, but this people-to-people knowledge collaboration is expanding, and learning the tools and the tricks have never been easier. Something Rian talks about to bridge the gap between traditional and digital is where the pen tablet comes into play (Saputra, 2011). It's fantastic, you can make digital art and you don't have to do it with a mouse as the technology has evolved. Making it that much more natural in both movement and style. He also talks about the downsides of the art communities in the sense that when a lot of people get together, they start spreading too many of the same concepts and originality and creativity kind of dwindles from the individual. Which makes sense, because if one doesn't take steps on their own to just try things out one might end up with very similar results. But what it comes down to is that it's a traditional approach to a different set of tools. Only, there is virtual spaces that we work on, and not traditional physical canvases.

A piece that Rian Saputra created.
"This is a digital painting that Rian Saptura crafted."

An issue that follows that is the value of that art. Can one put a value on art thats first print is exactly the same as it's last? Yes and no, it's more about the content than the actual piece I feel. Also, it's a lot easier to “lie" in digital art, where as with oil paints and so forth you actually have to mix your paint and a lot of the process is truthful to the painter. You can't just “photoshop" in the perfect figure and then paint over it. An article talking about this more in depth explains that it seems more of a “technological than artistic" feat when creating art. The fact that artists are communicating more makes it harder for every one of those artists to become the next Van Gough or Andy Warhol. On the website, paintedskies.com, the blogger speaks of a friend of his who had made a landscape picture and had a print as a result, and a customer had asked what it was done with and on what. He replied “Computer" and lost the sale. The art isn't any different as a result, but just the difference of medium and the viewer looks at it in a completely different way. But the blogger also points out that with a generation more dependent on technology it will be easier for digital artists to prove value in their work. (Beaumont, 2009)

What makes the difference between digital art and traditional art? Jane Frank says “...the images seen on book jackets, game box covers, collector card games, calendars, jig-saw puzzles, notecards, film posters and myriad other artifacts of popular culture may seem nothing more than a means for marketing products."(Frank, 2007, p. 10). This is pushes forward the idea that the resulted artwork is the key. Because in the end it's the image that matters not the materials or process used to create it. However, that is at face value, the process is not to say irrelevant and is great when used to learn from but there should not be any bias made on art generated digitally as it has the same care and passion poured in it creatively.

Conclusion: Digital art is, again, just art with a different media and process. The same creativity with different inspirations, but the digital age has helped artists grow. If artists were to use the traditional mediums without some sort of innovation then I think the art would start to grow stale. It's clear that digital art is the next step and it will have it's ups and downs like the larger artist bases making it harder for each artists to be individuals. The thing that's really come to terms for me, is that art in any form is wonderful, having just another thing to learn and use is that much more wonderful. It's where innovation can happen artistically, it makes it easier for people bringing other peoples ideas to life quicker than ever. I think that's the biggest thing about digital art, it's efficient, it mimics the old traditional mediums, and people don't have to leave the desk to talk to other artists about it.