Did that headline get your attention?
Being one of the only members of a fine arts family with no fine arts talent, I used to have a strange view of the tools we use in 2D and 3D digital art.
For proper perspective consider the fact that, even though I was not very good at fine art, I was surrounded by it with a father who was a commercial artist in college and loved his watercolors and a mother who attended art classes on oils and became devoted to that style in brush and knife.
I am very fortunate to have their artwork displayed around my home… particularly since both are still alive living just down the road and might even want it back! I bought my grandmother’s house from the estate and a lot of the artwork was already there and I enjoy it every day.
As a kid, I remember carrying around one of my father’s college textbooks on comic character styles. It was loaded with stylesheets, images and reference to the art of the day and past works. Its focus was how to develop a comic strip and I knew it inside and out.
I just couldn’t draw or paint a damn thing.
My parents sent me to art classes and even had me privately tutored, but it just didn’t matter what they did, how much time was spent or how bad we all wanted it.
I just couldn't draw or paint a damn thing.
When computers hit the market, I played around with a few rudimentary DOS art programs all of which were anything but helpful. They could help me draw a straight line so I was over that hurdle but there wasn’t a big market for straight lines in digital art.
Just my luck.
After almost giving up artwork altogether I spied a copy of Electronic Arts Deluxe Paint II.
It was DOS, it was packed with tools, it had a wicked bad interface, and it was mine. Only problem was I didn’t have a clue how to do much of anything other than to boot to DOS, load the program from floppy’s and stare at that awesome interface.
Finally, after much fiddling around, staring at the interface and pressing this and that I figured out how to draw that straight line again, but that accomplishment held a short-lived euphoria as I realized it was TOO easy.
Over time I advanced to Corel Photo Paint, which was a vastly underrated program back in the day. I can still remember my first drop shadow. It was an experience. A manual experience that is. You had to go through a few layers of work to get it done. Then someone automated it with a few clicks.
Again, it was too easy.
I almost wanted to look around to make sure no one was watching me, so they wouldn’t see how effortless and easy it was!
I didn’t want them to see that, compared to all the work and hours of toil I had seen my parents put into their fine art, I was cheating!!!
Roll on along for a few more years and I move on to Photoshop after they finally get their act together and release a PC version of their software (yes, I know I’m behind the curve on this). I had to eat beans and bologna for a while, but I had Photoshop and this time I had a good idea what to do with it.
Along came better brushes, presets and automated functions. Things just got easier and easier. What used to take hours of tedious work could be replicated in the push of a button in some cases.
Funny thing happened though, I no longer felt like I was cheating.
I was earning my stripes. Sure, it wasn’t fine art. I wasn’t getting paint on everything. I didn’t have to put on an apron or clean my brushes, but I was an artist and I earned my right to call myself one.
The more digital tools that were put into my hands the less my “fine art” hang-up surfaced.
I have watched my fellow digital artists elevate this form of art to a level undreamed by generations past.
I have watched it empower female artists at a time when other endeavors were male-dominated.
I have gone from watching minorities being constantly sidelined to working closely with and for some of the finest artists and people I’ve ever known with no regard to race or creed.
Digital art can be a great equalizer in some cases, a door opener in others.
Regarding my parent,s I have to say they have never said a negative word about digital art or compared it to fine art in a negative fashion.
To them, art is art. They don’t care.
It was me that had the hang up from watching them toil over weeks and months to complete a single work of art.
No… digital art isn’t cheating. It’s fulfilling a vison; it’s getting the job done; it's self-satisfaction.
It’s a slice of digital heaven in electronic bytes.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD at his website.