Computers Hampering Traditional Drawing?


I’m a big computer nerd. I spoke at length to my sweet patient wife yesterday about Apple’s new Boot Camp and, God love her, she pretended to be really interested.

I use Photoshop daily, I’ve dabbled in Corel Painter and I’m currently slogging my way through some GoLive training DVDs. But apparently as much as I rely on and enjoy using my tech toys, all those hours doodling in study hall served me well.

There’s a story over at CNN today about how art students’ basic drawing skills are lagging, perhaps due to more time with a mouse than a marker.

“I see an increasing passivity on the part of students,” says Marc Treib, a University of California, Berkeley architecture professor who hosted a recent conference on the state of drawing in an electronic age.

Computer graphics allow artists to move briskly. By contrast, drawing on paper can be frustrating, forcing concentration, introspection and revision as an idea or vision takes shape. The process hones essential skills and sensitivity and personality that make artwork unique, instructors say.

I gotta say I agree, especially on the personality angle. I spent years refining my happy accidents into what I hope is a very personal style of drawing.

While art instructors may lament drawing skills of today’s students, they are not dissuading students from developing digital skills. The trick is to improve drawing to develop a solid foundation for digital skills, says Charles Pyle, director of the School of Illustration at the Academy of Art University.

“If you don’t draw and think well, your art career will be short and unpleasant,” Pyle says. “The basics serve the digital end and give the kids a vastly superior portfolio when they leave here.”

Ding ding ding! I think you’d be insane to not use the wonderful new tools available, but great tools do not make great art by themselves.

I’m reminded of fellow musicians in college so crazed by the pursuit of the ultimate horn, mouthpiece, etc… that they never really mastered a basic embouchure or decent breathing. (I have a Bachelors in jazz trombone for those of you playing at home.) Good, even professional, equipment is a good start, but that’s all it is.

Apparently, though, not all is lost…

Still, traditional drawing by itself can pay off. While students are shelving sketchbooks for laptops loaded with graphics software, collectors are snapping up drawings.

“There is a high demand for works on paper,” says Alex Rotter, a vice president of the contemporary art department at Sotheby’s in New York. “Some people prefer the sensibility of a drawing.”

Price is another reason for the demand. Drawings are cheap compared with paintings and sculptures. Drawings by up-and-coming artists can be bought for about $1,000.

Drawing is easy on the pocketbooks of artists as well. Materials are inexpensive and it does not require much studio space, reasons an increasing number of artists are concentrating on creating works on paper.

See, just when markets appear bleakest…

Anyway, I’m not one of these guys that will tell you “I draw all the time! I’m just compelled to doodle! I always have a pad of paper with me for when I get inspired!” I pretty much just doodle while I’m on the phone any more, but it’s valuable time spent; like playing in a mud puddle, or singing in the shower, or just daydreaming.

Hmm, now that I say that, I gotta go waste/invest some time with my coffee on my patio.

See some computer cartoons at Andertoons

Technorati Tags: ,

4 thoughts on “Computers Hampering Traditional Drawing?”

  1. To me a drawing has to look as though it was created by hand by a human. Most computer drawn art fails on that level. I've never been able to draw with a computer, but I use the computer to clean up artwork and to tint and/or color. (I've never done well with wet media and I'm glad we've progressed beyond plastic shading films.)

    Way back in the stone age, high school art teacher discouraged anyone from drawing in a cartoon style until they'd mastered realistic drawing. It's the same idea. You've got to learn the basics, and in two-dimensional art, that's drawing.

  2. I dunno that I need art to necessarily look hand drawn; I think some computer aided art is really fantastic. But I agree that at least basic drawing skills are needed to really make anything work.

  3. I 'spose I should clarify. There is some fantastic computer aided art and animation. But those aren't necessarily meant to look like "drawings."

    What I was referring to was the stuff like cartoons, pen and ink or pencil illustrations and things are intended to look "drawn" but are done with a mouse or a stylus or using vector paths instead of using traditional tools on paper. In lots of cases the lines are too uniform in weight. I find that there is less "life" to them. They tend to look, to me, too mechanical.

    Basically, a computer can help an artist do things that were difficult or impossible to do with old-fashioned media, but a computer can't really make anyone draw better.

  4. OK, gotcha, Chris. I agree, using a computer to imitate more organic processes leaves me cold too.

    I still do all the actual artwork by hand and then scan it all in for captioning, small fixes, etc…

Comments are closed.