Thursday, April 6, 2017

Creating Art with Software - Is It Cheating?

Computers ease many processes - the process of art creation included. Working on a creative project requires less and less skill. All you need is a little basic knowledge and a good idea. Art isn't what it used to be. - Or is it?

We can't stop technological progress. We can only embrace it and make the best of it.

Computers ease many processes - the process of art creation included. Using traditional brush and canvas, you have to paint every single grass stalk when painting a landscape. If you use Photoshop, however, you can adjust the brush settings in a way that you only have to go over the areas where you want the grass to be - et voilà, you have a quite realistic grassy landscape within a few seconds.

With other art genres it's no different. You play only keyboard, but you need a guitar for your piece? No problem, there's software for that. You want to create a video game, but you have no programming skills? There's easy editing software for that as well. You need a professional-looking website, but you don't want to waste your time on PHP, JavaScript, HTML and CSS? There's professional software for that, and it's free.

Is It Still Art?

Working on a creative project requires less and less skill. All you need is a little basic knowledge and a good idea. Art isn't what it used to be. - Or is it?

I agree that creating art with good software is easier than with traditional tools. For example, when drawing with a pencil you should know what you're doing. You can erase things you don't like, of course, but there's no 100% erasing when drawing on paper. There will always remain a faint grey line. And using the eraser actually damages the paper.

With digital painting, on the other hand, you can erase everything - and as often as you like. If you made a mistake - you can undo it with only one click. If you're too lazy for little details - just add textures. You need multiple pieces of one detail? Just copy and paste it! You want to change the colour of an object? No need to repaint it - you can play around with the colours as much as you like.

Long story short: Digital tools make the art creation process both easier and faster.

What's Most Important

Writing is no exception to this rule. Writing in a program allows making countless corrections without rewriting the whole text or loss of readability. It allows searching one's own text for specific words, making several copies and versions of one and the same text and it eases sharing the text with a beta reader or editor.

However, a crappy story is a crappy story, no matter whether it was written with a pen or in a program. The specific thing about writing is that the product is 100% abstract. A painting is a thing you can look at and touch, a video game is a bunch of files, music is something you can listen to. But novels are different: They can be carried by different media, be it paper, a Word document or a sound file, but the story itself exists only in the heads of the writer and the audience. A story is, above all, an idea. And if the idea is bad it doesn't matter on which medium it is placed.

The skills needed for writing are also very abstract. To write well doesn't mean to write beautifully, meaning: Your writing doesn't need to be beautiful to look at. Letters are always the same, so you don't have many options here anyway. To write well rather means to use the right strategies in the matters of structure, language and so on.

Why All Art Genres Become more like Writing

I do have the feeling that technological progress supersedes artistic skills more and more. But does it mean the end of art? Of course not.

Technology can learn anything. Except for one thing: having original ideas. Computers are intelligent, but they're not creative. And since practical skills become less and less important it will be more and more important to have unique ideas and concepts. This is why I think that in the future people will look less at how an idea is executed and more at the idea itself.

It has already started. There's minimalism everywhere: Simple drawings are often more popular than realistic drawings with much detail. Modern websites and interfaces are extremely simple with large empty spaces. And I really hope this tendency will expand into other genres as well. For example, I'd like to see more financially successful movies that have more actual content than special effects.

Computer software will continue deskilling and speeding up the process of creating art. We can't stop it. It's the natural course of time and evolution, and embracing it isn't cheating. It's accepting reality. It's all up to us to make the best of these tendencies by focussing more on unique ideas and originality. Because art is not mere handicraft. It is, above all, a unique way of thinking. And this isn't something computers can take away from us.

What do you think? How does computer software affect your art? What will creating art be like in the future? Let me know in the comments!

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