It's Still a Small Digital Art World

Surprise! Surprise! Digital artists are a smaller community, I think, than we realize. Because we talk with each other on forums and show in galleries, we believe that people all over are familiar with the many types of digital art generated from a computer. I am always astounded when people are confused with what I do and how I do it. All over the web, people use similar techniques and yet to others they still remain an enigma. Is that good? In a way it is, but to encourage others to experiment with the computer, there must be a level of understanding.

Split Mountain by Paula SandersRecently, I showed a piece of work I created in e-on software's Vue 8.5 Infinite. It was realistic in concept but not in all my use of materials. Parts were stylized. To the audience of artists that looked at it, no one had ever seen a 3D program nor could understand it. 20 years ago, when I first took a stylus to a Wacom tablet, I would have understood this. But now I am constantly surprised. I am also surprised when people think that the computer does the work. No one assumes that a brush moves on its own.

There are many forms of digital art. Adobe Photoshop can be used as a straight tool to improve a photograph or as a way to radically change it. There are a large number of 3D programs. I personally do not create models, but I use them in my work. I like to utilize 3D programs and, then, rework the results for a stylized effect in Photoshop. Does the computer do this for me? Of course not.

Recently, I have embarked on a goal of trying to increase people's awareness of the infinite possibilities of digital art as a recognized art form. When I was much younger, museums did not include as a rule photographs. There was Ansel Adams and a handful of others. Ten years ago, I felt the same was true of digital art. I did not expect it to be true now in 2010. But in some parts of the United States, digital art is still not recognized as an art form on the same level as painting. Granted I do not live now in a major city (I grew up in New York City), but I have discovered in middle America that there is a dearth of understanding.

As digital artists, to increase the art form, I believe that we need to educate others where we live, especially traditional artists. Now if I still lived in New York City or in California, I imagine I wouldn't be writing this article. When I attended SIGGRAPHs, I assumed the whole world was there.

Willow by Paula SandersHow can one go about increasing the understanding of this varied art form? I say varied because even though it is created on a computer or in many cases with a camera and a computer, it can be as varied as the programs used and the people who use them - from Fractals to collages, to 3D fantasy. These are not only created using different programs, but they are structurally different. As with any art form, most individuals have certain styles to their work. With the computer, individuals can delve into many different realms.

The question I have been wrestling with, is how to expand people's awareness of digital art? Having more people understand it does not mean that it lessens the value or potential of our work. I believe the opposite is true. One needs to bring the awareness of the computer as a tool for creating artwork to the local community if this understanding is lacking. This can be done by requesting space for shows or offering to run workshops.

Even though I am writing this, when I show people my work, I still assume that they are familiar with the wonderful tools the computer has given artists to express themselves. If they are not, it can open an opportunity to share about the exciting digital art tools that are now available.

Paula Sanders

Great article. As I am a

Great article.
As I am a 'traditional' artist I don't see the computer as anything else but another tool to create.
People indeed assume that making art on a PC is easy.
While some things are easier to do on a PC, like the use of layers in Photoshop, some things are harder, like creating a light source in a 3D scene.
Either way there is no such thing as the 'make art' button, Photoshop or any application won't do anything on it's own.

There is an issue that does bother me art

Digital art is Digital...

I whole heartedly agree with both of you. The computer, as far as I'm concerned, is a facilitator, plus a number cruncher, a weapon, if you will, in my arsenal of tools to create what I see in my mind's eye, and I didn't run out of the tube of color I needed and had to interrupt my inspiration to go to the store and buy some more either, LOL! On the other hand, yes, it is digital, but with,,,  and many other more pro sites regarding getting prints, or perhaps the proverbial "canvas" print done, helps to broaden the opportunities for those of us who do work strictly in the digital medium.

So I feel both your pains, the lack of public knowledge, and the seemingly lack of options for bringing these into a physically tangible form, we can hold, or hang on our wall, but there are options.

I never would have ever considered a home computer, back 20 years ago, would allow me to rexplore my artistic side of my brain in this fashion again. I took 6 years of art classes in highschool so I could avoid the whole learning french/spanish thing, and it was excellent fun, but when I graduated, and there were no more "free and endless supply" of art supplies, the desire faded, especially when looking at the potential costs needed to upkeep an art studio.

Now, I know I could go get some coal, or ashes, or mix any number of poultices together, including eggs and such to make my own supplies, but let's be realistic here, personally, I don't have the time. Besides, my hands, being a pianist, steady as they are, could never give me the ultra-realistic styles of imagery I have been able to create, the level of  photorealism. It would never happen with just my bare hands and a brush.

Stop in sometime, anyone, and poke around my gallery at or at and leave a comment or two.


Far better it is to dare mighty things than to take rank with those poor timid spirits who know neither victory, nor defeat. ~Theodore Roosevelt~