The Digital Divide

I’ve been wanting to write this for quite a while. Cleansing of the soul? Maybe. More just to try and clearly explain how I do what I do and how I see it. As it turns out, it’s a hard thing to write about without coming off as ungrateful (I’m not) or as whining (not that either) or as too sensitive (at 73, not that much).

When I’m asked about the kind of art I make, I tell people it’s illustration. Invariably, the next question I get is if my work is hand or computer drawn. And therein lies the point of this conversation. The implication is that the computer is somehow doing all of the work from conceptualization to completion and that, folks, just isn’t how it works.

Yes, there’s a computer involved that drives my electronic drawing board but it doesn’t do any of the thinking or the visualizing or the drawing. All of that’s on me. True, I no longer use pens and markers as I once did, these days it’s a stylus on a 27″ Wacom tablet. But the art is still be created by me, by hand.

To be sure, the change from analog to digital has not come easily for someone steeped in the culture of traditional mediums. Since starting formal art training at around age 8, over decades of a creative life I’ve worked in pastels (my first medium), watercolors, collage, oil paints, pens, pencils, and markers always trying to make the art I saw then, and that I still see now, in my head. And while there are drawbacks to working in a digital environment—the subtle shadows and delicate shading so easy to render on paper are not so simple to achieve digitally but the benefits of accuracy and detail are important considerations when your subject matter is cars and cars…in very fine detail at that.

The point of all of this is, to some, because I now work in the digital medium and my focus is automotive, it somehow makes my art less. Clearly I don’t see it that way. The computer that drives my driving board is just a tool and no different to me than a palette full of paint, a box of pastels, or a bin full of markers and it no more “creates” the art than those traditional tools do. At the end of the day my illustrations are still the product of my imagination and still completely reliant on my artistic skills, however they may be rendered, just as they have always been.

To me, I’m just an artist. Not a digital artist or an automotive fine artist or a digital illustrator any more than Turner was a maritime oil painter or Bonheur was an equine colorist. An artist. No more, no less simply creating art, like thousands of artists before me, that excites my imagination and inspires my soul. My subjects just happen to be cars. Something I very much enjoy drawing.