I had a little bit of a revelation the other day when I read someone’s comment on Facebook saying: (Totally paraphrased, but this was the gist of it):

“Digital Art is not real art, and you’re a fool for thinking so.”

I was really peeved at first, after been training and studying digital art since I was 15 (28 now). Calling back to all the people I had to prove to, that I was actually painting and not just touching up photos like everyone thought Photoshop was used for. I wanted to write this big whole paragraph up, then I realized I was 28-years old and on Facebook, about to argue with a kid who had never drawn in his life.

So I stopped and moved on. But as the week passed, the idea of this kept on hitting me. It reminded me of the teachers and older artists that would roll their eyes at me whenever I brought up Photoshop in school, like I was this huge fake. It reminded me of comments on websites and blogs, bashing realistic paintings and so forth.

But then I realized that I had become that way against people that Photo-Bashed, and everything kinda clicked. But first, let’s jump back.

My father was a traditional painter. You know how you remember specific moments in your life, and can practically see it? I recall my father showing me a massive oil painting he did, of this woman, clad in fur-hide, holding a spear. It looked real to me. I was so impressed, and wanted to be just like my father.

Inspired to paint or draw like him one day, I picked up drawing at around 3-4. I began with pencils, believe it or not. I know, all you guys have seen is much of my digital art, but don’t worry, I actually do draw with pencils and pens. I grew up on them, drawing on anything that I could. My grandfather owned a print-shop, and would deliver boxes of sketchbooks that I fill to the brim in days.

As I grew up, I continued with pencils until one day I stumbled across this very exact image, by Justin Sweet.

Image by Justin Sweet

I remember losing my mind over it, knowing right there, this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So Justin, if you’re out there, I know we’ve never met, but thank you for inspiring me to take a risk. From there, I dropped traditional tools and for the next four years of High-School, taught myself how to use Photoshop in a day where there was not many people teaching…how to use Photoshop.

Now, this is a risk that would cause lots of debates in school. I had several art teachers in High-School and junior college and each one of them disliked me. I never received above a C in any of my art classes and you want to know why? Not because we didn’t get a long (mostly due to different generations, and looking back, I can see why), but because I chose to bring a crappy back-in-the-day Wacom tablet to class, when every other student was using pencils or charcoal–painting plants and fruits, no less.

I wasn’t being an asshole by any stretch, digital painting was perfectly welcomed by the class. They had the computers set up for it, and they had the programs (this was back in the early 2000s, so Photoshop was not as snazzy as it is now) that would allow digital art.

But my teachers despised it. Saying Photoshop is for hacks and people that don’t know how to draw. Digital art will never catch on and I’m silly for thinking otherwise. There was so much hostility against an art form, that it made me begin to realize that it wasn’t due to wanting to learn it, but that it was because it was a new medium taking over and making it easier than what my teachers once had to use. They saw how fast art could be produced, and to me, I believe that intimidated them. They never wanted to understand the process or the art farm, they simply would disregard it.

I caught another glimpse of this when John Lassetter, CEO of Pixar, began to introduce 3D-generated animation to Disney, and they practically laughed him out of the room. A lot of the traditional animators began to question it, asking if it was an end of the era for Disney Animation. He got flack and slapped around, but thankfully stuck to his gut, and as you can very much see, has inspired and changed the way Hollywood treats animated films now.

Being something new, I stuck to it. I kept on practicing, trying to get better at digital painting, inspired by the others around me doing the same thing. But it kept on getting a bad rep. People saying digital art wasn’t real, and that people just cheated when they used it, bashing together photos and what not.

See, I’m one of those artists that spends days, hours and weeks on a painting, trying to push everything that I can. My business partners see it in the office I work at. I usually am glued to my computer when I’m really into a painting, and will spend hours rendering tiny things. Over the years, I’ve developed my own style, which I guess could be hyper-real (using others’ words, not my own).

Every now and then I’d read a comment going “Looks like a photo, this isn’t art.” “Is this just photography? Don’t call it a painting then.”

I fought this question forever, always using a rebuttal of “It’s my style.” “I love details.” “It’s the only thing that calms me when I paint. It’s how I meditate.”

Thankfully I grew out of that, and it became my style and you either like it or not. As the years passed, new art styles changed as well, and eventually photo-bashing came about. For work or freelancing? I totally get it. We’re all on the same timer, and time is money.

Now I know we live in a day now where photo-bashing is the new hip thing to do. I’ve seen hundreds of copy-cats throw it about on art websites or Facebook, and quite frankly, I’m getting a little tired of it. Why? Well, the same reason I’m writing this article.

But then artists began clinging on and doing it. It became a fad. The cool thing to do. People that don’t even work in the business, just bashing to photo-bash because some of the greats did it. I started seeing less painted art, and more Franken-photos. And honestly, I got upset over it.

Why is this now okay, but I had to struggle to prove myself that I was really doing it when someone else was just slapping photos together and getting the same feedback?

But then it clicked, it’s not about that: Times change, art and styles evolve, and the world will not wait up for you, so you better adapt one way or the other.

That’s not to say painting will ever die, but I’ve come to realize that we are in one of the most prolific times ever, where technology is literally evolving every hour of the day, techniques are improving and doubling, and there is not only just one way to produce art.

Art is art, it will always be a universal expression of creativity, imagination and story telling, whether through music, painting, sculpting, or writing.

The lesson I learned is, don’t be so quick to judge just because you don’t prefer the medium being used. It matters not the tool used, but the product that was born from it. A lot of artists have put thousands of hours into honing their craft, and growing the gut to put it out there for the world to see.

And I think that’s a lot more powerful than the debate of whether digital art is real or not.

Goofy says ‘Hello’.