What is digital art?


While my foundation in illustration was learned through training in traditional media (pencil, charcoal, acrylic, oil), most of my work now is created using digital tools. But even though I love technology, I ground myself in the knowledge that computers don’t make beautiful images…artists do! A computer is no more responsible for a successful piece of art than Microsoft Word is to a meaningful poem, a power saw is to a master woodwork, or a grand piano is to a well composed song. Successful makers don’t allow their tools to define them, and so should be able to draw something meaningful in the sand, scribble a powerful message on a napkin, improvise a shelter from sticks, and hum a soothing lullaby to their baby. The tools certainly speed up the creation and editing process, and can contribute to a degree of quality. But when successful creators allow their work ethic, commitment and investment to be the most important ingredients in their process, they don’t allow the tools to define the effectiveness of their creations.

Some imagine that digital art only involves painting over photos or altering existing shapes with automatic filters and artificial intelligence. While that is possible, traditional art methods are alive and well in the digital space! In the case of traditionally created digital art, artists can start from a blank canvas, and must be responsible for good draftsmanship and working through composition challenges just as they would with pencil and paper. But most critically, they can create variations of their own work to arrive at the best possible combination of elements in a fraction of the time it takes to do so with pencil, paper and canvas. Because expensive materials like paint and canvas are removed from the equation, an artist can be exponentially prolific, ultimately becoming a better artist in a shorter period of time through sheer volume and experience.

Understanding the role of an artist’s tools is important for me because it helps keep my grasp on the creative process clear and useful. It also reminds me that, even when people misunderstand or misrepresent the how’s and why’s of an effort, the joy is in the creating, in the making, and in conveying a message to another human being. And that is ultimately the true power of art.

If you don’t know what “digital painting” is or how traditional methods can be applied in the digital space, watch the brief video below to see a digital painting come to life!