Digital transformation has altered the landscape in so many ways, particularly for creatives of all shapes and sizes. With the art of painting, it could be argued that technology would have no quarter, given its ‘pure’ reputation and ancient lineage. However, without silkscreen printing, there would have been no Andy Warhol and without portable paint tubes that allowed them to paint outside, would the Impressionists have been able to create such vivid works?
The truth is that art and tech have been dancing around each other for decades now, ever since the invention of the personal computer. Indeed, anyone who grew up in the 90s will undoubtedly remember booting up Windows 95 and heading straight for the Microsoft Paint program and whilst that rudimentary piece of software might seem antiquated by today’s standards, it did set a precedent for the programs that would evolve over the next 20 years or so.
Digital transformation in art
Of course, it could be argued that photography had just as large an impact on the world of painting as digital technology has today. But whereas the camera presented just one new avenue for artists to express themselves, the digital realm is potentially limitless.
Digital technology hasn’t replaced the artist’s toolbox; it’s expanded it so that artists are not limited to using paint anymore. Now they can paint with lights and lasers using the latest high-tech gear from RS. They can also paint with pixels and can use virtual reality to paint real-time in three dimensions. Indeed, VR apps such as Google’s Tilt Brush have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a place for digital in the legitimate art landscape. This is a tool that allows painters to utilize their classical skills in a modern manner that sits somewhere in between the canvas paintings of yore and the digital backdrops of today.
Whilst we’ve already established that many modern painters have turned to virtual reality to scratch their digital itch, many more have found the link between the old ways and the new ways to be literal digital painting. This involves using a graphic tablet and a bespoke pen or brush (stylus) to draw directly onto a digital surface and have those movements tracked 1-1 by a piece of software.
This software is typically something such as Adobe Photoshop, which itself has become something of a game-changer in the art world and beyond. The great thing about digital painting is that any skilled painter should theoretically be able to pick it up in minutes. Your work can then be manipulated digitally, so you effectively get the best of both worlds.
There are a number of major museums and galleries around the world that have taken the opportunities offered by digital technology and have run with it. The Smithsonian in the US, for example, has really embraced digital technology with many top exhibits.
There are even some galleries and museums (such as The National Gallery in London) embracing the rise in smartphone technology by creating augmented reality experiences that bridge the gap between what guests are seeing on their phones and what they’re seeing on their screens. A bold new world indeed and just one reason why the slow march of technology will never erase the art of painting. It will, however, change it. Hopefully for the better.