View Full Version : Has Illustration Lost Something?

05 May 2005, 04:25 AM
I have been looking over some of the work of the classic illustraters like Dean Cornwell etc and I cant help but think we have lost something. Most of the modern illustration I see strikes me as being rather cold and stiff. I have to wonder how much of this comes from people switching to digital art? Also it seems that most schools dont do well teaching the basics. I had friends with Master Degrees in arts that could not even draw well. Most of there edecation was all theory. Maybe more schools should give you a classic foundation like pennsylvania academy of fine arts before they let people ever use tha computer:) Any way just didnt have any one to talk to tonight and so I thought I would post this instead:)

Oh and dont get me wrong I love digital art and thats most of what I do myself but I have to think a rock solid classical foundation would make it much better.

05 May 2005, 05:03 AM
Too many people are focusing on digital techniques. They are forgetting about the fundamentals of having their work say something. This is what a famous author called "The unbearable lightness of being syndrome".

05 May 2005, 05:04 AM
Technique can not be master.

05 May 2005, 05:06 AM
Good grounding in Technique frees it does not enslave:)

05 May 2005, 06:12 AM
I have to say that alot of old illustrators and some quite recent, a favourite of mine is early 20th century artist Norman Rockwell who has an amazing oil style and great sense of humour, were amzing at conveying stories and totally had the techniques down. But remember how young digital art is, 10-15 years or so, compared to how long we have been painting? Its the same with any new media, the differences are the initial focus I think, and once they are explored to a degree we remember what we love about illustration and refecouse the new techniques again. some times it is good to have people experimenting with a new media, in this case digital, without alot of preconceptions carried from another media. I think, they will find things and approachs that would otherwise good unoticed and unexplored. I am also going to stay further entrenched on the fence saying that people with a solid classical background will find things that the latter artist might not. I think you need all types experimenting with techniques, effects and outcomes before you can truly begin to look past the media.

As for illustrators being, colder and stiffer, I think that has alot to do with the times, the last 40 odd years the western society has been enamoured with technology and the idea of what is 'modern'. earlier illustration qualities have been almost more about people, or something, I'm having trouble thinking of how to express it! :)

Of course thats just what I reckon, (if anyway could follow any of my ramblings!!)


05 May 2005, 06:53 AM
All you need is :love: .....yes, really.

05 May 2005, 07:44 AM
Sorry for rocking the boat on this one, But I beleave that Digital art has nothing to do with the deterioration of the classical style. The computer is just a tool just like a pencil, oil paints, and everything else used in "classical" illustration.

That being said, I agree that people have to be better educated in the traditional arts. I beleave the problem with education in this day and age is that although computers are a usefull and helpfull tool in fufiling a great illustration, they are an incredably technical tool that require unique approches and techniques that are in addition to what you whould contemporaraly have to do. This in mind, many schools (Includeing my own.) Have programs that are pretty much along two different tracks. One that is concidered the "Fine Art" track at,(Even though they are'nt pressueing "Fine art" beyond the traditional techniques taught along that specific major.) and the Illustration track. The Fine art is taught the traditional way, with little or no effort in teaching computer arts, while the Illustration track does go into digital art and does heavily train students in useing the specific applications. The problem with the technical track is that becuase for people that never painted in photoshop or any form of digital media before, there is ALOT of technical stuff to learn. (Working in Layers, Makeing brushes, Learning what all the tools do, Alpha channels, etc.) What often happens is that these technical classes cut into the classes that are geared twards teaching you the very specific techniques to put movement and soul into illustrations. Simply because in a school where you can only have X amount of classes before your concidered to have earned a certificate, BFA, or whatever, unfortuantly the cuts come here, but in all honesty its the only logical (and unfortunate) thing to cut out of a basic education, because you need to learn the mediums and the basic techniques (Fig drawing, perspective, porportion, anatomy, value, weight, scale, ect) before you take the technical computer classes, and becuase there is only so many classes when your pressueing a degree, if you want to learn digital painting, the classes that teach advanced techniques like movement, gesture, emotion, and the like are usualy pushed asside to give you room to learn the programs. There simply is just not enough classes for you to grasp everything about illustration + learn the digital medium tools. It just takes to much time to get accustomed to photoshop and painter.

Now this is'nt nessesarily the programs fault, its just that digital artists spent so much time with getting to know the tools, that I've noticed that alot of technique has suffered. BUT there are a handfull of illustrators that do it beautifully, despite the digital media. Its probably becuase many of these people take the time after going through school, to educate themselves in iether the digital techniques or the traditional techniques (depending on what educational track you came from.) Because if you are producing stuff for commercial illustration, its almost a requirement these days to be well versed in digital techniques. Sadly, I see many people graduateing out of college with Illustration degrees with a heavy leaning on digital artwork, but then never re-invest in continueing their education past school. I've noticed that many have the mentality that once your out of school, and you have the job, there is no reason to go back and learn older or to the completely ignorant, "Out dated" techniques. This mentality is what I beleave is causeing the overall quality of art on the digital end to degrade and become as static and ridged as it is. Sadly, many people are quick to blame the media before the artist. It's not entirely the artists fault, they just need to start to self motivate themselves to learn more about traditional illustration in order to realy push their digital work.

whew, sorry for the insanely long post. did'nt think I could ramble on that much about this.

05 May 2005, 05:40 AM
The problem with digital art is that up to this point it hasn't been taught by guys like Dean Cornwell, Rockwell or Leyendecker. Those guys learned their craft from master artists. Nowadays, digital artists only learn the tech side of things (either from other tech oriented artists on the web, or at some cg trade school), but forget to learn about design, composition, values, etc... The day that photoshop painting is taught with a nude model and more observation of nature is encouraged and required, is when things will start to change.

The best digital artists out there (which are just a handful) are by far those who have learned the principles of design, have their roots in traditional training, and possess good knowledge of art history and past master artists. The ones who draw their inspiration and education from pop culture, comics, cg software, and video games almost always end up at the bottom of the art foodchain.

Schools nowadays don't prepare artists for the real world either (there are exceptions, of course). Aspiring artists really need to do a lot of homework before enrolling in art school or they'll end up in an overpriced tradeschool that will hurt them rather than help them.

BTW, digital tools do not create bad art. Bad artists do. Just look at the work of Craig Mullins (who isn't good because of his knowledge of photoshop, but rather for his profound education in industrial design and a lot of hard work, i guess). The difference with a guy like him and most digital artists is that he doesn't need digital tools to create good work.

05 May 2005, 06:14 AM
Ariel's point is well taken here: how many digital artists haul their box, screen & tablet to where an object exists in that good olde real world so they can actually look at what they're trying to model/paint/etc...?

If 90% + reliance on photographic source hasn't changed illustrational style, then I'm Yoda.

05 May 2005, 06:23 AM
Good grounding in Technique frees it does not enslave

Your vision frees you not Technique. Technique is just the nice piece of clothing over your concept. Work hard at having something to say as you do developing your Technique.
That is my advice to all artist.

05 May 2005, 06:54 AM
Ariel's point is well taken here: how many digital artists haul their box, screen & tablet to where an object exists in that good olde real world so they can actually look at what they're trying to model/paint/etc...?

If 90% + reliance on photographic source hasn't changed illustrational style, then I'm Yoda.

Well, if it counts for anything, I don't know a single artist who paints outside the studio in the "field" ... except maybe some boys (literally) in "art enrichment courses" ... maybe I am wrong ?

05 May 2005, 09:29 AM
personly I think we havent really changed that muchl, its just the internet. Before the internet the only stuff you could really see was in magazines you bought or whatever, so only the top notch artists would get published. Now with the internet anyone can dispaly their art that wants too, so you just see alot more beginners artoworks and what not then you would never has seen 10 years ago.

But I do agree with alot of these schools, anyone can go and get a degree that has the $$$. Lots of these schools won't fail you no matter how bad your art is because they would make less.

05 May 2005, 09:41 AM
Ireland is completely different in that way- all college tuition is free, so in order to pick out students, you need to send in your portfolio and the top students get picked. Most people take a year to build up their portfolio before submitting it to art school. So, money isn't an issue here, I think it's mainly because people are trying to do 'cool' new things, but they haven't mastered it yet. (It takes years of practice to be completely comfortable and experienced within a style)

So....that's my own opinion. Styles are just moving too fast for people to catch up on. What we need to do is slow down and look at the bigger picture, then work with the bigger picture, not all the little substyles.

05 May 2005, 11:59 AM
I agree with anotherhell that we are seeing a lot more beginner artist out there, but this is not the only source. A need to attract the consumer with something new and flashy. (The work does not have to be great it just has to stand out next to the 300 other items it is around.) Volume of industry has increased, (more games, more movies, and more publication). Short cuts that the artist take to make a deadline or just to move onto the next work,like relying on photography. Finally, styles have changed and graphic design has really influeced them.

05 May 2005, 10:09 PM
(deleted post)

05 May 2005, 02:37 AM
Your vision frees you not Technique. Technique is just the nice piece of clothing over your concept. Work hard at having something to say as you do developing your Technique.
That is my advice to all artist.

If by technique you mean foundation and fundamentals, then yes, it does free yourself to actually express something. Without it, none of the best painters/illustrators in history would've been able to create the pieces of art that they did. Having something to say is important, but only when you have the means to do so. Art is a language, and untill you learn that language expressing yourself is really hard, if not impossible (and i'm speaking of traditional painting/illustration, not performance/installation/post-modern, abstract, etc...).

If you want to write poems, you learn grammar first. If you want to illustrate, you need to learn how to paint and draw first.

Having said this, if you're all technique, but can't tell a story or present an interesting concept, you end up being generic and uninteresting as an artist.

05 May 2005, 05:35 PM
I agree with you Ariel. They both go hand in hand. I have notice more artist are focusing on technique rather than stories.

05 May 2005, 11:10 PM
I think alot of the coldness and stoicness tht is found in alot of digtal art today is due to the fact that darn near ANYONE can get their hands on the tools and tutorials on how to do this. Yes, there are loads of people who can render something and make it gorgeous but there are less people who have the "soul" of an artists and who can make the viewer feel what they want them to feel when viewing their work. There is a difference in reading a tutorial online and doing something like it and having a mentor looking over your shoulder.

In the days of traditional illustration, people only really got the see the finished products of master artists who worked for years under another master artist to get where he/she was. Nowadays, anyone fancying themselves as an artist can whip something up digitally (not to make it sound easier, cuz it isn't..alot of beginners think it IS but that's a whole other subject) and have it come off as emotionless and boring. These artists have the MEANS to make a work of art, but they do not have the heart.

Many great rendering skills are lost on people who either follow the crowd (this includes "abstract" artists...not that I don't like them or anything ;) ) or just don't have the "vision" that a true artists must have.

05 May 2005, 12:12 AM
I think that people get the perception that digital art is "cold or lifeless" simply because you're exposed to more art by people who aren't at a professional's skill level on the internet than you are in real life. I really think it has less to do with the digital medium and more to do with the exposure that the internet provides for people at all experience levels.

05 May 2005, 03:13 PM
After reading over all the posts I think I agree with the ones that said it has a lot to do with the number or artists. Its true in the past there were only a small fraction of the artists there our now. Its also true that we see many artists that do not have a solid footing in the arts and do not understand color theory, composition etc. And I think the finaly thing is many of these artist start with photoshop and the airbrush tool so it tends to make a lot of the work look the same. Probobly more going on besides but that seems to explain most of it.

I guese people need to work on getting a better foundation in the visual arts:)

05 May 2005, 12:23 PM
The turn of th ecentury artists where hired to tell a story and that they did. If the art is great but the mesage is lost then it dosen't really matter. Like in animation its' all about the story.
Example is have alook at all the architectural work you see on the internet right now. They all look the same. High Realism, but there are no "happy accidents", no people, no story. This is what is missing with digital work. There is no natural change in hand movement when painting or drawing. We have attempted to replicate this with Wacom Tablets but in the end your eye is missing the human touch. The mistakes. And that is what makes up style. Don't get me wrong I love digital work. And I am still strying to find my "Style" in 3d. But when I see great hand painted work or drawings I long for the traditional. It is faster and way less expensive. And takes less time. But it doesn't have the best tool ever " undo".

05 May 2005, 02:48 PM
You know what - some artists simply don't fancy the "classical" style. People will employ what they feel comfortable with.

I have a very strange style - Betty Edwards mixed with Cam Kennedy and Masamune Shirow. :lightbulb If someone was to say that I'm a crap artist because I don't render in the "classical" style - I have to say that is because I am not confortable with that certain style.

Different folks, different tastes. :thumbsup:

05 May 2005, 03:14 AM
the technique of cg is challenging, and a lot of people simply enjoy that challenge on its own terms. certainly many of the people in these forums, including myself, quite often simply enjoy the challenge of rendering something that doesnt really exist, and making it apparently come to life. that is so novel, and the process involved is so lengthy and thought consuming, that it can be quite easy to lose sight of the bigger picture, of exactly what it is you are doing, or why you are doing it.

which is probably true of any medium, but in cg, you always get to re learn it again in 2 years, and so you never really acheive the level of mastery you need to feel comfortable enough to just take off in unfettered exploration. honestly i think in a few more years the tools will be "good enough" for me, and i will take a vacation from updating for awhile and just make art.

also, in the past, to even see an artist, they had to get enough attention for their work to get put out in a magazine or something. any idiot can put up a web page. so i think in the past we just didnt see a lot of bad art that remained sketches in someones attic.

basically i dont think the media is hurting art, just changing it, as every invention since they got past rubbing charcoal on stone cave walls has done.

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