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Is digital art really art?

I think this question comes out of ignorance regarding what really means the word “art”, and what we can consider “art” and whatnot. The lack of knowledge regarding what it takes to create a digital illustration is why many people, including some traditional artist, thinks results in digital art are all about the software you are using, not the artistic skills the artist has.

In this article, I will answer the question of whether digital art can be considered art or not. Also, I will try to shed some light on how brought is the spectrum regarding different types of creative endeavors like videogames, dance, poetry, etc… and if we can consider them art too.

So, Can be digital art considered art or not?

Yes, it is. The medium an artist uses to create an art piece is just a way to express himself and his artistic vision. Digital art like oil paint, watercolors or any other art form, required the knowledge of “art fundamentals” in order to create appealing artwork.

I know this very well because I´ve been drawing for the last 13 years, and of those 13 years almost 10 of them as a professional artist, working as a Concept Artist and Illustrator for video game studios and editorial companies

Why do some people consider digital art, not a true art form?

Some people don´t consider art due to the perception they have on what should be defined as fine arts. For these people, art can only be represented using traditional art forms, like oil painting, sculpture, watercolors, etc…

In reality, this is a very narrow, and even ignorant, view of what really can be considered art. Just a quick search online will give you a clear answer.

According to Wikipedia:

“In European academic traditions, fine art is art developed primarily for aesthetics or beauty, distinguishing it from decorative art or applied art, which also has to serve some practical function, such as pottery or most metalwork .”

As you can see, even the academic view limits the definition of art to the purpose, not the medium. So, if the purpose of an image is purely for the enjoyment of the viewer then we can consider this image an art piece. Digital art is just a medium for the artist to express himself, an art form like any other.

“Digital art is too easy”

Another reason why some people will consider digital art as “fake art” is the idea that the drawing software makes the creative process so easy that in reality is the software who is doing the majority of the work, not the artist.

This is another misconception. Yes, digital art has some convenient perks like the possibility of pressing the undo button when the artist does a mistake, or the possibility of mixing different art mediums in the same painting, like watercolors with oils. Of course, in reality, these are not real watercolors or oil pigments, but nowadays the accuracy some painting programs have in mimicking the look of traditional mediums is simply outstanding.

But these perks, as convenient as they are, can only take you so far. In the end, the final result will be determined by the artist decisions. The software will always follow the artist indications. Brushstrokes in digital art are no different from the ones done on a traditional medium. The artist decides where to place them on the canvas, which values, and which colors should be used.

Following on this topic,I would like to quote my article “IS DIGITAL ART EASIER THAN TRADITIONAL ART?” where I outline the limitations of any painting software:

“…digital art requires you to know anatomy, perspective, and basically all the art fundamentals, in order to become a good digital artist. Is a misconception to think digital art allows you to ditch this part of your artistic learning path. For example, there is no button, shortcut or preset that will create perfect anatomy for you.”

Common things between Digital art and Traditional art

Aside from the “art fundamentals”, the artist needs to know the specific techniques related to the medium they are using. In the case of “digital painting”, it will depend on the software you are using. Again let me clarify, knowing those techniques are only a small part of the skills you need to create digital art. The most important thing is to be knowledgeable regarding art principles like anatomy, value, color, perspective, etc…

This art principles or art fundamentals are common to other traditional art forms like oil painting, watercolors, acrylic paintings, etc… You need to know them because they are the basic blocks of any artistic endeavor. Of course, rules are mended to be broken and many artists are known because of the way they bent the rules and created amazing art pieces.

For example, Picasso, in his early years was known as an artist who painted realistic portraits. Once he started to move away from realism and started to play with different perspectives, his personal style became unique and personal, to the point he created his own artistic current known as “cubism“. The fact that he moved away from some of those principles or art fundamentals didn´t make him a lesser or worse artist. This is because he was well versed in this art principles and he knew how to bent these rules in order to create something unique. He and his art are one of the best examples of the expression “in order to break the rules you must know the rules”.

My Final Thoughts

For those thinking of learning digital art, I want to warn you this is not an easier route compared to any other art form. Sometimes is even harder, because of the technical knowledge required. You will need to know how the painting software works, and this can take some time. Also, the equipment can be very expensive compared to other traditional mediums.

But if you really wanna learn about digital art, let me recommend you a couple of interesting articles I wrote on the topic. The first article is about the best online courses for digital artist if you are on a budget.

The second article is the best drawing tablets for artists. You will find a review of the best tablets for any level.

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