Blossoming of the Ripened Mind [Digital Painting, 30×65 “/76X165cm at 300 dip, 2014].
The only artist I’m aware of who has received any recognition for digital painting in the contemporary fine art world is David Hockney, and that’s just because anything and everything he creates is automatically reviewed. Gerhardt Richter has the same kind of status, and some of his threadbare digital art is taken seriously, but it’s not digital painting.

Part of this is the insane and dare I say stunningly stupid prejudice against art created using the computer in any capacity, which I’ve covered in a previous article: Against Competitiveness in Art, and a Defense of Digital Art. A curious underlying hypocrisy in contemporary art think is that the camera derailed painting and altered the course of art history, but an astronomically more powerful instrument of technology — the computer and advanced art programs — can’t revive visual art proper and change art history again.

Other factors include the difficultly of marketing digital paintings as one-of-a-kind priceless artifacts, though to anyone who has a fundamental grasp of art, and has ever bought a music CD or a novel (mere copies that don’t deligitimize the quality of the creation in question), such an objection misses the point of the purpose of art, which is much more about manifesting a vision and communication than about producing an artifact for purchase.

Notions that the computer does the work or that it is soulless are sheer ignorance and stupid prejudice. They are about as convincing as arguing that only novelists who use typewriters can be  taken seriously, because Word write the novels for you and somehow removes any feeling or substance in a cosmic act of spiritual homogenization. Another outstanding and bizarre notion endemic to contemporary art think is that anything and everything can be art, including taking a crap on a gallery floor, but painting hardly qualifies anymore — it is like a vestigial appendage that is a mere byproduct of evolution, and entirely antiquated — and digital painting is dead on arrival, and then some.

Quite the contrary, digital painting is a core artistic activity which continues the long tradition of painting into the digital era. It incorporates new tools and technology in order to explore new terrain and expand the range of possible imagery that can be realized with the human imagination. Contrary to the tragically inane notion that the computer does everything for you, today’s digital painter will need a very strong grounding in the fundamentals of drawing and painting [lighting, perspective, composition, anatomy, color theory, modeling, texture, etc.] and will very likely branch out into digital sculpting. Ironically, the computer offers the contemporary visual artist the full spectrum of traditional, analogue visual skills, while a contemporary art education offers next to none, focusing instead heavily on concepts and political activism.

Part of the fault of digital painting — which is the 21st century incarnation of painting proper — being completely sidelined as a credible artistic option is art education. This may be already changing, but in recent decades only the students who majored in illustration received full learning about the basics of visual art, and would learn digital painting at all. Those of us who went the fine art route would generally quickly be disabused of any ambition of painting an image, and steered into conceptual art and necessarily in a given socio-political context. A peculiar result of this is that illustrators possess all the traditional  fine art skills, and contemporary fine artists little to none. Scant noteworthy contemporary artists can draw or paint beyond a level exhibiting tragic beginner mistakes.

Artists who do go the route of illustration and learn all those traditional skills and concepts — and they do, it’s only the materials that have been updated — are frequently creatively hampered in terms of how they apply those skills, sticking to wholly conventional and commercial subjects and rendering. When they mention classic artists they admire, the two names that most crop up are Anders Zorn and John Singer Sargent. We might get some Rembrandt, Caravaggio, or Velasquez, but it’s consistently the realist painters that are admired, and primarily for their technique. We end up with the artists who are competent at making imagery directing their skills at wholly conventional and realistic imagery, and artists who are unconventional being incompetent at making imagery.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that if you asked me who besides me makes contemporary fine art digital painting I draw a blank. There are only a handful of digital painters I admire and am interested in period, and none of them are obviously about fine art. This is undoubtedly my own ignorance, but when you consider this morning I did a search on popular art sites (Artnet News, The Guardian art section, and Hyperallergic) for “digital painting” I turned up nothing featuring an artist except David Hockney. Nobody that I can recall has ever suggested a digital painter (or a digital artist) for me to investigate.

Well, there are a truly shocking 327,000,000 peo0ple in America, and if as many as 5,000 people know who I am as an artist (and despite my 2,628 followers on this blog, I’d consider that a grotesque exaggeration), that’s coming in around 0.0015%, or one in over 65,000 people. If those are the unrealistically high chances of anyone else discovering my digital paintings, than the same may be true of me discovering anyone elses. Note that I’m not using “contemporary” just to mean someone who’s alive today but makes still-life paintings or cheesy abstractions: I’m referring to attempts to make new imagery of a complex nature.

We generally accept in the art world that (as I mentioned above) the photograph displaced painting as the most significant form of visual art, after which visual art was replaced by conceptual art (which rarely offers anything of visual interest). This is dumb, and for the obvious reason that it relegates image-making to only or primarily being about documenting the physical appearance of external, existing objects, and in so doing completely removes the most critical creative element, which is the artist’s imagination. In short, we boldly declare that a machine which is itself incapable of creativity replaces the human capacity for creativity in the millisecond it takes for a shutter to snap.

This is not to denigrate what an artist does with a camera, as there are hundreds of photographs I’m already familiar with that knock my socks off. I’m arguing that the documentary aspect of photography only replaces the documentary aspect of painting [and this is debatable on some levels], which is only a small part of what visual communication through imagery is capable of. Arguing that photography makes painting redundant is along the lines of declaring that the tape-recorder renders music obsolete because it much more accurately describes actual auditory events in the real world.

Painting never died, because imagery and the visual imagination never died as a primary mode of communication. It was sidelined by other practices which, significantly, privilege spoken language (or more precisely, linguistics) over visual language to the point where visual language is eradicated. All hail the “visual art” which sought to eradicate visual language and make “art” a prop for ideas that exist in linguistics. Again, not to denegrate experimental artistic exploration — except the more inane variety of it that gets crammed down our throats and insults our intelligence — but to note that conceptual art is not visual art proper, and one medium does not replace another.

Images are as relevant as ever, even if we in the contemporary art world have disregarded them, demonized them (the art of dead white male oppressors, etc.), and sought to replace them wholesale with something, anything else. And when it comes to making images in 2020, the most flexible and powerful medium for creating imagery is the computer. Anyone who has stacked multiple semi-transparent layers in Photoshop, and had masks on each, knows that analogue methods are not even capable of this kind of elaborate manipulation of imagery, and that’s just scratching the surface. There are, of course, immense advantages to working with traditional mediums, including having any chance at all of being recognized as a legitimate artist, but you are working with a drastically reduced and cumbersome tool set. Consider that if you were starting out as an illustrator, if you didn’t have digital skills you’d be at a very serious disadvantage except for very select purposes. Digital art offers the whole range of visual art making from photography to sculpture and the potential seamless combination of  those mediums. I’ve done a lot of those hybrids, though presently I’m more seriously focused on digital painting.

In the last couple decades digital painting has arisen as a full blown, sophisticated, and comprehensive art practice. There is a daunting learning curve to mastering digital mediums, and you need all the traditional fundamentals and the hard work of attaining them. Now seems a good time for some of the people who already have the technical ability to make more imaginative and unusual work, and for some of us with a fine art background to learn the the cutting edge painting tools and underlying traditional foundation in order to level-up our own image-making capacity.

~ Ends

19 replies on “The Remarkable Complete Absence of Digital Painting in the Fine Art World

  1. Some points you make here and in other articles are very interesting to me.

    I’ve always been very interested in “concept art” and “illustration”, ie art not for art’s sake, but art for something else’s sake (mainly commercial entertainment). Usually I’m more interested in the concept art for a video game than the video game itself, and I’ve basically viewed these images as art-for-art’s-sake, and I think (in some cases) they display some brilliant visual imagination and skill. And while I’ll always appreciate concept art in this manner, I have to say I agree on the points you’ve made about the difference between illustration and art-for-art’s-sake.

    Concept art is necessarily limited precisely because it has a purpose beyond itself, that is to clearly display, say, an imaginary monster for a video game. So it can be very rich in imagination when it comes to the design of that creature, but it ends there. There are, for example, no “painterly” splashes or distortions across the image, because those would obscure the design. I didn’t think about that until I came upon some of your paintings, which combine what I like in illustration (original, expressive creature designs) with what I like in Art (among many things, creative use of color, and clashing – or complementary – elements of abstract vs concrete imagery).

    When it comes to contemporary digital paintings – I remember there being a few works of this vein on Deviantart (at least 10 years ago, when I last had an account there), but sadly they never got nearly as much attention as the “fan art” would (I write as one of those fan-artists).

    (This is more a response to several of your latest articles rather than this specific one, but I post it here because it’s the most recent one.)


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, I think we are in complete agreement here. Some of those concept artists have amazing skills, and I’m learning techniques from them that I didn’t get in my training, and haven’t figured out on my own already. I don’t see the artists themselves as limited, but rather the paradigm, because their art serves a function other than itself, just as you say. Images can only be so painterly, or abstracted, when the goal is to be in a video game. I’d like to see these guys go more art-for-art’s sake.

      You may have noticed I’ve started a Top 25 of my artwork, and partly this is just for me so while I’m in a training phase I don’t lose sight that I’ve already done a heap of good work. But when I look at my extant work all I see are my technical flaws. So, I’m bridging the gap between fine art and what is now industry standard digital painting skills (which is really traditional skills using the new tools). So, I have a lot of respect for their skill.

      What I’m doing is or should be super obvious, because I’ve got the bow drawn and am just aiming for, get this shocker, the bull’s eye. Gee wiz, why not make really cool images using my imagination and with excellent technique. Who’d have thought? Why be restricted by gaming or the demands of advertising a product? Why not make visual images in the name of visual art?

      There’s a quote that’s mis-attributed to George Orwell, but which I love anyway, and it goes a little something like this, “There are some ideas that are so absurd only an intellectual could believe them”. And that sums up the contemporary art world succinctly, and even so much of politics. It’s an intellectual challenge to believe something radically new and alien, and that seems like an advancement: an evolution in understanding. In the end we worship a urinal carted into a gallery space as perhaps the greatest artistic achievement of the 20th century, and we boldly declare visual art proper irrelevant to visual art. Seems nearly every cherished belief is a sophisticated alternative to the more obvious truth, and in the end ass-backwards. I just try to keep my head screwed on straight, and find myself unlearning all the sophisticated bullshit I was indoctrinated into in college and elsewhere.

      I think it’s starting to work for me, er, maybe.

      [Oh yeah, I used to participate a lot on Deviantart back when I lived in China. I even had my own group for showing the better stuff I found: I think I eventually became discouraged, probably by the triumph of the lowest common denominator, and I just haven’t been able to motivate to participate. I’ve tried a few times in the last 6 or so years, and immediately lost interest. However, come to think of it, you are right, I discovered a lot more interesting artists on DA, including digital ones. I can now think of at least one other digital fine artist who I featured way back when.]

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


      1. “Seems nearly every cherished belief is a sophisticated alternative to the more obvious truth, and in the end ass-backwards.”

        I think, unfortunately, the art world (or well, the established, “elite” art world) is the perfect breeding ground for blatantly absurd, “sophisticated” theory – especially when The Arts are included into academia. Most academic fields wouldn’t take some of these rather obviously fallacious (and also unfalsifiable) statements seriously, but since the art world is comparatively free of – social or commercial – consequences, unsound theories get a lot more leeway there. You can sort of observe how “radical” (and unfalsifiable) theories are less accepted among the natural sciences, more accepted in the humanities (the field of science that interests me the most, incidentally), and then free to run amok in the art world. And it’s interesting how it’s not only absurd ideas about art that dominate art academia, but also absurd ideas about society, philosophy, politics… It’s almost as though the creative fields, once taken seriously enough to become part of an academic establishment, become the refuge of choice for ideologies that wouldn’t hold water elsewhere.*

        Admittedly, my view of what the established art world “thinks” has been largely colored by your articles, but most of your articles do correspond well with statements I’ve seen elsewhere. (For example, an article some years ago praising a talented young art graduate in Sweden who challenged preconcieved notions of “what art really is” – by making chocolate truffles using human body fat instead of butter, or Educated Artist acquaintances who only talk about politics, or art museums that display a bunch of words on the walls.)

        *But now I feel I’m being rather mean-spirited towards the progressive crowd. I find myself agreeing with some of their statements often enough.

        (That’s a lovely fine art asylum you have on DA! I think I’ll have to create an account there to comment on some of those pieces.)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. True, I think. The harder sciences – which are intimately familiar with the scientific method and understand the value of objectivity and the necessity of knowing how logic works – are far less likely, if at all, to be swayed by anything that calls itself “theory”. Sometimes I think the only reason we are doing reasonably well as a species is because of the technological advancements of science, which make survival on a pleasurable level just so much easier for everyone. In that case, objectivity is one of our greatest assets. So-called “critical theory” is just that, largely untested hypothesis which are not only highly subjective, they are often extremely biased, and as soon as you consider the source you can see why (Andrea Dwarkin, who I had to real in grad school, comes to mind).

        My general sense is that a lot of contemporary thought substantiates itself by finding faults with accepted truths or models used by prior generations. So, for example, if Modernism is flawed, it’s complete opposite is 100% correct. Science has moved us forward by always building on our past, cumulative knowledge, and adding to it. But art and “critical theory” take more dramatic approach that aspires to completely reject the past and offer a new direction, with themselves at the helm of history (does kinda’ smack of Pol Pot and the Year Zero, but, while radical political zealots of the past are frowned upon in horror, the most extreme artistic stances are heralded as the most valuable. Cuckoo!).

        It comes down to paradigms, I think. And you can’t talk someone out of a paradigm. They have a conviction, and know they are right, and anything you argue simply must be wrong, one way or another, even if they can’t figure it out. A paradigm change can take decades. It’s taken me a long-ass time to defuse the paradigm I was indoctrinated into in art school, and especially its closely related philosophical and social underpinnings, many of which I now think are nihilistic, cynical, and self-destructive [ex., the belief that originality is impossible]. You can’t ditch a paradigm or world view until you have another one, at least in the making, me thinks.

        Also, I don’t go on DA anymore, and haven’t done anything with my group for around 5 years. It died of neglect and lack of interest.

        Finally, the human fat truffles are a perfect example of art that is legitimate in its own way, but has nothing to do with visual art any more than it has to do with music. This is why I say you can’t replace visual art with something that gives us nothing to look at.

        And I was just thinking that the reason digital painting isn’t a part of contemporary art, is that in order for it to be appreciated one has to believe that a well wrought, captivating image is inherently valuable as a mode of communication. People just don’t think that way about art, even if it is IMO absolutely true.


      3. Well, I’d have to slightly disagree on the human fat truffles, as I don’t see how they could be considered legitimate art of any kind (even fine cuisine, though maybe I shouldn’t judge until I’ve tasted them) – even if I would take the stance that art is about conveying an important or transformative message, I’m at a loss about what the truffles could have to say about anything. But I’m open to changing my mind about that – and in any case, if these human fat truffles enriched someone’s imagination or really spoke to someone, more power to them!


      4. Well, I certainly am sympathetic to your opinion, here.

        There was also a guy that made soap from his fat, so, if it’s not the same artist, one or the other of them is highly derivative (which so much conceptual art is, though generally accepted as perennially “radical”). My general stance is that people can call whatever they want art, if they like it, just as they can harbor any religious beliefs they want, but that the fat truffles, for example, are not “visual art”.

        Since I’m primarily interested in visual art, as a creator, it’s not really my concern if other people want to worship a piss pot as the most meaningful work of art in their lives. What riles me is that fat truffle art is generally accepted as superior to visual art, because it is presumed to be a more advanced and pure kind of art, not mired down in representation or craft, but taking place in the realm of thought. Nobody would take it seriously as cuisine, and here you will find again that painting (image-making) must compete with any and every form of contemporary art making, even if the art in question has infinitely more in common with another major form of art. Y’know, video isn’t film, it’s visual art. Performance isn’t theater, it’s visual art. Sound sculpture isn’t music, it’s visual art. Everything competes with visual art and automatically triumphs over it because it is thought to have evolved out of painting, which makes painting Neanderthal.

        The way someone would defend fat truffles is that it isn’t just trying to be pretty and get hung on a wall, like a painting, but is a direct intervention into culture. Why, it forces us to consider the act of liposuction as a kind of sculpture, just for starters. We must grapple with what fat is, and what its sources are,. The boundary between what is human and what is material, or even food, is attenuated. Art here is seen as primarily something that alters opinions, starts a conversation, attacks prejudices, and so on, all for the greater cultural good. We must ask why we are repulsed by human fat in food (rather obvious), or soap. I gather we should be more accepting of fat, and there’s probably a way to connect this all to fighting the evil of fat shaming.

        Now, of course, the answer could be that human fat is disgusting in food or soap. We aren’t cannibals and we don’t want to bathe in human byproducts. The project does nothing but disgust us, and there’s no positive message we can take away. The “art” merely tries to shock and repel us. Further, this kind of art relies on the logical fallacy that if the best art initially shocks audiences and puts them off, than anything that shocks and puts off the public is great art. We hear this all the time. Because critics and the public were appalled at Monet, of all people, when he started to exhibit, than if we are appalled by an artist painting with feces (one of my teacher’s did this), than it’s because we are Philistines, and the artist is probably a genius on par with Michelangelo. Duchamp has repeatedly been compared to da Vinci, which is ludicrous. Nevertheless people pride themselves on how smart they art by believing something so brazenly stupid. Why, the periods when Duchamp stopped making art altogether and failed at being an international Chess player of any renown constitute the most productive years of art-making of modern man (and wymin)! To choose to not make art is art! Fuckwittery is the highest art!

        So, if other people want to genuflect in front of a urinal, I’m not going to try to stop them. It’s when they say that is superior to visual art, and replaces it, that I back-slap them.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked it. The gallery and museum system may not acknowledge digital painting, but it might not be the best venue for it. Probably if it gains interest as a medium of fine art, it will be online.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like this essay, Eric, and you’re right, I can’t think of anyone who is known for making digital paintings, which is sort of weird.

    You like to talk about the bias in the “fine art” world against digital and painting. I personally don’t see it. Maybe consider a post of the different art spheres and define it better. Would you consider Peca’s pop surrealist oil paintings to be fine art for example? How about Gonçalo Mabunda’s African thrones and masks? I’m just picking those artists because they’re contemporary and I’m sort of familiar with their work.

    MOMA in NYC has a ton of paintings and a whole floor dedicated to photography. Local art galleries around the world are full of contemporary paintings.

    I have also seen the goofy conceptual art that you like to rant against. One in particular that I found funny was in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (or maybe it was Chicago). It was basically a steel plate with a hole cut in it along with a writeup talking about how the steel plate was there to get us to think about how it was rusting over the years and how it decays and how you can’t see it, but you can see the cumulative rust that’s built up on it, or some shit like that. The best part was that they had a guard posted full time in that room to tell everyone that came in that “that thing in the middle of the room is art, so please don’t step on it,” because without the guard there to tell you, you would have thought it was just some piece of junk that got there somehow and would probably be picked up the next time the janitor or maintenance guy made his rounds.

    As a photographer, I always check out any photography on display in museum when I visit. For contemporary photography being shown, it seems to be about 50-50 split between digital and analog photos. This is just me counting pictures made since 2005-ish which is right around when film pretty much went tits up.

    I have developed pictures in the darkroom and toyed with obsolete photographic processes. They are fun to mess with as curiosities and I know some people that could do amazing things in a darkroom when printing photos, but I agree with your general assertion that the digital tools available to photographers open up a ton of avenues not available to analog photographers, put the tools in the hands of more people and save so much time and hassle. It’s kind of silly to look down your nose at it.

    So this comment is sort of a disjointed ramble, but I’d most like to know where you draw the distinction between fine art and not-so-fine art.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Damon:

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      You wrote, “You like to talk about the bias in the “fine art” world against digital and painting. I personally don’t see it.”

      Let me explain. First, notice you don’t see any digital painting covered in the fine art press. That may signal a bias. And then there’s my art education, in which painting was certainly considered inferior and hopelessly antiquated. We have what I call the dominant art narrativehttps, which precisely matches my higher art education, AND which also derides painting. Have a look at this article if you have time, because it addresses how painting and visual art proper are sidelined, maligned, and disregarded in general in terms of art history. It’s an ambitious article and a serious attack on the dominant narrative. [Note that a guy on reddit tried to go toe to toe with me on this one, and eventually had to give up. About a year and a half later, responding to another article, he carelessly mentioned he had no interest in painting, and very little knowledge about it.] So, I am addressing the contemporary fine art paradigm, the education system, and what is shown in the top-tier galleries. The general thinking is that painting was superseded by new genres and conceptual art in particular, in a somewhat linear development of art, and rendered redundant.

      And here, I would say by “painting” I mean art which forefronts the visual imagination and excellent technique rather than a more conceptual use of painting. We could say that Robert Ryman is a “painter”, for example, but he couldn’t draw or paint a paper bag. Most the painters I see getting attention are recognized not for their sheer vision and ability, but because of their race/gender and how they fit into a political agenda. In other words, painting is seen through either the lens of conceptualism and/or far left politics.

      Peca’s art is usually grouped in with “Low Brow Pop Surrealism”, and might be shared in places like Juxtapoz magazine, which was started by Robert Williams, who was shunned by the art-world for decades until he became too big to ignore [look up any Youtube inteview with him to hear him rant about it.]. Those artists get some attention but you won’t find them in the big art fairs and the top tier galleries. Peca was never covered by Artnet and there’s only one article about her in Hyperallergic, from 2014, and zero comments. She shows at the Fousion gallery in her home country of Barcelona, not at Gagosian. In my education her paintings would have been considered a joke, well, if they didn’t know she was a woman, etc… (in which case she might get enough identity politics points to contextualize her painting as somehow challenging the white male hegemony, or some such tripe.).

      Consider that the latest Turner prize, named after J. M. W. Turner, contained no paintings. Go look at the latest version of ARTFORUM, scroll down the columns and see how much painting you find: I found two articles, both commemorating the death of the painter, before I gave up.

      If I say that the automobile replaced the horse and buggy in the realm of transportation, it does not mean that they don’t make buggies anymore. Perhaps a better example would be popular music. I would say that serious instrumentation has been phased out of popular music, in favor of singing (heavily using auto-tune), dancing, and showmanship. I could point to the VMA awards and the dearth of people actually playing any instrument except perfunctorily in the background. Most the lyrics of the most popular songs were written by one duo. However, you could find bands on the periphery doing any and all kinds of music, and performing at small venues. This doesn’t contradict the overwhelming trend and present paradigm.

      In the case of Gonçalo Mabunda’s African thrones and masks, it’s not painting, and the artist is a person of color. Even painting proper can be included if the artist is a person of color and can be seen as supporting the social agenda. In such cases, it is not the inherent quality of the paintings themselves that matters, but rather how they function as props in a culture war. I’m exaggerating a little bit, but you get the idea.

      There are of course some exceptions, such as Peter Doig, who are straight-up painters, make the big bucks, and are very well known. Even in his case he was shunned for a long time – while his contemporary YBA artists had astounding careers, before finally being recognized.

      You wrote, “MOMA in NYC has a ton of paintings and a whole floor dedicated to photography. Local art galleries around the world are full of contemporary paintings.”

      That’s the Museum of “Modern” Art, not contemporary, so they are pretty much obliged to show mid-century Abstract Expressionism and the next couple generations of painting.

      If I said that Christianity is no longer taken seriously among academics and intellectuals as a viable worldview, you could point to all the churches dotting the landscape, but that wouldn’t disprove my statement.

      So, I agree with you that painting – even representational painting that forefronts the imagination and sill in rendering it – is still popular among people in general, and fills smaller galleries worldwide (as does pottery, mind you). I probably wouldn’t bother to make art myself if I believed otherwise. But on the philosophical level, in regards to art history, and in my personal educational experience at UCLA and UCI (and people from other institutions have corroborated this), painting is considered “lowbrow”, much like Peca, and unimportant (if pretty), unless it is conceptually significant (ex., a black painter challenges the Western art canon).

      I don’t even aspire to make a ripple in the dominant fine art world. The best I could hope for is a small, cult following, and being able to make enough to survive on while living in the developing world for a fraction of the cost of living in my home country.

      In this short essay, which was just based on an observation – of course there’s no digital painting in the fine art world! – I am merely pointing out to the split paradigms of illustration and fine art, each with its own severe limitations. The limitations of the fine art world include being controlled by the ultra wealthy and market forces; being hijacked by a radical political agenda; and losing the intellectual battle with conceptual theory so that people just use art as a platform to convince themselves they are smarter than everyone who doesn’t appreciate a urinal as a crowning achievement of visual communication.

      The solution is to split off visual art from conceptual art, just as music, dance, theater, film, and architecture are not part of conceptual art. Conceptual art, arising out of the anti-art and anti-artist tradition, has overtaking visual art, while offering scant to look at at all. As I’ve said many times before, one medium does not replace another.

      Lastly, I’m with you on digital photography. When I took photography classes in college I did all-nighters in the dark room. But I never even got to work with color because that required much more technology. People are biases against digital photography, and there’s virtue to having old-style negatives, but, as you acknowledge, what you can do with a computer program like Photoshop is superpowers as compared to analogue techniques.

      I don’t know if I cleared up the prejudice against painting in the hi-art cognoscenti or not. Maybe you had a different educational experience. I went into college a painter and ended up doing conceptual art. I had to completely abandon what I really wanted to do, which was make cool and interesting images from my imagination. NOT ALLOWED! Even my first painting teacher at UCLA dismissed my paintings because I sued imagery, and she only considered abstract painting viable.


  3. But what about creating something “rare and valuable” as Robert Genn says. I guess I also want to see the effect of the human hand on a painting. And with digital painting how do you deal with copying?


    1. Do you consider a poem rare and valuable? What makes a poem rare and valuable? It is infinitely copy-able. All you need to do is copy-paste. And does it use the hand?

      You probably haven’t made a serious digital painting yourself or you’d know that, WOO-WEE, hand-eye coordination is much harder when you are not looking at your hand while it’s drawing. if you don’t have hands, how the hell are you going to make a digital painting. It uses the hands extensively.

      When it comes to copying, you mean someone just stealing a jpeg online? Well, that’s a postage-sized sample of the full-sized image, and, no, resizing the image can’t magically put detail there that isn’t. Anyone can copy all my art off my blog all they want, but they have not access to the full-sized originals, which are minimally ten times as large.

      Ah, I get your “rare and valuable thing now”, and that is just a question of scarcity, not quality or artistic value. You are talking about the salable artifact, which music and literature don’t even have, because you are buying a copy that is a book or a CD.

      If a digital painting wants to create scarcity, he or she just needs to make a limited edition, or just one print. Voila! Scarcity!

      Me, I think that’s weak-ass bullshit. Scarcity does not make art any better, just as it doesn’t make an album any better.

      So, the vision of the artist and its realization is the real art whether it uses the hand or not. Digital painting uses the hand — actually both hands — as much or more than traditional art, and may requite a lot more brain power of a sort if one is using a lot of layers, masks, mixing techniques, and so on. Scarcity is bullshit, but can easily be achieved.

      Hope that helps.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!


  4. Well said.

    In my opinion it was not the camera that derailed painting and altered the course of art history, it was making a clear and heavily enforced distinction between Fine and Applied art. Fine art has boxed itself into a corner by defining itself in contrast to Applied art, and therefore inherently skill-less and useless.

    I dropped out of art school for many reasons, but one was the constant criticism that my work was “too concerned with outcomes” “too focused on skill” and “too much like illustration” and therefore “not real art”. I remember a module in which we were supposed to be learning some basic digital skills and I caused particular problems as I had already been using Photoshop for years and my work was considered both “amazing” and “not art”. Yet no one could tell me what art was. Having studied aesthetics as part of the philosophy degree I ended up doing instead of art, I finally learned that modern art essentially aims to be useless, therefore any show of skill or utility is an absolute no no. This, for me, goes a long way to explain the current state of modern art and why artists like myself (primarily digital) will continue to be derided and excluded.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My art school experience was also the stuff of nightmares. It wasn’t just the conceptual art paradigm, which was all the rage, but that coupled with the “social justice/identity politics”. I would only really be taken seriously if I did conceptual work “deconstrucing [my] white male privilege”. Undergrad was alright, and I even got a 10k fellowship, but grad school was sheer hell, and I’ve never been so miserable in my life, and it’s the only time I’ve ever thought I needed counseling (which I didn’t get). Working temp jobs after I graduated was an enormous improvement.

      I don’t mind people doing whatever kind of fine art – though I will shoot down ridiculous stunts like the banana taped to the wall – but the general dismissal of more traditional drawing/painting approaches (as in you actually know how to do it) is what I can’t stand.

      I read your blog post about why you quit art school, and considering you persisted to get a masters in philosophy, that was a very good move. Despite the prejudice against digital art, these days one can learn everything one needs to be an artist cheaply online, from drawing basics to full digital renderings. It’s sad that young adults can’t get the art education they want, in many, many instances. If they don’t go to art school at all, but want to be artists, they will probably have to shelve going to college, assuming they don’t have lots of money. That tends to have it’s own problems, because there’s something to be said for being forced to learn about a broad range of subjects. But then again, I hear college these days is more about indoctrination than education, soooooo, one might be better off just getting a job and workin on art in the evenings. If I could roll back a quarter century, I’d skip grad school.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Contemporary artists need to be deeply immersed in all types of art forms/mediums (traditional and digital); which includes writing, studying, and researching art/literature/art history/theory/philosophy/politics; which includes paying homage to fellow artists by visiting museums/galleries to create anything that is revolutionary……

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Megan:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. I wonder if you think that’s true for any other medium besides “art”?

      I’d tend to agree with you. At least I’ve one way or another covered all those bases. But I might make an exception for “theory” and “revolutionary”.

      “Theory” is a misnomer, because technically the term is used in science to mean a broad explanation that has been rigorously tested and proven (ex., Darwin’s Theory of Evolution or Einsteint’s Theory of Relativity). The “theory” or “critical theory” we encounter in the art world is neither proven, nor in many cases provable. It’s merely notions, suppositions, and ideas, similar to “conspiracy theory”. Worse, while artificially elevating itself with the label “theory”, it presumes to overthrow or replace actual theory or more established knowledge (just like conspiracy theory). Much of it is bullshit, and some is highly toxic bullshit. I’ve had to unlearn most the “theory” that was crammed down my throat in art school.

      Next comes “revolutionary”. There’s this strange belief in contemporary art circles that art needs to be “radical” and “revolutionary”. This traps artists into only working in a narrow band of what they believe are cutting edge practices, and the result if quite often difficult to tell apart from parody. There may be no more need for art to be radical than there is for cuisine to be radical. What it needs to be is … … … drum roll please … … … great! If it is great, it will likely include some innovation and new content. People try to take a shortcut by skipping over greatness and merely doing something different, hence revolutionary, and according to “theory”.

      Consider that the Renaissance was a “rebirth” of Classical Antiquity, coupled with new scientific and other understanding. With one foot firmly lodged in the past, it didn’t represent a radical departure.

      You left out travel and rich personal experience.

      That’s my opinion as of today, anyway.


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