Traditional Art in a Digital World

"The Importance of Traditional Art in a Digital World"

There seems to be an interesting trend in "Digital vs Traditional," as if there is anything to debate. Many traditionalists will say digital isn't really an art medium, and many digital artists are somehow afraid of traditional media. Granted yes both have clear advantages and disadvantages, the biggest one for most people is cost. Digital's high initial cost will often shy people away, but after the first investment in hardware and software, maintenance costs are minimal to none. While in Traditional the costs are low, but reoccurring, and can really add up over time.

Cost aside however, there are many who feel traditional media is some how "dying out" or "becoming less necessary." Well art isn't really "necessary" at all, but again it's all semantics.

First let's look at traditional. Traditional media builds a deep understanding of your materials and what you can do with them. It's easier to experiment with them (especially on the go) and you can for example rub a pencil on just about any surface to see the effect it creates. In the painting world, you learn to mix your colors rather than just picking one that works. You'll learn what green truly means when you mix a yellow with a blue and play with the ratios of color to make a warmer or cooler green. You will also be working on the idea of "one layer," thus you cannot change your brush strokes so easily, making things less forgiving. However this rugged unforgiving nature allows you to learn from your mistakes faster and work from your mistakes to build your own creative problem solving (I talked about this a little in the last post "100 problems..."). The variety of media is also such an amazing choice for both beginners and the experienced in the craft.

Digital is essentially only one medium. While yes there are different programs, that pull the color around a little differently, 99% of the time the outcome is a "digital" look. Rarely do I find digital artists who can truly replicate the look and feel of a traditional painting. There is also the issue with so many short cuts that exist. Sure traditional has some short cuts too, but nothing like what you'll find in Photoshop. Edit undo (CTRL + Z) for many is another crutch keeping them from just learning to "paint" rather than getting every detail right. Understandably those in the animation and design fields NEED this function and the thoughts of not having it would be crippling. However, for concept artists, illustrators, and digital fine artists there is less of a need for such a function. These short cuts often hinder an artist's ability to effectively learn ideas like color theory, line quality, and to do life studies away from a computer.

So what am I getting at here? Well mainly I believe it is easier to start in traditional drawing and painting media before moving to digital. Again traditional media teaches you the tangible foundations to 2D design/art. There is something truly magical about getting your hand covered in graphite or paint in the midst of a project. Many do not realize how important it is to actually feel a pencil in your hand and understand the immediate mark it makes based on how hard you push on the drawing surface. Granted digital has pressure sensitivity, but you don't really know how to adjust that until you know exactly what it is emulating. Learning your own traditional media also teaching just about everything about the tool you're using. For a pencil you can learn how it's made, on what surfaces it can be used effectively, how far you can push the minimalist and unlimited extremes of the media, and the true basics of blending and value.

Ultimately though it's about what works best for YOU the artist. As I've always said it's important to try new things and experiment with different media. However upon finding your choice media you'll need to stick to it. Then as you start feeling comfortable with it, the thought of trying a new media will often seem intimidating, but that the same time very liberating to explore the limits of your own creative process. Comfort is key to understanding your choice medium, but remember the TOO MUCH COMFORT can lead to lazy art. Lazy art is work that despite being done well is often flat and boring. Granted if your process is working, it doesn't need fixing, but if you're stuck in a creative rut, it may be time to try something new.

In short, traditional media isn't dying. It's still and will continue to be an important and vibrant part of the art world. Need more proof? Go to ANY gallery and look around. Usually you'll see nothing but traditional art, but occasionally you might just find a digital print. Digital art is still very new. Neither will cancel each other out, but in time you may see a higher proliferation of the digital media (even more than we've already seen).

Remember I work in both traditional and digital media, but I will never trade my paints
to only use a tablet.