Friday, January 13, 2006

The digital challenge
I used to be a bit sniffy about digital imaging but the preparation of movies and animations in the lead up to Christmas 2005 has made me change my mind, at least in part. I’d always felt that painterly and drawing processes had as their end result hand crafted artefacts which had value because of their individual character. Any technology which came between the moving hand making marks and the support on which the marks were made was a recipe for disaster.

This was perhaps an extreme attitude but it was formed by the growing use of digital technology to produce GicleĆ© Prints, a pretentious name for a scanned reproduction of a painting - typically a watercolour. The practice of signing and numbering these is a piece of nonsense aimed at adding value to a reproduction which is really worth very little. There was a good practical reason why etchers and engravers produced signed and numbered editions – over time the plate degraded but with a digitally stored image there is no reason why the print run is theoretically infinite. Furthermore when you buy an etching or engraving you are purchasing a hand crafted artefact which because of the way it was made is likely to be subtly different from others in the edition – it therefore has real value

However digital imaging is here to stay and we artists have to learn how to make creative use of the new technology. I find the current software great fun to use and the results are easy to share over the internet. At the moment I’m exploring ways of using Corel Painter Essentials 2 with a Wacom tablet. It’s great fun simulating pencil and chalk marks, and brush strokes on screen I’m not sure though whether digital drawings can be put in permanent printed form or whether they should remain as strings of bytes on some form of storage medium until sent to a computer screen.

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