What Makes Digital Art

I see digital art in many forms, and as someone who doesn’t study art as my main focus in life I often find virtually any creative expression — with evident effort and thought put into it — a work of art. The same applies for digital art, which comes in all kinds of formats that can be quirky and peculiar but nonetheless artistic. From photoshopped images to digital paintings, ridiculous memes to years-long webcomics, digital art comes in myriad forms. All of it remains valid and thoughtful (despite its otherwise ridiculous appearance).

Digital art shares a great deal of characteristics with traditional art: they both require certain media in order to create their pieces (brushes, canvas, Photoshop, drawing tablets, etc.), they need hours of practice to understand and perfect the art and style, they can be studied and appreciated by wide audiences, and the list goes on. Digital art specifically, however, is unique in its portability, accessibility, and interactivity. In many cases, artists can take their laptops and work on projects practically anywhere and then publish it whenever convenient. Once published, anyone who has access to the content can view it immediately. And, best of all, some projects can be interactive and involve its viewers. The people who enjoy the art can contact the creators and express themselves (for better or for worse). Some projects, like video games or webcomics, can bring the consumer into the fold by giving them the chance to manipulate the content of the artist’s final product. Traditional art doesn’t usually go to the lengths of making its viewers feel personally involved in the project.

I’m a big webcomic reader, so my aesthetic and artistic influence in general comes largely from the webcomic creators I follow. A comic called Monsterkind holds a special place in my heart for its cartoonish style and important message. Everything about the comic speaks to my personal style — the characters’ color schemes and geometry, the artistic development of the creator, and the message underlying the story all create a world in which the readers can enjoy and learn from the story. As a webcomic, its release goes at a rate of two pages a week, but it’s definitely worth the wait. The art is almost entirely digital, produced with a drawing tablet and digital art program, and each page takes several hours to create.

monsterkind page strip
http://monsterkind.enenkay.com/comic/331

Another artist that greatly inspires me is Vitaly S. Alexius, a Toronto-based artist and photographer (who also runs a webcomic called Romantically Apocalyptic). Much of his best-known works come from photos of decrepit buildings and abandoned areas that leave an eerie but beautiful scene.

alexius photograph
http://vs.darkfolio.com/gallery/109261#11

For his webcomic, he paints his own scenes, although the characters are people who are costumed and photographed in front of a green screen. Then, once they are put into the painted scene, they get painted over as well to fit the picture. This makes the characters look incredibly realistic without being obviously photographed and leaves an artistic style that’s unique in its own sense.

Alexius painting
http://vs.darkfolio.com/gallery/329532 this CD cover he created reflects the idea of inserting a photographed person into a scene

The final project that stuck out to me as I was doing some research came from our own professor. Last semester he had students create a digital piece that they projected onto a tree on campus. Taking the hard-worked digital creations of students and then “publishing” them on an organic, public space feels surreal in its own nature. Yet at the same time it’s so unique to see a tree wrapped up in digital art. Street paintings are not difficult to come across, either in cities or online, but I had never seen a digital work painted on an organic “canvas” before.

UMW tree
http://www.umw.edu/greatminds/2014/01/09/a-digital-kind-of-paintbrush/