it's digital art...
...but is it art?

by Sean Platter — Studio Splatter

As each day passes this world is getting more and more digital. Digital Art is so new on the scene that classifying it can be a bit difficult.

Sean Platter
2003, digital print on paper, 11" x 14
On display soon on Page 8 of the Erotic Art Gallery. Contact Volker Morlock if your are interested in purchasing this piece.

During the past one-hundred years, artists have used new technologies like cameras, airbrushes, and the computer to inspire and help bring their visions to reality. Each new technology has gone through a period of gaining acceptance by artists, collectors, and the general public. A century ago photographers would purposely damage and coat their camera lenses with Vaseline, attempting to make their works look like the wispy, romantic paintings of their time. Photographers felt unless their photographs could imitate traditional painting, they would never be accepted as "Art". Digital Art is in the same state today. Digital artists use programs which tout their abilities to make their digital brushes indistinguishable from real brushes. Galleries are mounting "daring" exhibits of Digital Art, that to the viewer’s eyes looks exactly like traditional media.

Eventually artist’s and gallery’s feelings of inadequacy will wear off. A new generation of artists will come along, unafraid to make “digital” look like "digital"—and a fresh new medium will be born. In the meantime, I suggest letting the current crop of digital artists tease your eyes and your mind—is it real paint, pencil, or pen; or is it a computer’s imitation?

Just five years ago, Digital Art was an expensive process. You couldn’t paint or draw with just any computer. Graphics are the largest hog of memory, microchip speed, and hard drive space of almost all computer applications. Computers used for graphics were also purchased by the US Weather Service, the Pentagon, and huge banking firms. This is one of the reasons why most early Digital Art was created in Universities and physics labs. You needed a government grant just to be able to get a color print!

Once you had the computer you spent weeks attempting to balance the color of your monitor to match the color of your printer, then match the colors to your digital scanner, and back again to your monitor. Now that your expensive system was set up, you still needed lots of cash to get a decent print in order to show people your masterpieces. These prints—also known as giclee or ink-jet prints—were done by boutique printers who used archival quality inks shot through microscopic jets onto acid-free artist¹s watercolor papers. Even the smallest print could cost you $300. The boutique printers are still in business; but today you can buy a printer so starving artists can become digital without government grants or second mortgages.

Is it Art?

This question is being asked a lot lately; by collectors, critics, and artists themselves. The act of creation is virtually the same as traditional art: Inspiration. Material collection. Creation. It is the steps following Creation that leave most people scratching their heads.

Sean Platter
"Daddy & Slut Boy"
2003, digital print on paper, 14" x 11"
On display soon on Page 8 of the Erotic Art Gallery. Contact Volker Morlock if your are interested in purchasing this piece.

The closest analogy to Digital Art I've found is Photographic Art. A photographer takes a photo, then uses the negative created by the camera to manufacture an infinite series of prints which can be sold and collected. Digital Art is very similar, except the painting is a digital file which can be copied perfectly and infinitely—and prints can be made from each copy of the digital file — perfectly and infinitely. Infinities within infinities. Thus the dilemma of every collector and artist working in this new media: "Where is the collectible 'original'?".

Many artists are finding ways to make their digital work "original". Some only do part of the work on an image inside the computer, and once they have a print they finish the work using traditional media—thus the worked-over print becomes an original piece. Some artists make a few numbered prints and destroy their digital file. This is all good if they were the only ones to use the file, but if they had prints made somewhere beside their home, then there is at least one other copy of their digital file—and the door to infinity is ajar once again. Some computer art programs come with a "digital signature" process. Similar to a computer virus, a "signature" bearing the artist’s name and creation date is encrypted in the Digital Art file. If this file with the "signature" is altered in any way, the "signature" begins to destroy the file. Over the next few years we will see many new techniques to create Digital Art "originals". It might even be worthwhile to collect these various techniques!

Digital Art is still in its infancy and has a way to go before it becomes an "Art" on its own. Just as the public watched photography come into its own in the 1920s, the public can watch Digital Art do the same in this new millennium.

Platter uses MediaStreet Generations Archival Inks on MediaStreet Royal Renaissance Acid-free Watercolor papers; printed with an Epson 1280 ink-jet printer. Each print is hand signed and dated, then sealed in an archival storage bag. Each print is from an open-ended run.



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