Digital art is where the artist’s soul merges with the boundless potential of technology, painting the future with pixels of passion and innovation.

— Barney Davey

In the past few decades, the art world has witnessed a revolution that has expanded the definition of art, as much as art can be defined. Digital art, born from the rapid advancement of technology, has established itself as not just a passing trend but a legitimate and dynamic medium of its own.  

I have previously posted How to Use Digital Art Tools for Fine Artists: 7 Reasons to Start Now to help stimulate your thinking and attitude toward digital art.

For traditional fine artists, whose training and passions are in mediums like painting, sculpture, and printmaking, this rise of digital art presents both opportunities and challenges. A prime and motivating example is found in this article: David Hockney – Old Master Using Digital Art.

But should fine artists view this digital takeover with enthusiasm or trepidation? Let’s dive into the current state of digital art and what it means for traditional artists. 

Digital Art: The New Frontier 

Digital art isn’t drastically different from traditional art’s essence and purpose. Both serve to express, provoke, and communicate. The difference lies in the tools used. While conventional art employs physical materials, digital art relies on software, tablets, and computers.  

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy

 

 

Digital art is gaining immense popularity and commercial value in today’s market. For instance, NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) have brought digital art to the forefront of contemporary collecting, with some pieces selling for millions. This new art market has generated interest from seasoned collectors and new enthusiasts. 

Digital Art: An Advancement, not a Replacement 

Gone are the days when an artist’s dexterity was confined solely to the gripping strength and control of their hands. Today, thanks to the advent of digital art, painters can simulate brushstrokes, sculptors can render 3D models, and illustrators can manipulate lines—all through the powerful potential of digital tools.

Despite digital art’s rise and organic reach, some traditional artists remain uncertain about its compatibility and authenticity. This article sheds light on how digital art does not seek to dethrone traditional methodologies but rather magnifies, enhances, and brings out the best in them. 

Opportunities for Traditional Artists 

  • Broadened Horizons: Digital art offers new tools and mediums for artists to experiment with. It’s like adding more colors to one’s palette or discovering a new technique in sculpture. The digital realm offers endless creative possibilities that complement and elevate traditional skills. 
  • Increased Accessibility: Artists can now share their work with a global audience at the click of a button. Platforms like Instagram, ArtStation, and Behance make gaining exposure and attracting potential buyers or collaborators easier than ever. 
  • Diversified Revenue Streams: Embracing digital art can open up new revenue opportunities, from selling prints online to breaking into the NFT market. Artists can also offer digital download tutorials or even collaborate on digital projects. 

Challenges Faced by Traditional Artists 

There are many valid reasons to be wary of digital art. But hating it or rejecting it won’t change the fact that it’s here and only going to grow in importance. I also write a monthly column for Art World News magazine. The May article is about how understanding how to engage Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Generation Z is critical for art galleries to remain relevant in a rapidly changing market with diverse buyer preferences. Young people’s lives are entirely enmeshed in the digital age, so it’s natural they would embrace digital art that older generations don’t get or appreciate.

Aside from significant generational differences, these are legitimate concerns:

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy

 

 

  • Technological Learning Curve: For those used to brush and canvas, transitioning to a stylus and screen can be daunting. The vast array of software options, each with its own learning curve, can be overwhelming. 
  • Market Oversaturation: The ease of sharing digital art also means the online world is saturated with artwork, making it challenging for artists to stand out and gain recognition. 
  • Perceived Value: Traditional art has always had a tangible value—you’re buying a one-of-a-kind piece. With digital art, especially with the proliferation of copies and prints, there’s often a debate over its ‘true’ value. 
Quote: Digital art is where the soul of the artist merges with the boundless potential of technology, painting the future with pixels of passion and innovation. - Barney Davey

Embrace or Fear? 

So, what’s the verdict? Should fine artists embrace digital art or fear it? 

The answer isn’t binary. 

Embrace it because it’s a testament to the evolving nature of art. It’s an opportunity to learn, grow, and expand your creative horizons. By integrating digital techniques, artists can remain relevant and versatile, even for promotional purposes or hybrid creations. 

However, it’s also crucial to recognize the challenges. Artists should not feel compelled to switch entirely to digital. It’s essential to stay true to one’s passion and craft. The key is to find a balance that enhances one’s art without compromising its essence. 

As such, the rise of digital art is not a threat to fine art but an expansion of the artistic universe. It’s a new chapter in the rich tapestry of art history, and traditional artists have the exciting choice of being part of this evolution. Instead of fearing change, let’s embrace the possibilities and mold them in ways that enrich our artistic journey. 

Replicating Traditional Art Methods Through Digital Tools 

The evolution of digital tools and technologies has been impressive in its ability to mirror traditional art techniques. Whether artists are painting, drawing, or sculpting, the contemporary landscape is teeming with digital alternatives that strive to reproduce the tactile experience of conventional mediums and add new dimensions, as seen in AR and VR technology.  

Hardware tools are prominent in this digital transition, from high-end $20,000 Wacom tablets to $27 Huion graphic tablets and Apple’s iPad with the Apple Pencil. These devices give artists a more hands-on and intuitive experience, allowing pressure sensitivity, tilt recognition, and a paper-like feel. They enhance the creative process, making digital art feel remarkably close to using real brushes or charcoal. While the expensive tablets are so sexy and fun, you can start on your iPhone practically free.

Moreover, software platforms such as Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, and Procreate are pushing boundaries by introducing features that imitate the nuances of natural brush strokes, varying pen pressures, and the subtleties of different art materials. Collectively, these advancements blur the lines between traditional and digital realms and open new avenues for artists to explore their craft. 

By setting the control at your fingertips, these tools can create a realistic sketching experience, complete with the depth and expression of the traditional method. For example, ‘Brushes Redux,’ a popular iPad app, allows you to mix colors and simulate brush strokes, emulating the physical canvas experience in a digital landscape. 

Illuminating the Digital Canvas: Successful Digital Artists 

Seeing the potential of technology, many talented artists have successfully plunged into the digital abyss to craft a unique digital identity.  

Take, for instance, UK-based visual artist Aaron Koblin, who specializes in data and digital technologies. His combination of technology, data, and art to create captivating visuals has received acclaim. This unique style has attracted notable collaborations, including Google’s Creative Lab and Radiohead’s “House of Cards” music video.  

Rui Alexandre Gonçalves, better known by his stage name Archan Nair, is a Portuguese artist who has succeeded in the digital realm. Canon, Nike, and Sony are just a few companies that adore his distinctive style. Nair uses software to create symbolic and spiritual, multilayered pieces on the human condition. 

Other Trailblazers in Digital Art 

Many talented artists have embraced the possibilities within digital artistry for enviable success. One such artist is Mike Winkelmann, popularly known as Beeple—one of the pioneers of NFT (non-fungible token) art. His composite piece, “Everydays: The First 5000 Days,” was sold for a staggering $69 million at Christie’s, proving that digital art holds a robust place in the market.  

David Mascha, a Vienna-based artist, is another stellar example of a successful digital artist who has carved out a niche in ad agencies, magazine front covers, and branding campaigns with his unique abstract style replete with vivid colors and intricate details. 

Demystifying Monetization: Selling Digital Art in the Contemporary Art Market 

Digital art has a booming marketplace that operates through digital files, NFTs, and even physical print reproductions—all valuable assets for artists to diversify their income stream. 

How to Sell Digital Art and Turn Your Creativity into Profit

Thanks to the latest technological developments, digital art is a valuable asset that can be sold in various ways. You can sell your art directly to collectors or through online marketplaces.

Selling Digital Files and NFTs 

Digital art can be sold as digital files through Etsy, DeviantArt, and Saatchi Art. Digital artists can also trade their artwork as NFTs—virtual assets stored on blockchain networks for increased security and authenticity. These NFTs can be sold on platforms like OpenSea, Rarible, or SuperRare. 

With platforms like Etsy, DeviantArt, and Saatchi Art, artists can sell high-quality digital files of their artwork. These platforms’ convenient selling policies allow artists to reach a global audience without the hurdle of shipping physical art pieces. 

Physical Products 

Digital art can easily transcend into the tangible realm, too. Digital fine art printers can reproduce digital art on canvas, thus rendering it as physical artwork. There are advanced 3D printers that can bring to life intricate digital designs in sculptural forms, pushing the boundaries of how we perceive and interact with art. 

Converting Digital Art into Physical Products 

Digital art does not always stay digital. It can be turned into high-quality, sellable physical products. Digital fine art printers can reproduce digital art on canvas, making it nearly indistinguishable from a traditionally painted piece.

Furthermore, introducing 3D printing technology to digital artistry can create genuine, touchable sculptures based on digitally designed models. Artists can, therefore, give physical form to their digital creations, thus literally transforming bytes into beauty. 

Bridging the Gap: How Digital Art Complements Traditional Methods 

Art has been at humanity’s center stage for generations, shaping cultures, influencing societies, and adding color and expression to our lives. However, like other fields, it has seen a paradigm shift with the advent of technology. Digital art, a revolutionary force, has emerged, melding technology, creativity, and tradition into one yet causing no small stir among art purists. Digital art harmoniously aligns with age-old art methods, highlights successful digital artists, and details ways to market digital art. 

Digital and Traditional Art Methods: A Marriage of Innovations 

Digital tools have achieved an astounding feat by evoking the tactile experience of traditional art in the digital realm. Respected software like Adobe Photoshop, Corel Painter, and Procreate offers many tools that mimic analog media’s look, feel, and texture. They offer an array of simulated brushes, charcoals, watercolors, and even layer effects that would naturally occur on a physical canvas.  

Digital art platforms do not confine themselves to mimicking traditional techniques. They innovate, evolve, and provide an immersive, transformative experience that can be revolutionary for an artist. Take, for instance, virtual reality painting. Google’s Tilt Brush VR application allows artists to create sketches in 3D space—an experience impossible in traditional art. Similarly, augmented reality injects a new life into artwork, turning flat images into 3D, interactive experiences. 

Drawing Together: A Look to the Future 

Art mirrors the essence, dilemma, and beauty of its time, and digital art is a testament to this statement. It is a multicolored thread that weaves tradition and innovation into one dynamic fabric. However, artists need to embrace digital tools’ benefits to harness this beautiful paradox.  

Technological progress continuously furnishes digital artists with new platforms, canvases, and brush shapes, expanding their potential horizons. In this dynamic digital world, a promising market is also present. Thus, digital art is not a foe of traditional methodology; it’s an ally that augments creativity, emphasizing an artist’s freedom to create, explore, and earn.  

It’s crucial to remember that valuation is subjective and differs from one viewer to another. Whether it’s a sumptuously painted canvas or a magnificently designed pixelated portrait, value lies in the eyes of the beholder. Let us seek to elevate art in all its forms because, in the end, each artwork, physical or digital, carries a piece of the artist’s soul. One is just a different expression of the other. So, let diversity thrive, let creativity intensify, and let art, in its splendid forms, touch our lives, our hearts, and our souls. 

Conclusion 

The narrative that digital art is a lesser form of traditional methods is passé. Technology has empowered artists with tools to broaden their creativity, expand their audience, and adopt innovative ways to monetize their craft. It’s now, more than ever, that artists need to adapt and familiarize themselves with the boundless opportunities the digital canvas offers, contributing towards an inclusive, diverse, and vibrant art landscape.  

Monet Expo: The Immersive Experience

Have you attended, seen the television ads, or watched the YouTube videos for the expo? It’s a phenomenal use of traditional and modern digital art. Let it be a bridge to a new attitude about digital art.

I recognize it is scary, disruptive, and can cause negative reactions and anger, even just by discussing digital art and its impact. But none of that changes the fact that it’s here and growing in use and popularity.

Embrace the new without letting go of the old. Art, in any form or medium, communicates emotions and ideas that can’t be confined to a single technique or method. It’s a canvas of exploration, after all. 

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  • Cliff Kearns says:

    Great summary Barney! I do get the sense however that the markets are split as well. My question is: Will it ultimately result in the traditionally made ‘Original’ becoming more valuable as it fades into the sunset? … in say 100 years??

    • Thanks for your comment and question the value of “originals” vs digital art in the future. I don’t have an answer or a guess. The marketplace votes with their pocketbook, especially on subjective content like fine art. I wouldn’t let such things alter how I make or market my art in 2023.

  • As I often say, It’s not the medium that matters; it’s where the art comes from that matters.

    Digital and A.I. are merely another media.

  • I heard on NPR last week that NFTs are now worth around $10. I thought, “Yey, right about what they should be worth.” And there is absolutely no way I could ever use digital means to make the hand-appliqued fabric pictures I’ve loved to create for the past 25+ years.

    • Thanks for your comments and observations. It’s going to take time, but NFTs and AI tools are not going away. Part of what makes your art unique is it is handcrafted. It will help it retain value against digitally rendered art in the eyes of those who are your best prospects for buyers and fans. In the meantime, as said in the post, it’s a good thing to at least be aware of digital art.

  • Hello Everyone, This is a Great article. I love how you present AI.

    I have been a visual artist for nearly 30 years. Wow, that makes me one of the elders even in Hippie circles. I studied in Munich for seven years, which was a rigorous, and endless confrontation with my professors about what I wanted to say.
    I think it is about the message and not the medium, there is a lot of unfortunate work in AI. It hurts. But it is the responsibility of an artist not to stop there and expand further.
    I like to fly under the radar and prefer being a starving artist. Every time I think I’m out they pull me back in…
    I love my Hasselblad but I love AI too. What’ a man got to do?

    • Keep doing what you are doing. Never stop learning and creating. It’s okay to be as successful as you choose. Your life and career are not competitions.

  • I’ve been using Midjourney for over a year now. I’m an oil painter, and use it to create my references for painting. I was a sceptic at first, but then discovered that when I didn’t have to wonder where I would find reference for any particular painting, it opened up a huge hole in creativity. I used to be bound mostly by what I could photograph with a camera, or paint directly.
    Now I can paint almost anything I can imagine.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s good to know you have struck a happy medium (Pardon the pun.) with AI and traditional art.

  • https://www.edensart.com/digital-fine-art-primer

    IT’S NOT THE MEDIUM; IT’S WHERE THE ART COMES FROM THAT MATTERS.

    Let me ask you a question that will provide a clear perspective on art media. If you’ve finished a thrilling novel, a page-turner, or a story that you connected with, would it matter whether the author wrote it on a computer, a typewriter, by longhand, or dictated the story into a recorder? It’s the content that matters, not the method of transcription. The same principle applies to a painting and the artist.

    A creator goes beyond the limits of working outside the box, realizing there is no box. I am not the object of a modifier—that is, I am not a digital artist, nor an oil artist, or a pastel artist, and so on. When I paint, that is my medium; when I write, that is my medium; when I walk the doggies, that is my medium. You get the picture.

  • Thank you for your article giving a balanced view across the traditional vs digital spaces. Originally as a traditional darkroom photographer, I learned to embrace digital photography quite late in 2017. I did have an issue with digital art but have come to embrace that too and in my opinion, digital art separates the wheat from the chaff, serving to increase the value of original art. True collectors do not collect digital art unless it’s in the NFT space which I do not consider art but rather archived transactions. If you value your work, then create and promote it with equal value and collectors will embrace your story.

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