Digital art is becoming increasingly popular and heavily influencing the creative sector. This brings us to wonder what the future holds for traditional art? Should we consider these to be two separate forms of art or just different types of media that influence each other? Are digital and traditional art competing against one another? Artalistic offers you a brief overview of digital Vs. traditional art and discusses whether or not digital art will take the place of traditional artmaking.

Digital art Vs. traditional art: friend or foe?

Digital art is not new

Firmly positioned in center spotlight for the last decade, specifically in regards to the recent boom in popularity of NFT and crypto-art, some may be surprised to learn that digital art has been around for the last century.

The term digital art has evolved over the past few decades. However, its roots are firmly anchored in the 1960s and the advent and progressive rise of computer science and binary code.

Digital art grew slowly over time thanks to artists such as Frieder Nake – a German mathematician, computer scientist and the pioneer of computer art. Video art also helped its rise to fame. For example, many of the French television and radio director Jean-Christophe Averty’s television productions from in the 1960s are considered to be early examples of video art. The term digital art was first employed in the 1980s, distinguishing it from traditional art (painting, drawing, sculpture).

During the 2000s, the explosion of the World Wide Web made digital art more easily accessible, both in terms of its creation and how it was viewed.

A form of art in a class of its own

Compared to the history of traditional art, digital art is still rather new. One might even bring into question its legitimacy as an art form.

When comparing digital Vs. traditional art, the latter is created using physical materials. However, digital art produces pieces that must also be regarded as art despite the fact that they may not be physical objects. This can be illustrated by the record-breaking sums of money that cyber art is being sold for – for example the work by the famous American artist Beeple.

Reproaching digital art for its non-physical nature, as many critics do, would be shortsighted as the purpose of all art is to capture the creator’s message, ideas and emotions and put them on display for others, or themselves, to enjoy. As our means of communication evolves with digital technologies, one might argue that art should evolve to embrace these new materials, using tools such as computers and digitally coded information.

Digital Vs. traditional art: Bridging the gap

Artists have been using a variety of tools, media and technologies in their creative processes since the beginning of art history, giving their imagination free rein to invent new artworks. This idea can also be applied to digital art and was sublimated in Marshall McLuhan’s famous catchphrase: "The medium is the message" (Understanding Media, 1964).

The Canadian philosopher and sociologist McLuhan’s statement refers to his theory that the media one employs is important, and regardless of content, the effect will still be the same. This concept merits consideration in our modern era, which is characterized by constantly evolving information technologies that have allowed digital art to bloom. Why shouldn’t we use binary code as a tool for artistic expression? Especially since many contemporary artists who, until more recently only worked traditionally, have been successfully experimenting with digital art.

Traditional art: modifying and reinventing techniques

Technology has always been closely linked to the artistic process involved in the creation of traditional art: oil paints were used as early as the 7th century AD, the impressionists’ experimented with depicting variations of light as they began painting from real life by bringing their canvases outside, the invention of the camera allowed us to capture and freeze reality. And, of course, the digital camera is one of the most popular artistic media of the modern age.

The advent of a new artists' era

Today, many artists are considered to be "100% digital," creating innovative artwork in a sector that did not exist a few years ago. The democratization of technology has made their work increasing accessible, and therefore, increasingly easy to earn a living through their art. This is a logical evolution for art to undergo as new generations, like Generation Z, have grown up with access to the internet and portable digital technology from a young age.  

Traditional artists Hockney and Koons are also experimenting with digital art!

The digital art revolution has not only brought these new artists to the forefront, as witnessed by recent artworks by key contemporary artists that are famous for their traditional art. An increasing number of modern artists are integrating digital technology into their work, from 3D printing to virtual reality and artificial intelligence.

For example, the iconic British pop artist David Hockney created a large body of 116 digital paintings capturing the unfolding of spring in Normandy on his iPad. As Hockney notes, “On an iPad you draw a bit differently, but that’s all you do. Drawing is 50,000 years old, isn’t it? I think it comes from very deep within us actually.”

Another telling example is that of the American neo-pop artist Jeff Koons. For several years now, Koons has been using new digital technologies, in particular 3D printing and augmented reality, working in close collaboration with computer scientists and algorithm designers. The gap separating traditional and digital art appears to be closing rapidly!

Voilà, we hope that you have enjoyed our brief overview of digital Vs. traditional art and its evolution. We would like to invite all art lovers and collectors to browse Artalistic’s virtual galleries of contemporary artworks for sale (paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs and much more). Investing in traditional fine art continues to be a safe and sure way to diversify your portfolio. For centuries, investing in art has been a steadfast way to grow your capital, despite the new forms of media that have emerged with the advent of digital art, and it will surely continue to be the case in the future!