Is Digital Art 'Real' Art?

For as long as art has been shared online, there has always been prejudice around digital art.

Is Digital Art 'Real' Art?

Many people are led to believe that it's easy and that the computer and technology does all the work for you, therefore deeming it as not 'real' or 'true' art. I chose this issue to discuss for Unit 1: Part D because I have been a huge fan of digital art since the start of secondary school and it irritates me whenever people offhandedly say it's not 'real' art, without knowing the amount of skill and dedication it takes to become proficient at it. It truly irritates me, as I have started taking up the art form myself.

Through practising digital art in my spare time, I've come to understand that it's not inherently easier than traditional art. Like many people who are starting out with the digital medium, I believed that just having the technology (a Wacom drawing tablet) would make my art look better than my traditional work. I very quickly learnt that I was wrong; yes, creating art digitally can make certain things more convenient, like erasing marks you've made with the 'undo' button, or sampling colours directly from another image. However, without any proficient knowledge of the fundamentals of art, such as perspective, anatomy and colour theory, I don't think your digital art would necessarily look any better than your traditional work. While technology can be a big help, it doesn't automatically make you a better artist. Just like with the traditional medium, I think that the digital medium is an art form that takes years of practice, as it comes with its own unique set of challenges.

An article I found online by Monika Zagrobelna, supports my view. As she is a digital artist herself she defends it as real art, and gives clear points to erase some of the misconceptions about it. In her article, she states that, 'a computer isn't an art tool. It's not a substitute for a brush, or canvas' and goes on to say that it makes the creation process more convenient but doesn't make it any easier. She also illustrates artwork with the same subject matter, made in traditional and digital mediums, highlighting her view that the two can't be compared since'the techniques of sculpting, drawing and painting are the same between traditional and digital media'.

For further research, I asked my mum about her views on digital art. She said that 'the way you feel when you look at something that's done by a computer is completely different from when you understand that a piece of work was done by a human, especially portraits'. She feels that when someone creates a portrait traditionally, and it looks exactly like the subject, you would appreciate that much more than a digital piece. Her argument completely opposes my view as she goes on to say that since it's 'done by a computer', you can't appreciate it as much as when a person creates art traditionally, since the computer is supposed to get it perfect.

In summary, Monika's article heavily influenced my views on the topic, as she highlighted the similarities between digital and traditional art that I had never noticed before (like the similar techniques), making my defence for digital art as 'real' art much stronger. I found my mum's views to be very insightful because while I completely disagree with her view that the computer does all the work, I can definitely understand the feeling of appreciating traditional art slightly more, especially in terms of portraits. Being able to accurately copy someone's likeness, without the conveniences and shortcuts of digital art, is a huge feat, so I can agree with that point she makes.

Image credit: Lois van Baarle (loish) (DeviantArt)


  • Lizzie Hayward

    On 21 August 2017, 22:03 Lizzie Hayward commented:

    I completely agree with you! Digital art is still a real art form. Every art form has its own advantages and disadvantages so the fact that digital programs have some conveniences doesn't really mean much. You wouldn't say that drawing with a pencil isn't real art because you can rub it out but with acrylics you can't. I for one have actually found drawing on a tablet a lot more difficult than drawing on paper so I have a lot of respect for anyone that can do it well.

  • Elise Hajdini

    On 22 August 2017, 14:05 Elise Hajdini commented:

    I agree. I definitely think that digital art is a real form of art. I personally think that you have a knack to digital drawing. For example: You have to be able to use the tools for digital drawing and yes it is very different to drawing traditionally but it could well be a new modern form of art. And you can't just have the computer draw it for you, you do have to do some work yourself. With the computer you can do MANY different things that you can't drawing and painting traditionally. Although I do agree with your mum, if a drawing has had the help of a computer people are going to take the outcome of the drawing or painting very differently if it had been done by hand. But still digital drawing is very impressive!

  • Bhavesh Jadva

    On 22 August 2017, 20:18 Bhavesh Jadva Voice Team commented:

    I agree with you and the above comments. It's a sweeping statement but, for some older people, they take more of an issue in embracing new media, which affects the gaze with which they look at a digital piece of art, essentially stifling their impression of it. It might be down to a reluctance to accept change but I'd like to think it's less superficial than that. Art is a sacred thing for so many people and digital - in general terms, not just creatively - is seen as a negative thing, down to the robot effect of social media on young people and sullying many part of what people once considered purist parts of life and so combining the two in your mind is a complex thing to come to terms with.

  • Luke Taylor

    On 31 August 2017, 10:36 Luke Taylor Contributor commented:

    I think digital art is one of the many lovely ways art is moving forward - unfortunately, you will always get critics...

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