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Digital Defense

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Digital Defense

Recently, while at work, I was stopped in the hallway by a fellow coworker. He had heard that I was an artist and was wondering if I did portraits... or to be more specific... caricatures. I replied that sadly, no... I did neither. I told him that what I do is much different. As I was en route to something important, I was unable to explain in any detail what I do creatively. Instead, I told him that I have a website which displays my artwork. He expressed interest, so I wrote my address on a napkin and handed it to him. I honestly didn't put any thought into it after walking away. Over the years, I have had many people express interest in my art on the rare occasions that I have brought it up, and rarely did they have any real intention of following up with an actual visit to my site. You can well imagine my surprise when a few days later, this very same coworker stopped me in the hallway once again...

"I went to your website" he said.
"Did you really?" I replied, with a very genuine look of surprise on my face.
"Yeah, I did. You have alot of HANDS in your artwork... did your realize that?"
"Yes. I have noticed that. What a great observation by the way. Thank you for looking."
It was at this point that he kind of cocked an eyebrow, tipped his head back, and hesitantly pointed out another observation that he had made. He noticed that my work was done on the COMPUTER. I told him that he was correct. He then gave me a look and began to say "Myeah... then you didn't really MAKE them..."
Now, before I tell you how I responded, it should be known that I have long, long ago let go of being defensive over my chosen medium. Some people may take such things personally, but I honestly do not. It is only a matter of people not understanding my medium. Back to the story:
I looked at him and started to chuckle knowingly...
"Ah, I see that you are one of the misinformed. You mistakenly believe that what I do is a matter of a few points and clicks and VOILA! ART!"
"Well... that pretty much IS the way of it... right?" he asked with a look of skeptical disbelief.
"Let's just say that many of my images... many of the works that you just looked at on my website... took me over 30 hours to make. That would be an awful lot of pointing and clicking wouldn't you say?"

Once again, I did not have the time to discuss the matter further. When I left him, I do not think that his opinion had really been swayed, and that did not bother me in the least. Nor does it now. However, it did make me think of the matter once again. I used to think about it fairly often in fact. Many have looked down upon my chosen medium for quite some time. In the eyes of many, digital artwork is not acknowledged in any way that could be considered positive. It is easy to see why when you think about it. On a computer, I do not have to prepare a canvas. Nor must I mix my color palette. I have an entirely different set of tools... and no clean up. I use multiple programs for multiple purposes... each one as important as the last... and each one requiring years of dedication to master. It has taken many years for me to get to the point where I am now. Much like painting... it takes time to become good at it.

I think much of the misconceptions are derived from the way we have been brought up to view computers. Many of us older folks grew up with sci-fi movies and shows that depict computers as all powerful entities that can accomplish virtually anything they are commanded to. "Computer: paint me a landscape." Beep, boop, beep bop... (( robotic voice )) "Here is your painting... is there anything else master?"

In the real world, computers do not work in such a way. They only do what we make them to do. I know that my own particular computer has no voice command allowing me to order virtually anything I want from it. If I tell it to create a bizarre, vaguely disquieting, surreal image with a touch of social commentary as it's primary focus... I will be no closer to finishing the image than if I were to simply shout that command out of my window. Sci-fi channel be damned... I have to do it all manually.

Computer novices and those who may not be overly interested in art are not the only ones that I have known to possess such misconceptions regarding my chosen medium. Traditional artists have been thumbing their noses at digital art for as long as it has existed. Personally, I think it is rather silly. It is sort of like athletes of different sports beating their chests and saying "I am more of an athlete than those of OTHER sports". A basketball player thumbs his nose at a soccer player. A soccer player thumbs his nose at a football player. A football player thumbs his nose at a mixed martial artist etc. etc.

It really IS silly when you think about it.

At the end of the day, what really matters is what is created. As artists, we all have our own unique things that we bring to the table. Some of us have been doing it for quite some time, while others are at the beginnings of their own artistic journeys. Some of us create things that are compelling. Some of us do not. It really is in the eye of the beholder. The tools that we use to create the art within us are simply a means to an end. What difference if it is a paint brush, or a digital pen and mouse? If the finished product causes people to pause for even a moment in their own daily struggles just to stop and look... well... it must be art.

As always, thank you for taking the time to visit. Thank you for the kind words of support. Mostly, thank you for being there... wherever 'there' may be.

-John Alexander