The Compromise of Art

I’ve been hard at work finishing up the illustration work for Derrick the Dog and so haven’t posted in a bit.  However, I read a forum topic yesterday about traditional versus digital art.  I guess it bothered me more than I thought, hence the reason I’m awake at 2:30 AM, writing a blog post instead of sawing logs.

Comparison of Leonardo's self portrait and the...

Comparison of Leonardo's self portrait and the Mona Lisa based on Schwartz's Mona Leo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve probably heard the argument:  digital art isn’t real art.  Those digital guys cheat, letting the software do the work for them.  They trace their work.  They just use the software to make a photo look like a painting/drawing/etc.  And etc.  Etc.  Etc.  So, I ask who are you to judge what is and isn’t art?   In fact, I have some questions for you, art snobs of the world.

Ever made a mistake in your artwork?  What did you do?  You maybe erased it, probably leaving behind remnants.  Or if it was in paint, that wasn’t really an option was it?  So, you either had to hide it, live with it, or start over again. 

Do you trace?  Ink over rough pencil work?  How about sketch before you paint?  Project a photo onto canvas and use that as a reference?  I know Norman Rockwell, a beloved American artist, did those last two.

Are you an impressionist or a realist?  You think the artists in the other camp produce real art?  What about children, working with crayons, producing a work that’s to the absolute best of the abilities, that they slaved over, but that looks like nothing in this world?  Would you tell them what they produced was not art?  Would it matter if they’d used MS Paint?  What about graffiti, can that really be considered art?  Is not art, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?  I don’t care for the Mona Lisa, but I would never say it’s not art.

Do you make your own paints?  I mean, do you mix pigments, binders, and all the other ingredients?  No?  Then, I say you’re cheating.  Come on, you say, nobody thinks that way anymore.  Maybe.  How about when commercially-available art paints first arrived on the scene?  Do you think those who used them at the time were considered “real” artists?  Maybe, I mean they were still painting, but that pre-mixed paint was totally a cheat.  Hmmm.

So-called “real” artists, I say if you’ve ever made a mistake in your medium, your art’s been compromised.  I can cleanly erase, make the errant stroke disappear as though it never existed.  I certainly couldn’t do that when it was a physical pencil (or worse, pen) on actual paper.  In fact, I can take more chances than you, because I don’t have to to worry about ruining what I’ve already done.  The software doesn’t do the drawing for me; I’m still making the strokes, but they’re on a slab of plastic instead of a sheet of paper.  Oh, sure, some people cheat, but it’s pretty easy to tell the hacks from the artists.  And yes, there are software tools that help speed the process, but that’s called efficiency.  Sort of like buying pre-mixed paints or pre-stretched canvases. 

I’m a child of the 20th century, only recently switched over to digital art in the last couple of years.*  Before that, I grew up with paper and crayons and pens and pencils, just like my peers.  I’ve painted in watercolor and oils.  And I can say that I absolutely prefer digital to analog the vast majority of the time.  And I don’t consider it cheating or that I’m no longer producing real art (it may not be real good, ha!).  Then again, I’m using ArtRage, which mimics real-world artists’ tools.  Now, those guys who use Photoshop… they’re total cheaters.  :)

Before you dismiss someone else’s art, or the medium they use to create it, perhaps you should actually investigate, try that medium for yourself.  You might even want to take a step back and look at your own art.  Or you could just stick to your narrow world view.  The rest of us will be creating art… and ignoring your archaic views on the new mediums and methods available in this millennium.


*I expect the children of today and tomorrow will grow up to view digital as just one more choice of medium for expressing their artistic urges.  I believe they’ll be more comfortable and adept with it than I’ll ever be.  And I expect that they’ll think it’s a cheat no more than those who buy tubes of oil paint do today.  And I suspect a lot of parents will be happy about the lack of real paint on their real floors.


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  1. You wrote: "... I read a forum topic yesterday about traditional versus digital art. ..." Digital art will become traditional art quite quickly. -- Regards from Munich, Götz

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree. I think we've already seen the shift in animation. You're far more likely to run into a CGI kids' movie or TV show than you are one made with traditional painted cells. Comics, too. I know Dilbert and Garfield are primarily Cintiq creations these days, and I suspect there are more, maybe most. It's cleaner and more efficient.

  2. For some strange reason, we sometimes get an email from the contact form about a blog post instead of comments on the actual blog post, even though we allow anonymous comments. Here's the latest:

    Hi, my name is Nicholas and I work at While researching Norman Rockwell I found your page -

    I wanted to briefly tell you about Artsy's Norman Rockwell page, and about our mission. We are working hard to make all of the world’s art accessible to anyone. Our Norman Rockwell page, for example, includes his bio, works, related artists, as well as his up-to-date exhibitions.

    I’m contacting certain website & blog owners who have written about Norman Rockwell, and asking them to help us achieve this mission by adding a link to Artsy’s Norman Rockwell page. In addition to promoting our Rockwell's page, I believe your visitors would enjoy this content.

    If you are able to add a link to Artsy’s Norman Rockwell page (, please let me know, as I’d love to share it with my team.


    "The secret to so many artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure. So, you see, they're always looking ahead to something new and exciting. The secret is not to look back." - Norman Rockwell