Disclaimer: Before you read this, know I am not trying to create drama, or point fingers at any one particular artist. I am simply going to talk about an issue that has been plaguing deviantART for years. No, this is not about eyes...this is something that I feel extends into almost every facet of art today:
At what point is a 'traditional' image so digitally enhanced that it becomes a mixed media or even a digital piece?
I chose to bring this issue up now, because I see so many eager young artists awestruck by some of the 'traditional' art that has been appearing on the front page these past few weeks. "It must be the brand of pencils!" or "How is it so shiny?!" These comments make me very sad for young artists who are falling for simple tricks...
Anyway, now that I have lured you in with rainbows and shiny things, let me let you in on a little secret: This is only half traditional.
The pencil lines are hand drawn, the highlights and color are not.
How this is achieved:
-Draw an eye (I only use this example because this is the most prominent problem area I see today)
-Transfew it on photoshop
-Create color, dodge, and burn layers
-Go to town!
Here is a tutorial from someone kind enough to share (My views do not necessarily reflect her own):
For the record this piece of art took me 17 minutes (I counted). This is not a piece of art that I wish to get attention from. If anything, I want young artists to only listen to my words.
I am not writing this to take away from any one person's art...that is not my intention. Art like this is still pretty (if not a quick and easy way to attract admirers). My only complaint is the category under which it is placed. It is important to view all artwork with a critical lens and to be aware of how something is created. When art like this is placed in the 'traditional' category the logical assumption is: Oh! This person is incredible! It must be completely done with pencils. By not mentioning that photoshop is used or placing art like this in the mixed media category, the artist is essentially lying by omission. And if a young artist is not familiar with traditional media, photography, or digital enhancing, it is easy to fall for this trick.
So how can one tell if an artwork like this has been digitally enhanced?
- The easiest way to do so is to look at the 'white' of the paper (I put 'white' in air quotes because sometimes the paper is toned). If the 'white' of the paper is cast in shadow, then naturally the rest of the paper will be cast in shadow, even the whitest highlights (look at a masterful traditional artists like PixieCold or Exileden...you can see that their traditional work follows this rule).
When a traditional work has been digitally enhanced there are unnatural white spots. All of the highlights on the eye above are added in digitally with the dodge tool.
If the rest of the paper is as white as the whitest highlights, then sometimes it is harder to tell.
-The second way to tell is to look at the color. Traditional art has very distinctive properties. You can see the brushstrokes or pencil strokes. Digital art is much smoother and often 'flawless' in its paint strokes. An unnatural glow is also a telltale sign that digital enhancing has been used. All of the color on the eye above is digitally added.
I am not saying that a master traditional artist is not capable of making a traditional piece look digital...there are just very few people who could pull that look off, and that takes more time than you could possibly imagine. Let me reiterate that I am not bashing anybody's work. Work like this is still to be admired, takes skill, and requires an understanding of both traditional and digital media. My purpose for writing this is simply to inform. As artists it is important that we are aware, and from what I have seen the past few weeks, many young artists are not educated on this matter. I will disable comments if a flame war starts. If someone is truly upset by this post, please send me a mature note.