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July 2007

July 2007 - Computers

Gallery

Columns

  • EMG News:
    News of July!
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Greening Your Computer
  • Behind the Art:
    Creating a Book in InDesign
  • Myths and Symbols:
    Inhuman Double
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Digital Evolution

    Features

  • P4S5W0RD5
  • The Fairies' Harp Walkthrough
  • 1001 Wonderlands: Alternate Reality Games

    Fiction

  • Fiction: Game Over?
  • Fiction: Computerized Frustration
  • Fiction: Crashing
  • Fiction: My Computers

    Reviews

  • Movie: Men in White


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  • Digital Evolution
    Wombat Droppings
    by Ursula Vernon

    The theme this month is computers, a subject near and dear to my heart.

    I don't know the first thing about computers, mind you, when mine breaks I wibble and panic and call my friends in terror. But digital art—that I know pretty well, at least the 2-D stuff, that being my primary stock in trade. (I do a lot of traditional media too, of course, but digital was my first great love.)

    And while I was mulling over digital art in general, it occurred to me that I haven't heard something in awhile.

    What I haven't heard is anybody saying that digital art isn't "real" or legitimate or anything else. In fact, it's been . . . good lord, it's been years since anybody told me to ditch the computer and use real paint.

    Sweet mother of bunnies, how far we've come.

    Time was, back in the old days—when Elfwood was called Lothlorien, and it was the only fantasy art gallery around (and I'm in gallery one, which should tell you something about the antiquity of my association with it!)—and we had to walk to the internet, and it was uphill both ways, time was that you'd get a lot of comments to that effect. You'd get the passive aggressive "Nice art, pity it's digital," and the outright hostile, "Throw away your computer and use real paint like god intended!" (I am not making that one up.) and all to the effect that digital art wasn't real.

    Well, that was a good ten years ago, in the dark waters of the mid-to-late nineties, and I gotta tell you, I haven't heard a peep out of anyone to that effect for at least five.

    Have we come so far? Have I actually, in my meager lifetime, witnessed the acceptance of a whole new art form?

    Well, not completely. You can still find plenty of people who will rhapsodize about the tactile quality of paint and getting their hands dirty and say how they could never give that up, and occasionally—not always, but a fair percentage of the time—there is a kind of undertone that would indicate that they don't REALLY think digital art is comparable, because . . . well . . . you don't get your hands dirty, damnit!

    This is a fair cop. I mean, every now and then I clean the cat hair out of my optical mouse, or wipe the tip of my stylus free of gunk, but that's as far as digital art goes on the hands-on filth factor. Certainly there is no equivalent to the horror show of oil paint, where you have more potions than an alchemist, nothing ever dries, and you hang your head out the window feeling Liquin fumes congealing in your noggin. (I don't think this is a bad thing, mind you.)

    Really, though, times they have a-changed. Even artists who work traditionally are often admitting that it's just what they're used to, or occasionally "Hey, originals sell for a lot more than prints!" which is another fair cop. The days of haughty dismissal of digital art as somehow "not real" or the belief that somehow the computer does it all for you have largely faded.

    This astounds me somehow. It shouldn't, really. I was here for the whole thing. But all that angst I worked up in the early days of digital art, all that righteous indignation—poof! Unneeded. Nobody cares any more. I haven't gotten up on that high horse in so many years that it's been retired and put out to pasture. Sure, there are hold-outs, probably a lot of them, but in general . . . nada.

    Oh, well. That was back when I was in my early twenties, and had a much larger supply of ready angst anyway.

    The real question, of course, is why? Why did the backlash against digital art fade?

    I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it was because people were really good at it.

    There comes a point where every artist worth their salt has to step back and say "Okay, yeah, that just looks really freakin' cool."

    Knowledge had a lot to do with it, of course. People tried digital art and realized that there wasn't a "Make Art" button you push, we all got educated about Photoshop filters and lens flares and how everything except the lightest Gaussian blur was grounds for severe beating, we learned the new rules (and then learned when to break them.) And that helped. Knowledge is power, as G.I. Joe used to say.

    But seriously, I think this was a case where naysayers were simply buried under the weight of damn fine art. Flip through a copy of Expose, peruse Spectrum and read the little "digital" listing next to a lot of pages, surf the internet, and sooner or later, you'll be beaten down, smacked down, and generally annihilated by sheer weight of coolness. Digital? Traditional? Who cares any more? It's good.

    Positive change brought about through cool art. It's nice to know it's possible.

    ,

    Ursula Vernon
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